Late Night Snacks: UCLA: another exciting L.A. basketball team?

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Make room Clippers, make room Lakers. Following a win on Friday against No. 7 Missouri, UCLA is mix of exciting basketball teams in Los Angeles. This is the team we all expected headlined by Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. Took a month to get going – and get Muhammad to get in shape – but Friday night was the first glimpse of what the Bruins could be this season.

Game of the Night

UCLA 97, No. 13 Missouri 94 OT: Following a difficult season and the start to another difficult season the Bruins took down a ranked opponent giving a lift to a program that needed it. UCLA showed how good they can be when Shabazz Muhammad is in shape. Also Larry Drew and the Wear brothers have been impressive this season following their transfers from North Carolina.

Brown 69, Providence 68: Tucker Halpern hit his eighth 3-pointer with seven seconds to play to give Brown a 69-68 lead. Ed Cooley drew up a good play and got Vincent Council inside the 3-point line but he bobbled the ball and his 3-point try was off the mark and a tip-in attempt came up short. Council went 1-for-2 from the line with 20 seconds to play to keep it a two-point game at 68-66. Halpern ran off a high screen and faded to the corner to get off the late-game shot. LaDonte Henton had a game-high 37 points for Providence.

Important Outcomes

Gonzaga beats Baylor: Gonzaga has now beaten four Big 12 teams. Following another good win, the Zags goes into what could be their toughest game of the year on the road against Oklahoma State. Baylor got off to a good start, but turned the ball over 14 times and couldn’t get Brady Heslip an open look. The Bears start conference play against Texas on Jan. 2

Brown upsets Providence: Providence started out 8-2, but have not lost two games to both Boston College and Brown. Providence’s loss headlined a bad day for the Catholic 7 with both Villanova and Seton Hall getting scares from NJIT and Stony Brook.


Phil Pressey, Missouri: Despite the loss and a bad shot selection with under 30 seconds left that set up UCLA’s tying score in regulation, Pressey was impressive with 19 points and 19 assists.

Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA: The freshman finally had a breakout performance in a big game with 27 points, including seven points in overtime. While Muhammad led the team in scoring, Travis Wear put the game away with a bucket with 12 seconds left. Larry Drew 10 assists and Jordan Adams had a lefty layup that forced the game into overtime.

LaDontae Henton, Providence: Henton picked up the scoring load with Bryce Cotton out. Henton had 37 points, including 6-of-10 from three in a loss to Brown.

Shooters: Kevin Pangos had seven three’s to lead Gonzaga past Baylor. Jordan Hulls shot 6-of-9 from deep to lead Indiana with 20 points in a 93-59 win over Jacksonville.


St. Francis (PA): In a 79-67 loss to Cornell, St. Francis falls to 0-11 on the season. The Red Flash will try and get in the win column on Jan. 3 against Central Connecticut State.

Catholic 7: Providence lost to city rival Brown. Villanova only beat NJIT by 10 and Seton Hall survived a one-point scare from Stony Brook.

Looking ahead to Saturday

No. 4 Louisville vs. Kentucky, 4 p.m.

No. 1 Duke vs. Santa Clara, noon

No. 2 Michigan vs. Central Michigan, 7 p.m.

No. 6 Kansas vs. American, 8 p.m.

No. 9 Syracuse vs. Alcorn State, 7 p.m.

No. 10 Ohio State vs. Chicago State, 4:30 p.m.

No. 12 Illinois vs. Auburn, 2:15 p.m.

No. 14 Florida vs. Air Fore, 4:30 p.m.

No. 16 Creighton vs. Evansville, 8:05 p.m.

No. 18 Butler @ Vanderbilt, 8 p.m.

No. 20 UNLV @ North Carolina, 2 p.m.

No. 23 NC State vs. Western Michigan, noon

No. 25 Kansas State vs. UMKC, 7 p.m.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.