Late Night Snacks: Gators go cold again; unbeatens fall

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Game of the Night

No. 12 Missouri 82, No. 10 Illinois 73: Phil Pressey shot 2-18 and still led the Tigers to their fourth straight victory in the annual Braggin’ Rights game. His eleven assists found the hot hands, which belonged largely to Laurence Bowers (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Alex Oriakhi (13 and 14). Jabari Brown logged his first start of the year, putting up 18 points. The Illini lost their first game of the season, falling to 12-1.

Meaningful Results

Kansas State 67, No. 8 Florida 61: Poor shooting from the backcourt kept the Gators on the slide began at Arizona last weekend. Starters Mike Rosario, Kenny Boynton and Scotty Wilbekin combined to shoot 10 of 31 from the floor and 2 of 12 from deep in a game that Florida never led in the second half.

Indiana State 87, Ole Miss 85 (OT): Ole Miss isn’t exactly a powerhouse right now, but they came to Hawaii sporting an 8-1 record and reasonable expectations of being able to handle a middle-of-the-pack MVC team. That didn’t happen, as Manny Arop (27 points) led five Sycamore starters into double figures. Junior Marshall Henderson had a 27 point night for the losing team.

No. 11 Cincinnati 68, Wright State 58: Wright State led this game 28-22 at the half, and Cincy looked like it might be vulnerable to the malaise that hit other undefeated teams like Syracuse and Illinois today. But the Bearcats clawed their way back into the game in spite of terrible shooting from the floor, riding JaQuon Parker’s 21 points to a 12-0 mark.

Virginia Tech 66, Bradley 65 (OT): Erick Green scored 31 points — a new career high — including the game-winner in this tight contest.

Starred

Kalif Wyatt, Temple: Hard to argue with 33 points, 15-15 from the line, and an upset of the previously undefeated No. 3 team in the country.

Ben McLemore, Kansas: DeShaun Thomas got all the ink at the beginning of the season, but McLemore proved to be the best player on the floor when Kansas visited Columbus. The freshman went home with 22 points, 6 boards, 2 assists, 1 steal and a block, as well as a couple more of the above-the-rim dunks that are becoming his calling card.

D.J. Cooper, Ohio: The Bobcats were facing one of the worst teams in Division I, so Cooper didn’t have to do much scoring. Instead, he decided to indulge in the spirit of the season and gave out gifts to his teammates in the form of 14 assists, tying his season high. And he did it in just 23 minutes of floor time.

Struggled

Luke Hancock, Louisville: At the beginning of the season, Hancock was generally regarded as the missing piece in a possible national title picture for the Cards, thanks to the 50% shooting mark he brought with him as a transfer from George Mason. Forget about being a missing piece, Hancock is just missing this season: missing the basket, missing in action, you name it, he’s missing it. In a 78-55 rout of Western Kentucky, Hancock tallied zero points, one assist and two turnovers in 16 minutes of play.

Florida’s gunners: Last week, the Gator shooters confined their worst shooting to the ends of halves. Against K-State, they couldn’t find the range all night, not that it stopped them from banging away. As a team, the Gators were 5 of 19 from behind the arc; a tidy 26.3%.

Houston’s Health & PE Center: The bucolically-named venue played host to the worst game of the night. Florida International put up 48 points and Texas Southern managed just 45. Texas Southern’s 83% from the free throw line would have been the stat of the night, except that closer inspection reveals that the Tigers were only awarded six charities all night long, making five.

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.