North Carolina coach Williams and players watch the final minute of Kansas' win in the third round of the NCAA men's tournament in Kansas City, Missouri

New evidence puts UNC academic scandal back on the front burner

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We began hearing about possible academic malfeasance at North Carolina-Chapel Hill about a year ago. At first, the evidence pointed primarily toward the football team. Allegations of no-show classes, grade inflation, excessive assistance from tutors and other improprieties have been flying.

Then the true pride of the Tar Heels, the basketball team, became implicated.

Click here to read UNC academic scandal deepens, staffer says some Tar Heel athletes she oversaw had never read a book

Over time, other scandals pushed the UNC story out of the public consciousness (well, hello there, Scarlet Knights), but at least one professor at Chapel Hill refused to let the matter drop.

Now, a new investigative report from the Charlotte News Observer has shone a little more light on the subject. And what that light revealed was not pretty.

Julius Nyang’oro, the former UNC African studies chairman at the heart of an academic fraud scandal, had a cozy relationship with the program that tutored athletes, according to newly released emails.

Members of the academic support staff offered Nyang’oro football tickets and the chance to watch a game from the sidelines. One counselor offered to discuss athletes’ coursework over drinks, and another negotiated with Nyang’oro to schedule a no-show class.

And why are we just learning this now? The News & Observer reports that a public records request filed nearly a year ago was just honored this month. Some of the email exchanges sound really bad, though the author of the article notes that the bantering context could imply humorous intent.

Still, this kind of thing is a bombshell:

In one email from September 2009, Cynthia Reynolds, a former associate director who oversaw academic support for football players, told Nyang’oro in an email that “I hear you are doing me a big favor this semester and that I should be bringing you lots of gifts and cash???????”

It will take a little time to digest all of the implications of this latest evidence, but you can bet it will re-ignite interest in the relationship between athletics and academics at one of the nation’s blue blood hoops schools.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Milton, Moore help No. 12 SMU rout South Florida 92-58

Memphis forward Dedric Lawson (1) defends as SMU guard Nic Moore (11) leaps to the basket for a shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Dallas. SMU won 80-68.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Shake Milton scored 22 points and Nic Moore added 17 as No. 12 SMU rebounded from its second loss of the season with a 92-58 rout of struggling South Florida on Sunday.

The Mustangs (20-2, 9-2 American Athletic Conference) shrugged off a three-point road loss to Houston by matching their season high with 14 3-pointers and shooting 60 percent overall. They never trailed, scoring the game’s first 11 points. SMU hit its last six shots before halftime and then opened the second half with an 8-0 run to build their lead to 30 points.

Jahmal McMurray led South Florida (5-20, 2-10) with 18 points.

SMU, which had lost two straight on the road, has matched the best 22-game start in school history. The Mustangs won 26 of their first 28 games before finishing 26-4 in 1955-56.

The conference leaders have topped 20 wins in three of four seasons under Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, who was suspended for the first nine games of the season and will not be able to take the Mustangs to this year’s NCAA tournament because of multiple rules infractions.

Milton made 8 of 12 shots, including 6 of 9 from beyond the 3-point arc. Five of Moore’s six field goals were 3-pointers, and the senior guard finished with eight assists.

Jordan Tolbert made all five of his shots on the way 15 points and Markus Kennedy came off the bench to contribute 10 points and grab a team-high nine rebounds for SMU.

South Florida clinched its second 20-loss season in three years under coach Orlando Antigua. Jaleel Cousins scored 13 points and Angel Nunez had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Bulls, who trailed by as many as 36 points in the second half.

TIP-INS

SMU: The Mustangs improved to 2-2 following a school-best 18-0 start, stopping a two-game road skid included a nine-point setback at Temple and the three-point loss at Houston. SMU has won 27 games each of the past two seasons and its 74 wins since the start of 2013-14 are the most during a three-season span in program history.

South Florida: The Bulls haven’t beaten a ranked team since Feb. 19, 2012, when they upset No. 19 Louisville 58-51 on the road. They haven’t defeated a Top 25 opponent in the Sun Dome since a two-point win over No. 23 Seton Hall on Jan. 13, 2012. USF is 0-3 vs. ranked opponents this season, with two of the three losses to SMU. The Bulls lost to then-No. 1 Kentucky on Nov. 27.

UP NEXT

SMU hosts Tulsa on Wednesday.

South Florida is at Temple on Feb. 14.

Jok scores 23 to lead No. 5 Iowa past Illinois, 77-65

Iowa's Peter Jok (14) shoots over Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (45) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
AP Photo/Al Goldis
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) Just over three minutes into the second half, Iowa’s Peter Jok stole the ball from Illinois guard Khalid Lewis and glided to the other end of the court for a two-handed dunk.

It was part of a 5-minute span after halftime in which the junior scored seven of the fifth-ranked Hawkeyes’ points, pushing their lead to 15 and delivering a blow the Illini wouldn’t recover from.

Jok finished with 23 points and Iowa (19-4, 10-1 Big Ten) coasted to a 77-65 victory.

Jok is playing with confidence, and doing that at both ends of the court, Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery said.

“I think you’re seeing a much more complete player,” McCaffery said. “You’re watching a guy who, when he was young, made some mistakes. And he’s not doing that anymore.”

Jok said Iowa, whose only serious tests Sunday came in the game’s opening minutes and the handful of times the Illini would later cut the lead to single digits, has grown up as a team.

“It’s because of our experience,” Jok said. “When teams are coming back, we don’t rush anything. We know what we have to do to win.”

The loss was the fifth in seven games for injury-plagued Illinois (11-13, 3-8).

“Defensively, what hurt us more than anything was their transition game and the rebounding,” Illini coach John Groce said.

Iowa outrebounded the Illini 43-32. Illinois has been outrebounded in 10 of its 11 conference games.

Jarrod Uthoff added 18 points and 12 rebounds for Iowa and Adam Woodbury had 10 points and 14 rebounds.

Jalen Coleman-Lands led Illinois with 17 points, going 5 of 11 from 3-point range.

Jok’s dominant spell to open the second half was the difference in a game that Illinois had been finding a way to stay in.

And his confidence was visibly high.

Just under 5 minutes into the second half, he fired a low-trajectory 3-point attempt that somehow touched nothing but net. Jok flashed a big grin as he jogged back on defense and the Hawkeyes were up 53-38.

When Jok wasn’t scoring, he was providing.

Moments later he missed a jumper and the ball bounced away from the rim with Illinois’ Malcolm Hill close behind it, scrambling for the rebound.

But Jok, laying on his back at the top of the key, found himself with the ball. Looking right, he saw Uthoff alone behind the 3-point line and fed him the ball.

Uthoff buried the shot and the Hawkeyes went up 56-38.

“That play in particular I think really crushed them,” Uthoff said. “It really took the air out of their sails.”

Iowa would push the lead to as many as 20 points midway through the half.

Iowa looked like the Big Ten title contender it is, and Illinois – which has settled into the back of the conference pack – did not.

“They’re good enough, they’ve got a chance to beat anybody,” Groce said of the Hawkeyes. “They look like they’ve played together a long time.”

Even when the Hawkeyes were off, it didn’t matter.

Illinois closed within 73-63 with 2:03 to play on a layup by Michael Finke. But the Illini could get no closer.

Hill finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.

REBOUNDING PAYOFF

Iowa’s rebounding edge led to 26 second-chance points. Illinois had just six. McCaffery gave most of the credit to Woodbury.

“Adam has really established himself as a premier rebounder in the country,” McCaffery said. “It makes such a difference to your defense when you only give them one shot.”

DOUBLE TROUBLE

Coming into Sunday’s game, Hill and Kendrick Nunn had both scored in double figures in every Illinois game they had played in this season, 23 for Hill and 17 for Nunn. That ended for Nunn who had six points in 26 minutes Sunday. Hill’s points were tough to get, coming against frequent double-teams that limited him to just nine shots.

TIP-INS

Iowa: The Hawkeyes were coming off a win over Penn State in which they gave up just one 3-pointer on 20 attempts. … Guard Mike Gesell finished with eight points, leaving him two short of 1,000 for his career.

Illinois: Finke returned to the lineup after missing the Rutgers game with a bruised knee he suffered against Wisconsin. He finished with five points and four rebounds. … Coming into Sunday’s game, three of Illinois’ past four games had gone to overtime, including Wednesday’s 110-101 triple-overtime win at Rutgers. In those three games, Hill averaged 43.7 minutes a game and Nunn 42.7.

UP NEXT

Iowa: Plays at No. 22 Indiana on Thursday.

Illinois: Plays at Northwestern on Saturday.