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The Morning Dish – Thursday, January 11, 2018

January 11, 2018 The Morning Dish No Comments

No matter how much we all love this game, there are bigger things in life. Reminders of that come and go, and Wednesday delivered us the latest such example.

Texas guard Andrew Jones has been diagnosed with leukemia. That is never good news, and whether or not he ever plays again is immaterial, although all of us are surely rooting for him to do so since it would be a sure sign that he conquered it.

But basketball is secondary right now, although the world of basketball and more certainly reacted.

Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin is not an idle witness here. He had a health scare of his own just a few years ago when he was diagnosed with an unruptured aneurysm, and ironically the first game he sat out was against VCU, at the time coached by current Texas head coach Shaka Smart.

And speaking of Smart, you know this news had to hit him hard, and legitimately so. This is a man who understands the importance of a coach in many a young man’s life, who realizes that he is in a position to basically be another father figure for a young man.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, the Longhorns had to play on Wednesday night, and they did so with a heavy heart. They played inspired basketball early on, running out to an 18-5 lead over TCU, but the Horned Frogs were not going to be easily dispatched. The game took two overtime periods to decide, and as the final seconds of the second extra session ticked away, it looked like the day would only get worse. Jaylen Fisher got a clear path to the basket and enough time to get a layup.

The ball rimmed out. Texas held on to win by one. It’s as if Jones was there and willed the ball off the rim.

The Longhorns won one for their teammate. Now we will cheer him on as he goes to win a far bigger battle. Our thoughts and prayers are with Andrew Jones and his family.


Side Dishes

Former Louisville forward Brian Bowen has enrolled at South Carolina, and could play for the Gamecocks after the first semester of next season. Bowen is a key figure in the FBI’s investigation into corruption, and he was suspended by Louisville in light of that. If he is ultimately reinstated by the NCAA and thus able to play, South Carolina will gain a terrific talent after taking a chance on him.

We talked about St. John’s and their rough start to Big East play on Wednesday, and things got worse for them after that as sophomore guard Marcus Lovett has been lost for the rest of the season due to a knee injury. The second-leading scorer on the team, Lovett has not played for over a month since he first injured the knee in late November,

Rutgers extended the contract of head coach Steve Pikiell by another three years, which keeps him in Piscataway through the 2023-24 season. In just over a year with Pikiell at the helm, the improvement and promise of more improvement has been ever-present. There’s a feeling that the Scarlet Knights may not be far away from being an NCAA Tournament contender.

Siena guard Nico Clareth will transfer after the academic year, which means they will lose their leading scorer. Clareth already left the program to return home to Baltimore, and the junior will have one year of eligibility remaining.

In terms of game action, the biggest surprise of the night might have been the score more than the result as Villanova blew out Xavier 89-65 in a game most probably figured would be a well-contested one. The challenger would be LSU going to Fayetteville and manhandling Arkansas 75-54, and Louisville edging Florida State 73-69 in Tallahassee. In a less surprising result, Northwestern kept Minnesota’s downward momentum going with an 83-60 romp over the Golden Gophers.

An individual performance worth noting came in UMass‘ 86-79 overtime win over La Salle, a game where the Minutemen overcame a 21-point deficit. For UMass, Luwane Pipkins scored 44 points, which sets a program record for points in a game. The sophomore guard, who has always been a shot-maker, was 15-27 from the field, including 6-10 from long range, and he added five rebounds and five assists.


Tonight’s Menu

There are quite a few good matchups to watch on a night that includes a nearly full slate of Pac-12 action, with a number of good ones likely to fly under the radar.

  • Ohio State tries to keep their undefeated run going in Big Ten play as they host Maryland (7 p.m.)
  • A matchup of 3-1 teams that lead the way in the Patriot League is on tap as Boston University hosts Colgate (7 p.m.)
  • There will only be one team undefeated in Horizon League play at the end of the night as Northern Kentucky hosts Wright State in a battle of the two 4-0 teams in the league (7 p.m.)
  • Another Big Ten game has two teams that will begin the night winless in conference play, as Iowa visits Illinois (8 p.m.)
  • Conference USA has two 3-0 teams meeting as Old Dominion hosts Western Kentucky (8 p.m.)
  • The Ohio Valley Conference has two games with a 4-0 team visiting a 3-1 team: Austin Peay at Tennessee Tech and Murray State at Jacksonville State, both tipping at 8:30 p.m.
  • Clemson tries to continue its great ACC start in their visit to NC State (9 p.m.)
  • The Pac-12 slate has five games on tap, highlighted by Oregon State at Arizona (9 p.m.), Oregon at Arizona State (10 p.m.) and Utah at UCLA (11 p.m.)
  • One of the last games of the night is Saint Mary’s visiting a Santa Clara team that is off to a 3-1 start in WCC play (11 p.m.)

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