Late Night Snacks: Boeheim’s 900, UNLV survives and newcomers abound

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The finals are, for the most part, over. Now it’s on to school-free college basketball for most of the Division I world.

On the first Monday of the holiday break, a few Top 25 teams survived close games, but the headliner was Syracuse and coach Jim Boeheim got win 900 in his tenure. Three players made their career debuts for major programs and a low-major player does what you rarely see in the scoring column.

It’s Late Night Snacks.

Game of the night

Syracuse 72, Detroit 68 – 900. That’s really all you need to know. Coach Jim Boeheim won game no. 900 as a head coach, all at Syracuse, in the victory over the Titans. The game was tighter down the stretch than he would’ve liked it, but nonetheless, the Orange were able to hang on and celebrate.

Games of note

Missouri 102, South Carolina State 51 – The Tigers made easy work of the Bulldogs, but Jabari Brown made his debut for Mizzou since coming over from Oregon. He scored 12 points and dished out three assists in the win. The most-hyped transfer for coach Frank Haith on a team full of them is off to a good start.

UNLV 62, UTEP 60 – It their first Mike Moser-less game for the Rebels, they were able to hold on despite giving Konner Tucker a good three-point look for the win for UTEP with two seconds left. In more newcomer news, Khem Birch scored four points in his first game with UNLV since transferring from Pittsburgh.

Connecticut 84, Maryland-Eastern Shore 50 – This was just important for the simple fact that it’s the first game for the Huskies since the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. They were a small distraction in a state that needs one right now, while picking up the pieces and being able to grieve. They were able to do that and allow some level of normalcy to an area that hasn’t had much of it in the last few days.

Starred 

Kelsey Howard, Jackson State – Howard carried the Tigers to their first victory of the season on the road at Seattle with 32 points, a high for any game on Monday night. He was 12-for-19 from the field and 6-for-10 from three.

James Southerland, Syracuse – On a night that was all about Jim Boeheim, before and after the game, it turned out that the Orange needed pretty much every one of the swingman’s buckets for the 72-68 win over Detroit. He went for 22 points hitting 5-of-8 threes.

Ryan Boatright, UConn – On a night that the state of Connecticut desperately needed, Boatright provided a performance that, even for a few hours, made them happy. The sophomore guard went for 21 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals in the win over UMES.

Struggled

Frank Gaines, Fort Wayne – Gaines had a shot on a big-time stage to prove he belonged on the high-major level for the Mastadons (all-mascot pick!). He averaged 20.1 points per game going into the game, but was held to a season-low seven points on 2-for-14 shooting in a loss at Notre Dame. He may still belong on the big stage, but he’ll have to do better when the opportunity presents itself.

Stuffing the stat sheet

Isaac Sosa, Canisius – A special shout-out this week to Sosa, who did something that only a shooter can appreciate. Sosa finished with 24 points in the Golden Griffins’ (a totally underrated all-mascot pick) 82-54 victory over Longwood. They ALL came on threes. He was 8-for-12 from deep and overall. Keep chuckin’ it, my man.

Fanbase that can take a breath

UNLV – You passed the first test without your best player. On the road, no less. Getting Khem Birch eligible will help offset the loss, but at this point, just take wins. However ugly, however close. The Rebels will be fine as long as they dodge any bad losses.

Fanbase that can take a seat

Seattle – Well, Redhawks fans, I’m sure you long for the days of Elgin Baylor. SeattleU (as they’re oft to call themselves) gave Jackson State their first win of the season at home tonight, and well, that warrants a night were you’re asked to sit and ponder. Not really much you can say, otherwise.

Keep praying for Newtown, everyone.

David Harten is a sportswriter and college basketball blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Osun Osunniyi picks St. Bonaventure over Syracuse, Georgetown

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St. Bonaventure has made something of a late splash on the recruiting trail.

Osun Osunniyi, a 6-foot-10 from Putnam (Conn.) Science Academy, signed with the Bonnies, the school announced Monday.

It’s a bit of a recruiting coup for coach Mark Schmidt, who won the services of Osunniyi over offers from Syracuse and Georgetown, both of whom hosted the prospect on official visits this spring.

“Osun oozes with potential. His ceiling is extremely high. He has so much God-given ability,” Schmidt said in a statement. “And, he’s a great kid, a character kid who is level-headed. He has a great wingspan, he runs well, he has a natural talent for blocking shots and is a very good rebounder. He can score around the basket.

“Osun wants to get better, like all of our players. We saw how he developed at Putnam, which is a credit to coach Espinosa and the staff there. He’s come a long way to become a kid who was highly recruited. We’re thrilled to have him come to St. Bonaventure.”

Osunniyi, who previously committed to La Salle before taking a prep year, becomes the fourth member of the Bonnies’ 2018 freshman class. He averaged 10 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots per game while Putnam won a national prep championship.

The Bonnies made the NCAA tournament as an 11 seed last year after going 26-8.

Christian Vital going back to UConn for junior season

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Dan Hurley is keeping his roster intact at the top.

Christian Vital, UConn’s second-leading scorer a season ago, is returning to school after declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, he announced Monday via social media.

“Great Talk Today Coach! Appreciate The Wisdom You Have Let Me In On!” Vital wrote “I Think It’s Time To Get Back To Winning Ways In Storrs! I’m Going To Need That #1 Back ASAP! WE GOT (UNFINISHED) BUSINESS!”

The 6-foot-2 junior-to-be Vital joins Jalen Adams, who was the Huskies’ top-returning scorer, back in Storrs in Hurley’s first year. Vital averaged 14.9 points on 38.3 percent shooting. Adams previously announced he would return to school without declaring for the draft.

The return of UConn’s top two scorers underscores an even bigger trend under Hurley as the Huskies appear to have avoided any major defections from last year’s roster despite the coaching change.

UConn is coming off a 14-18 season that proved to be the last of coach Kevin Ollie’s six years with the Huskies that included a national championship but also back-to-back losing seasons.

Chris Silva returning to South Carolina for senior season

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South Carolina is getting an first-team all-SEC performer back.

Chris Silva, who led the Gamecocks in scoring and rebounding last season, is returning to school after declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, the school announced Monday.

“I’m thankful for the experience of going through the draft process,” Silva said in a statement. “I want to thank all of the teams that gave me the opportunity to workout for their organization. I’m excited to announce that I’m returning to South Carolina for my senior season. I can’t wait to get back on the court with my brothers and continue to work on my game.”

The 6-foot-9 Silva, who did not get an NBA draft combine invite, averaged 14.3 points and 8 rebounds per game as a junior.  He shot 46.7 percent from the floor.

“Going through the evaluation process was an unbelievable experience for Chris and us,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said in a statement. “He comes back to a place he loves with some knowledge on some of the things that we have to help him improve on in his efforts to one day fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA.”

In addition to being South Carolina’s leading scorer, he was the SEC co-defensive player of the year last season after averaging 1.4 blocks per game. His return to Columbia gives the Gamecocks a potential contender for SEC player of the year in 2018-19.

Kansas fires athletic director Sheahon Zenger

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Kansas has fired athletic director Sheahon Zenger, effective immediately, citing a lack of progress in key areas within the athletic department.

“Sheahon has been a loyal Jayhawk, and our athletics department has improved in many areas under his leadership,” Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod wrote in an email to KU faculty and staff. “But athletics continues to face a number of challenges, and progress in key areas has been elusive. To achieve the level of success we need and expect, I have determined a change in leadership is necessary.”

Zenger had been in the role of AD since 2011.

The issue, of course, is not the play of the Kansas basketball program. The Jayhawks have won every Big 12 regular season title since 2004, and head coach Bill Self has taken the program to two Final Fours since Zenger was hired.

The football team is still a disaster, but one can’t help but wonder whether or not the real issue at hand here is Kansas’ getting tied into the FBI’s investigation into college basketball.

The Jayhawks were not mentioned in the initial indictments that were handed down, but Kansas was a central figure in the superseding indictments that were dropped after the national title game. The mother of Billy Preston, who did not play for the Jayhawks this season, was alleged to have been funneled $90,000 by Adidas, while Silvio De Sousa’s status is currently in question after the FBI alleged his guardian was paid at least $20,000 to help offset money that the family had already accepted from a rival shoe company.

All of that came in the aftermath of dealing with Cheick Diallo and Cliff Alexander, both of whom had their one season in Lawrence reduced due to off the court issues.

“Since becoming chancellor, I have spent countless hours with higher education peers and Jayhawks to hear their perspective on KU,” Girod wrote. “A common thread in these conversations is that, as a major public university with national aspirations, we must continue to strive for excellence in all areas — including athletics. As I have said many times, a successful athletics department is inextricably linked to our broader mission as a flagship research university.”

Louisville, ex-AD Tom Jurich reach $4.5M settlement

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Louisville has reached a $4.5 million settlement with former athletic director Tom Jurich, who was fired in the wake of a national federal corruption investigation of college basketball.

Jurich disputed his Oct. 18 firing for cause after nearly 20 years as AD and had considered suing the school. The University of Louisville Athletic Association and Board of Trustees on Friday approved the settlement. Jurich’s employment ended “without cause” as a result of his resignation, also described in the settlement as “retirement.”

He’ll also receive another $2.6 million in accrued employment benefits, along with home game tickets and parking for Louisville football and basketball for 20 years.

An audit of the University of Louisville Foundation released last June showed that Jurich averaged annual compensation of more than $2.76 million from 2010-16, including more than $5.35 million in 2016.

Then-interim president Greg Postel had placed Jurich on paid administrative leave in September after the school’s acknowledgement of its involvement in the investigation. Trustees voted 10-3 to fire Jurich, two days after the ULAA unanimously fired Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino.

The former AD said in a joint statement that he “spent the better part of my career” working with dedicated athletes, coaches and staff to elevate Louisville. He added, “I am proud of what we accomplished, which is well documented.”

Jurich’s legal team had stressed that the ex-AD did nothing illegal and hadn’t violated NCAA rules.

Trustee chairman J. David Grissom said in the statement that “Everyone is pleased that this matter has been successfully resolved. All parties can move forward to begin the next chapter.”

Jurich played a major role in Louisville’s success on the field and how the school handled issues off it. He led the school’s 2014 entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference and oversaw numerous program and facility upgrades, including a $63 million expansion of the football stadium due for completion by fall.

He also hired several successful coaches including Pitino, who guided the Cardinals to the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball championship. Louisville ultimately vacated that title in February as part of NCAA penalties for a sex scandal after an escort’s book allegations that former basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers to strip and have sex with players and recruits.

Pitino has filed a $38.7 million federal lawsuit against Louisville, alleging breach of contract.