One doesn’t have to know another personally to be affected or moved by them. It’s one of the beautiful things about the gift of life, even when that beauty isn’t always easy to appreciate when another’s life has ended.
Sad news was received by the college basketball world Tuesday as former Butler center Andrew Smith passed away after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 25 years old. On Twitter Wednesday afternoon, his wife Samantha Smith announced that “Andrew peacefully passed away in his sleep and in my arms as I told him I loved him this morning. Love you always, Smith.”
Briefly remembering Andrew Smith’s collegiate career, he was a three-year starter at Butler on some of the most remembered and influential teams in the sport in the last decade. He was part of both Bulldogs teams that advanced to the national championship game, and maybe as much as any player embodied those squads, dueling against far more touted players on the national stage and more than holding his own. He finished his career fifth in school history in games played, 12th in rebounding and scored more than 1,100 points in his career.
It’s hard to come up with words, at this time there’s only heartbreak for his family. Andrew Smith’s wife Samantha very openly shared the Smiths fight against cancer in a blog that had virtually anyone who read it rooting hard for Andrew to get well and praying for both of them, whether they knew them personally or not. In one post, Samantha Smith pleaded for prayers for not just healing and strength, but also wisdom and perspective while going through this heart wrenching time.
Through the sadness for the Smiths and the Butler basketball family, it’s also hard not to reflect on what an inspiration Andrew and Samantha Smith both have been.
It goes without saying that Andrew Smith was a fighter, taking on cancer just like he battled as a center at Butler. His wife Samantha was and is just as much of a shining light, who was willing to share the good and the bad throughout his fight and set an example for all of how to handle an incredibly tough situation with grace and strong faith. While that is small consolation in this trying time, it should be known that both have influenced so many in positive ways that will be remembered for a long, long time.
Rest in peace, Andrew Smith. And wishing God’s peace to the Smith family at this time.
- The top-ranked team in the country went down as West Virginia knocked off Kansas in what was frankly a surprise to few. Jaysean Paige scored a career-best 26 and added five steals off the bench for the Mountaineers, who shot just 33.3% but forced 22 turnovers and owned a 47-21 advantage in free throw attempts. The Jayhawks lost the back end of a tough road trip (aren’t they all in the Big 12?) while WVU may move right on up into the top 5 in the polls if it wins its next game: at Oklahoma on Saturday.
- Two more upsets on the night may raise as many questions of the defeated as they will praises for the winners. Michigan topped Maryland 70-67 behind 22 points from Zak Irvin, while Melo Trimble was held to two points. The Terrapins’ resume is starting to look stunningly mediocre; its best win thus far is against Connecticut on a neutral court. Also, Texas defeated Iowa State 94-81 in overtime. Isaiah Taylor scored 28 for the Longhorns, but this is a very disappointing one for the Cyclones against a Texas team that, frankly, has not been playing very well without Cameron Ridley. ISU’s lack of depth (just seven players played Tuesday) is an issue that looks like it is not going away.
- It’s hard to think of a program as steady and consistent as Virginia the past couple years as being in a must-win situation, but that was almost the case Tuesday night against Miami (Fla.). Mission accomplished, as the Cavaliers held off the Hurricanes 66-58 in a matchup of top 15 teams. London Perrantes scored all 13 of his points in the second half.
- Few would’ve pegged Providence/Creighton to be a grinder, but that’s what it was, with the Friars gutting out a 50-48 win after Kris Dunn hit the game-winner at the buzzer:
- Kentucky had a tough time putting away Mississippi State, finally beating the Bulldogs 80-74. Also in the SEC, Texas A&M continues to live on the edge. The Aggies held off Florida 71-68 with a combined 48 points from Jalen Jones and Danuel House and have now won their last three by a combined eight points. A&M may be a team that is battle-tested to win close games…or may be struggling to defeat slightly better than mediocre competition. We’ll see…
- Dayton held off Davidson 80-74 in an entertaining game in the Atlantic 10. Dyshawn Pierre scored 18 for Dayton, which withstood 31 from Jack Gibbs. The Flyers have been dealing with some injuries and were without Charles Cooke, who suffered an oblique injury Monday in practice, but did have the services of Kendall Pollard after he missed the last two games.
- A number of teams are starting to pile up some gaudy overall records. Evansville and Southern Illinois of the MVC are both 15-3 now after the Purple Aces pounded Drake 84-65 and SIU rallied late and got a go-ahead three-pointer by Leo Vincent (24 points) with 25 seconds left in an 81-78 win over Illinois State.
- Northern Illinois is now 14-2 and should be a major factor in the MAC race after a 71-66 win at Toledo. The Huskies have won seven straight, though the jury is still out to an extent-NIU’s losses are against Missouri and Ohio State.
- Albany moved to 14-4 with an 80-75 overtime win over New Hampshire. The Great Danes have won seven straight since losing their upstate New York rivalry game against Siena.
- North Dakota State junior guard Carlin Dupree has left the team in a dispute over his role, according to Jeff Kolpack of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead newspaper. Dupree had started 14 of 17 games this season for the Bison and was averaging 7.1 points per game, but had recently lost a starting job. Dupree may be remembered by some as a seldom-used player who came off the bench to provide some huge baskets for the Bison in their 2014 NCAA Tournament win over Oklahoma.
- Also seeking to transfer is Texas forward Jordan Barnett, per a statement from the school Tuesday. The 6-6 Barnett has played in just four games this season, averaging 6.0 minutes with 3.3 points and 2.0 rebounds per contest.
- The game of the night just might be one of the last games, as USC plays at UCLA in the battle for Los Angeles (11 p.m. EST, ESPN2). Both swept the Arizona schools at home last week. UCLA in particular really wouldn’t want a home loss to drop to 2-3 in the Pac-12 before making the Oregon trip next week.
- Houston served notice that it can be a factor in the American with its blowout of Temple, and the Cougars can formally announce their NCAA Tournament candidacy if they win at Cincinnati (7 p.m., ESPNU).
- Another of those games that may have looked like a semi-breather in conference play before the season but no longer, Duke goes to suddenly hot Clemson (7 p.m., ESPN2).
- St. Bonaventure is perennially one of our personal favorite teams to watch, but the always better-than-you-think Bonnies may be another level up this year. At 11-3 and coming off a pair of road wins in the Atlantic 10 last week, St. Bona can continue building some buzz if it beats Rhode Island at home.
- Second place early in the season in the Patriot League is on the line when a pair of surprising teams meet as Loyola (Md.)-1-10 in non-conference play-goes to Navy, which was picked 10th in the league’s preseason poll.
- Marquette won at Providence last week; now the young Golden Eagles face maybe as tough of a road test as there is in the Big East, playing at Villanova (7:30 p.m., FS1). A good showing here and it may be hard to ignore Steve Wojciechowski’s team the rest of the year.
- The Bedlam Series continues with Oklahoma on upset alert when it goes to Oklahoma State (9 p.m., ESPNU). On paper, there’s little reason to pick the Sooners to lose this, but that’s why rivalry games are so fun.
- Almost every game in the Pac-12 is worth noting right now, and after a 2-1 start with its first three games at home, Oregon State will now test its mettle on the road with a trip to Colorado (11 p.m., ESPNU).
- Finally, if you need something to follow in the morning, have brunch with the America East, where Maine plays at Massachusetts-Lowell at 11 a.m. Eastern time.
Wishing all a terrific Wednesday.