louisville cincinnati feb

No. 11 Louisville wins wild game thanks to Russ Smith heroics over No. 7 Cincinnati

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Louisville and Cincinnati have been together playing basketball in other leagues before. In its second matchup in the American Athletic Conference, the top two teams in the league grinded-out an ugly, low-scoring contest as No. 11 Louisville knocked off No. 7 Cincinnati for a huge 58-57 road win.

Russ Smith (10 points, five assists, three steals) came up huge for the Cardinals in the game’s final possessions as he delivered two key assists to the post on pick-and-rolls before hitting the go-ahead jumper with 2.2 seconds left to seal the win for Louisville. The Cardinals deflected the ensuing Bearcat inbound attempt when Cincinnati was out of timeouts to secure the victory.

The two top AAC teams split the season series as each team won on the road against the other. Both teams are now at two losses in the AAC as the Cardinals are 12-2 and Cincinnati is 13-2.

Despite a slow-shooting first half from Sean Kilpatrick, who started 2-for-13 from the field, or the foul problems of Justin Jackson, Cincinnati quickly found itself down early before rallying for a 21-19 halftime deficit.

The late-game free throw shooting of the Bearcats kept them ahead of the Cardinals in a back-and-forth final few possessions that saw each team trade baskets after a slow-moving second half. Cincinnati went on a 10-o run with under four minutes remaining to get back into the game after a stagnant offensive stretch.

Kilpatrick finished with 28 points including a strong second half of 22 points while Montrezl Harrell brought tremendous consistent energy for Louisville on the glass, as a weak side shot blocker and as an offensive option on the pick and roll as he finished with 21 points.

This is a big road win for Louisville, who now has a road win over a really tough top-10 opponent. Can the Cardinals win the AAC and secure a good seed? And how will Cincinnati respond with two games against Connecticut and Memphis coming up after this?

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?