AJ Milano definitely needs some respect for handing defending Euroleague champions CSKA Moscow their first loss of the season. CSKA led 34-14 midway through the second quarter in Italy but the hosts refused to just lay over for the Russian giants and won 80-79. David Hawkins was outstanding with 20 points including the go-ahead basket with 9.1 seconds left.

CSKA’s native Italian coach Ettore Messina, however, was pretty clear about the collapse of his usually so mentally strong team, telling Euroleague.net: “We played with a lot of arrogance and we had a poor defense in the last quarter, while Milano played with great spirit. What happened in the second half? Maybe some of my players thought that the game was over. It was a very good Euroleague game, even if it was difficult. We played a great first half in front of a very knowledgeable crowd. I don’t want to take away any credit from Milan.”

While the heart and spirit of Milano cannot be questioned, Messina hopes this is the last time his team’s character will be put into doubt.

Staying with basketball, but heading to the college game – in what some thought could be a possible preview of a 2009 Final Four matchup in Detroit, top-ranked North Carolina absolutely embarrassed No. 12 Michigan State 98-63.

One word – Wow!

Tyler Hansbrough scored 25 points with 13-of-13 free throws and Ty Lawson had 17 points, 8 assists, 7 steals, and zero (!!!) turnovers. UNC committed just 9 turnovers in the game while forcing 21 for the Spartans.

The rest of the college basketball world must not have liked Hansbrough’s comments to ESPN after the game: “We are on a roll right now. But we know there are still things we need to do to get better. We’ll listen to coach and do those.”

One more basketball note, even though it seems that many experts are not surprised with the firing of Sam Mitchell. The move does make one wonder a bit. Of course the Raptors are better than their 8-9 record. But look at who they lost to – against Detroit, at Boston, against Philadelphia, at Orlando, against New Jersey (who got 39 points from Vince Carter), against Boston, at the Lakers, and then admittedly an embarrassing 132-93 thrashing at Denver.

But it seems a bit premature to sack Mitchell, who was the NBA Coach of the Year for the 2006-07 season. For Raptors fans, let’s hope that Jay Triano can do the job.

A last item for today, the Boston Red Sox did the right thing in locking up the AL MVP Dustin Pedroia for six years and more than 40 million dollars and a club option in year seven. This guy is slowly becoming the heart and soul of the Red Sox organization – not to mention an inspiration for small guys throughout the world.

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