UC Irvine falls in NIT opener to SMU

UC Irvine falls in NIT opener to SMU
UC Irvine guard Alex Young dives in an attempt to beat Southern Methodist's Cannen Cunningham to a loose ball during the first half of an NIT game on Wednesday night. (Brad Loper / McClatchy-Tribune)

Cannen Cunningham scored 17 points to lead SMU to a 68-54 victory Wednesday night over UC Irvine in the first round of the NIT and give Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown his first college postseason victory in 26 years.

Ben Moore added 11 points in the Mustangs' first NIT since 2000. Nick Russell chipped in 10.


SMU (24-9) used a 23-7 run in the second half to erase a 35-29 deficit, scoring inside and hitting free throws to balloon the lead to 52-42 with 8:16 left.

However, less than two minutes later, the refereeing crew determined the Mustangs inadvertently were given a one-and-one opportunity too early, and they removed a point from the hosts to make it 51-44 with 7:24 left.

Luke Nelson led Irvine (23-12) with 13 points and Alex Young chipped in 10.

SMU will face either LSU or San Francisco in the second round

Pitino's complaint

Louisville Coach Rick Pitino had no problem with his team's NCAA tournament seeding. It was the pairing that drew his ire.

Pitino criticized the selection committee Wednesday for pitting his fourth-seeded and defending national champion Cardinals against 13th-seeded Manhattan, which is coached by Pitino's former assistant, Steve Masiello. Louisville and Manhattan open tournament play Thursday night in the Midwest Region.

"I think the pairings sometimes lack common sense," Pitino said. "I don't think they would put somewhere down the road Duke-North Carolina so … the matchups don't make sense to me. I'm OK with the seedings. I'm not OK with the matchups.

Providence investigation

Police confirmed Wednesday that they are investigating an allegation that two Providence basketball players sexually assaulted another student on the Rhode Island campus in November.

Providence police Maj. David Lapatin told the Associated Press that the complaint was filed about two weeks ago by a female student against two men who were on the basketball team at the time of the assault. He would not name the players, but a defense lawyer says unsubstantiated sex assault allegations were made against players Rodney Bullock and Brandon Austin when they were suspended from playing in games in the fall.