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No. 8 Cincinnati beats UConn 65-57 for 14th straight win

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STORRS, Conn. — Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin says his philosophy when playing conference games on the road is to win and get the heck out of the building.

Jacob Evans III scored 19 points and No. 8 Cincinnati left Gampel Pavilion on Saturday with a 65-57 victory over a struggling UConn team. It was the Bearcats 14th straight win.

Kyle Washington added 13 points and 11 rebounds for Cincy (21-2, 10-0 American), which struggled at times but never trailed.

Jalen Adams scored 20 points and Christian Vital added 18 for the Huskies, who have lost five of their last six to fall below the .500 mark at 11-12 (4-6) American.

The Bearcats shot just 38 percent from the floor, almost 10 percentage points below their season average and were outscored 26-14 in the paint. But they held UConn to 36 percent shooting.

“It wasn’t a pretty game by any stretch,” Cronin said. “Their zone, it slowed us down, it limited our points in the paint,” Cronin said. “If you can only get 14 points in the paint and win you’ve got to be happy as a coach.”

Cincinnati opened the game with three straight 3-pointers and ran out to a 13-0 lead. The Huskies missed their first 10 shots and didn’t score until Christian Vital drove the lane for a layup almost eight minutes into the game.

The Bearcats had a drought of their own, getting just six free throws over a nine-minute span before a 3-pointer from Evans made it 26-16.

A 3-pointer by Keith Williams at the halftime buzzer sent the Bearcats into the locker room up 32-21.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Cane Broome eight minutes into the second half extended the lead to 17 points. The Bearcats extended that to 19 and then weathered a late 12-4 UConn run.

Cincinnati hit 9 of their 25 shots from behind the arc, while UConn went 5 of 17.

“It’s tough on the road,” Evans said. “You play a team on the road, especially in conference, it gets dark as the away team. So, we were just focused on getting the win and getting back to Cincinnati.”

BIG PICTURE

Cincinnati: A win in its next game against UCF would tie the team’s longest winning streak in the 12-years since Mick Cronin took over as head coach. The school record for consecutive wins is 37, during the 1961-62 and 1962-63 seasons.

UConn: The Huskies are now 27-29 over the past two seasons. UConn has lost 12 straight against ranked opponents and is 0-5 against the Top 25 this season. Despite their struggles, this was the Huskies first loss on campus this season. The Huskies are now 5-1 at Gampel Pavilion.

“We have the guys; we have the talent, we just need to figure out how to put it together,” Vital said. “I don’t know how. Obviously, we’re still trying to figure that out.”

COMING HOME

The game was a homecoming for Cincinnati guard Cane Broome, who is from East Hartford and played at Sacred Heart in Fairfield before transferring to Cincinnati. Broome, who averages just over eight points a game, scored 10 points. He played against UConn once before, as a sophomore at Sacred Heart, scoring just seven points, the only time that season he failed to reach double figures.

“I just wanted to be able and come here and win the game, for real, because last time I came, I lost,” Broome said. I just wanted to win the game.”

UConn is just 27-28 since the 2016-17 season began.

HE’LL BE BACK

UConn point guard Alterique Gilbert recently had season-ending surgery on his left shoulder for the second straight year. But Gilbert says he’s “100 percent” committed to returning to the program. “The past two years have been kind of up and down for us, but I definitely know with the history and tradition at UConn there is another side to that, so I want to experience that side,” Gilbert said.

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.

Georgia Tech’s Okogie to sign with agent

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Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie, one of the big winners from this past weekend’s NBA combine, announced on Monday that he will be signing with an agent and remaining in the NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-4 Okogie finished his sophomore season averaged 18.5 points and shooting 38.4 percent from three. The numbers he posted during the athletic testing at the combine, as well as his 7-foot wingspan, makes Okogie an ideal 3-and-D wing at the NBA level.

“Josh is a tremendous young man and an excellent student-athlete,” said head coach Josh Pastner. “He has set a tremendous example, making the Dean’s List this past semester, and deserves a lot of credit for making himself a much better player over the course of his two years here. We will miss him in our program in many respects, from his performance on the court to the energy he plays with and brought to our team. We fully support his decision to take this next step, and wish him all the best.”