J.J. Moore, Jack Cooley, Eric Atkins, Dante Taylor

Late Night Snacks: Notre Dame beats Pitt, K-State spoils Huggins’ homecoming

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It was a relatively light night on the action front. A few Top 25 teams in action, two playing each other in the Big East, and some mid-major games that, while looking good on paper, were missing a few things. It’s Late Night Snacks.

Game of the Night

No. 25 Notre Dame 51, No. 20 Pittsburgh 42 – The teams essentially switched jerseys at the half on Monday night. In the first 20 minutes, the Fighting Irish scored 19 points and missed 18 of their first 19 shots. In the second half, the Panthers scored 20 points and finished shooting just 34.8-percent overall and going 0-for-8 from three.

Games of Note

No. 13 Kansas State 71, West Virginia 61 – The score didn’t really reflect how one-sided this game was. The Wildcats never trailed after 2-0 in the opening moments and got out to as large as a 21-point second half lead and were never threatened by the Mountaineers. Will Spradling had a night with 19 points and a 7-for-7 performance at the free throw line as K-State shot 50-percent from the field (23-of-46). Only Deniz Kilicli scored in double figures for West Virginia with 16.

Bucknell 61, Lehigh 55 – This game lost a bit of its luster long ago when C.J. McCollum broke his foot. It still lived up to the Patriot League hype. Mike Muscala went for 12 points and nine rebounds and teammate Bryson Johnson scored a game-high 19 in the win. The Mountain Hawks were 1-for-15 from three-point range in the loss.

Fairfield 66, Iona 64 – Derek Needham’s three pointer with five seconds left lifted the Stags over the Gaels at home. Lamont ‘Momo’ Jones carried Iona in the loss (see below) and Fairfield got 30 points from their bench, including 12 from Justin Jenkins and 10 from Maurice Barrow.

Villanova 71, Rutgers 63 – All five starters scored in double figures for the Wildcats, who needed it because they only got eight points from their bench. JayVaughn Pinkston, Darrun Hilliard and Ryan Arcidiacono all had 14 in the victory. Myles Macks poured in a game-high 24 in the loss for the Scarlet Knights.

Starred

Fred Sturdivant, Texas Southern – A monster night for a player who is sure to garner first-team All-SWAC honors. The forward went for 21 points and 17 rebounds in a 73-57 victory over Mississippi Valley State.

Lamont ‘Momo’ Jones, Iona – The Gaels lost to Fairfield, but the former Arizona transfer dropped in 29 points in the loss. He was 9-of-17 from the field and 10-of-11 from the free throw line.

Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova – The Wildcats big man went for 10 points and 12 rebounds in the win at Rutgers. They needed every point and every rebound from him on Monday night.

Struggled

Eron Harris, West Virginia – The Mountaineer guard averages 9.2 points per game, but finished a rough night against Kansas State with zero points and fouled out in just eight minutes. He spent a majority of the night on the bench and put the bow on his performance by getting a technical foul for his fifth to send him to the bench.

Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh – The forward averages 10.5 points per game. He finished a bad offensive night for both teams with two points on 1-of-5 shooting, five rebounds and four fouls in 26 minutes in the loss.

Stuffing the Stat Sheet

Rarlensee Nelson, New Orleans – I preface this with the fact that the Privateers played Central Baptist College, a school in Conway, Ark. that plays in the NCCAA. But Nelson had a night with 11 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds for UNO in the 100-65 win.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

The Champions Classic renewed through 2019

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 27: Bill Self head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks claps for his team as they celebrate winning the Big 12 Conference Championship after they defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-58 at Allen Fieldhouse on February 27, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. With the win, Kansas clinched its 12th straight conference championship. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!

On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.

This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.

The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.

So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.

It’s going to be awesome.

There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.

Make it happen.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State

Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky

Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky

Hartford makes smart decision to allow ‘Pancake’ Thomas transfer

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Hartford coach John Gallagher, AP Photo
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Another talented graduate transfer has hit the market.

Cleveland ‘Pancake’ Thomas — that’s a helluva name, isn’t it? — has been granted a release by Hartford and will be allowed to transfer to another program for his fifth season.

“Our biggest priority for Cleveland was that he graduate from the University of Hartford with a valuable degree,” Hartford head coach John Gallagher said in a statement released to ESPN after some speculation that Thomas wasn’t going to be given a release. “That happened. Beyond wishing him the very best, we don’t comment on other program’s players. We are very excited about our group and the upcoming season.”

The term “release” is needed here because Thomas, a 6-foot-3 guard who averaged 18.9 points and shot 42.6 percent from three this past season, spent his first two years of eligibility at New Mexico. A graduate transfer exception is granted to any player making their first transfer after receiving an undergraduate degree. But since Pancake had already transferred once, he was only eligible to apply for a graduate transfer waiver, which the school he is leaving must support.

Remember the saga of Todd O’Brien? He tried to leave St. Joseph’s to spend his fifth-year at UAB but made headlines everywhere when Phil Martelli wouldn’t let it happen? That’s because O’Brien had started his career at Bucknell and needed Martelli to support the waiver.

Gallagher could have done the same to Pancake.

He made the right decision not to — Martelli has enough coaching cache to withstand the onslaught on criticism he received, I’m not sure that is true for Gallagher — even if it will result in Thomas playing elsewhere, hence the cold-hearted nature of that statement.

Anyway, Thomas never averaged more than 3.9 points at New Mexico, so while he’s a tantalizing prospect for programs that are dying for perimeter depth and shooting, this isn’t exactly a kid that’s going to launch himself into the NBA Draft’s first round by jumping up to a higher level.

Shawn Forrest named assistant coach for Jankovich at SMU

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 22:  Head coach Larry Brown (L) and associate head coach Tim Jankovich of the Southern Methodist Mustangs look on during the team's game against the Kent State Golden Flashes during the 2015 Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on December 22, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Southern Methodist won 90-74. The game marks Brown's return from a nine-game suspension.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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DALLAS (AP) Shawn Forrest has been named an assistant basketball coach at SMU, his third school since the end of last season.

Mustangs coach Tim Jankovich announced Forrest’s hiring Tuesday.

Forrest spent the past three seasons as an assistant at Western Kentucky before head coach Ray Harper resigned. Forrest was named a UTSA assistant in May, but two weeks later left for Louisiana Tech before the unexpected opening at SMU.

Jankovich was SMU’s associate head coach before the abrupt resignation last month of Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown. Forrest fills the open assistant spot created on the staff when Jankovich was promoted to head coach.

Before Western Kentucky, Forrest was an assistant coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, North Texas, Arkansas State and Florida A&M.

Jim Boeheim’s Melo comments are evidence of why athletes hate the media

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 21:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of the United States poses with Team USA assistant coach Jim Boeheim after defeating Serbia in the Men's Gold medal game on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has a habit of creating headlines that are not all that flattering, to himself or to the people that he’s commenting on, which is why it wasn’t much of a surprise that a quote he gave to Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard has been making the rounds this week.

The quote in question?

“He’s unlikely to win an NBA title,” Boeheim said of his former star and now three-time Olympic champion Carmelo Anthony. “He’s never been on a team that even had a remote chance of winning an NBA title.”

That sounds bad, doesn’t it?

But … I mean, he’s right, isn’t he?

Melo is 32 years old and title-less. He’s been to the conference finals once and gotten out of the first round of the playoffs just twice, and now he’s on the downside of his career. Athletes don’t get better as they exit their early 30s unless they’re taking whatever it was that turned Barry Bonds into a cyborg. Adding the remnants of Derrick Rose and a 31 year old Joakim Noah is helpful, but unless those contracts can teleport the Knicks back to 2011, Rose will be the only person calling this group a Super Team.

So yeah, Boeheim is right. You probably think so, too. Melo is probably never going to win an NBA title unless he finds a way to get to the Cavs.

But here’s the thing: focusing on that one line totally ignores the point that Boeheim was making in the interview. As always, context is critical, and if you read the story that Waters wrote, it’s pretty obvious the message that Boeheim was trying to get across. Melo is not going to leave a legacy in the NBA beyond being a guy that got a lot of buckets. It just didn’t work out for him that way. Ask Karl Malone how that feels.

But by going to Rio for the 2016 Olympics, by becoming the first men’s basketball player to win three Olympic gold medals, Melo did solidify himself a legacy.

He’s the most accomplished and, arguably, the best player that Team USA has ever had. That’s not going to make up for the rings that are missing on his fingers, but it does cement his place in the history of the game.

That was Boeheim’s point, and it was a salient, intelligent point, one that complimented Melo for the success that he had in international play.

But if you scroll through your favorite blogs and see that headline, it looks like he was taking a shot at the player that brought him his only national title.

And given how twisted that quote has gotten, is it any wonder why athletes and coaches hate the media?

UPDATE (1:30 p.m.): Boeheim has weighed in:

Oregon wins their opener on Spanish tour

Oregon forward Elgin Cook, from left, forward Dillon Brooks and guard Tyler Dorsey react after a play against Washington during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinal round of the Pac-12 men's tournament Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Las Vegas. Oregon won 83-77. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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Oregon won the opener of their tour in Spain 109-88 on Tuesday night, as the Ducks knocked off a team of all-stars in Madrid.

Tyler Dorsey had 19 points to lead the Ducks while Kavell Bigby-Williams and Dylan Ennis, who is coming off of a season derailed by foot injuries, both added 16 points. Chris Boucher, who was terrific at the Nike Skills Academy in July, had 12 points.

While Ennis’ health was noteworthy, it is also worth pointing out that Oregon’s star Dillon Brooks did not play on Monday and will not be playing on the trip. I know this because, in every photo posted by the official Oregon team accounts, Brooks is in a chair with a boot on his left foot.

The rising junior, a potential all-american, had surgery on the foot earlier this month.