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The Morning Dish – Monday, January 5, 2015

January 5, 2015 The Morning Dish No Comments

On Sunday morning, basketball didn’t feel so important. Deep down, I knew this could come any day, as he had fought a courageous battle with cancer for several years, but waking up to find out that Stuart Scott had passed away still stunk. It was still hard to take. And watching the nearly 15-minute video that ESPN put together about his life – with Robin Roberts narrating – as well as his speech at the ESPYs last year didn’t make it any better.

It all just drove home how he touched so many of us and how much he’ll be missed. Even my wife, who is not nearly as sports-oriented as yours truly, was touched by it all.

I grew up watching Stuart Scott on SportsCenter. During my later college years, I saw him on all the time, being the night owl that I was, and he was definitely different – and in a good way. To some, he was controversial, because his style didn’t fit what they thought should be on the air for something like SportsCenter, which is supposed to tell us all about the day’s sports news. Of course, the show has evolved over the years in format, but Stuart Scott changed it, too. He lightened it up and made it a little more fun to watch.

Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie often says that a special player has to “give away his gift” for the team’s benefit. Stuart Scott was a special personality and gave away his gift all the time, and those of us who ever watched SportsCenter and anything else he touched are all the better for it. He was real with us on the air. He knew what he was talking about, he did his homework, and he shared a piece of himself with us each time.

I never had the pleasure of meeting him, although I have known and still do know many who work for ESPN. From all the stories I have read about him, even before the additional ones I read and heard yesterday, it’s clear that luck has not been with me in that regard. We know he was devoted to his daughters, often featuring them on his Twitter. Just like he shared a piece of himself with us on the air, he shared a piece of himself with everyone he knew every day.

In light of that, it’s worth recalling a key part of what he said last July at the ESPYs in the famous speech as our parting note about him.

“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live.”

Stuart Scott beat cancer, and showed us how to do it. I invite fans to read about some of this right here. Included is the aforementioned tribute video, as well as other stories about a man we are already missing. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Stuart Scott.

Side Dishes

Wake Forest gave Louisville all they could handle, even leading at times in the latter part of the second half. Down the stretch, though, it was all Cardinals as Louisville took home a hard-fought 85-76 win in their ACC debut in Winston-Salem. Montrezl Harrell grabs the numbers headline with 25 points and 13 rebounds, but no one was bigger than Chris Jones, who made a number of big shots, especially while Terry Rozier III was limited with foul trouble. It spoiled a career night for Wake Forest big man Devin Thomas, who had a career-high 31 points and 11 rebounds.

Wichita State will surely get a challenge this season in the Missouri Valley, but for now, the Shockers continue to win. They have won 20 conference games in a row after beating Illinois State 69-62. The most likely challenger is Northern Iowa, who lost earlier in the week, but they kept pace by beating Loyola (Ill.) 67-58.

UCLA fans are probably getting quite alarmed right now. The Bruins are 8-7, but more importantly, 0-2 in Pac-12 play, after a 71-39 drubbing against Utah in Salt Lake City on Sunday. A balanced attack with no one scoring more than 11 points led helped Utah to this win, with UCLA shooting below 29 percent from the field. The rest of the Pac-12 outside of Arizona is a bit harder to get a handle on, as Washington State went to Berkeley and got 18 points and 13 rebounds from Josh Hawkinson to beat California 69-66, just two nights after the Golden Bears handed Washington their first loss of the season. That is the first road win in early Pac-12 play this season, and it snaps a 15-game road losing streak for the Cougars. The last game of the night was a dandy at Maples Pavilion, with Stanford taking control in overtime to beat Washington 68-60 to advance to 2-0 in Pac-12 play. Washington, meanwhile, has now lost three in a row as they got swept in California.

Wisconsin jumped out early on Northwestern and never looked back, blowing out the Wildcats 81-58 in Evanston.

In a non-conference game of note, Kansas beat UNLV 76-63 behind 18 points and seven assists from Frank Mason III. The Jayhawks trailed by four at halftime, but turned it on in the second half, especially late as they pulled away from the Runnin’ Rebels.

Monmouth is your surprise early leader in the MAAC, going to 4-0 with a 66-50 win at Niagara.

Tonight’s Menu

It’s starting to get interesting with conference play here, and it continues on Monday night.

  • Big Monday begins tonight with Notre Dame at North Carolina, then Oklahoma visiting Texas in what should be a good battle.
  • In other Big 12 play, West Virginia takes on Texas Tech in Lubbock.
  • Big Ten play features Indiana visiting Michigan State early, then Nebraska at Iowa.
  • It’s a busy night of action in many mid-majors from the Northeast and CAA to the Southern, Southland, Sun Belt and SWAC.
  • The last game of the night is an intriguing non-conference battle as Florida Gulf Coast travels west to play at UC Santa Barbara.

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