E.J. Singler, Nick Johnson

Oregon shows qualities of a Pac-12 contender in win over No. 4 Arizona

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After a pair of close calls at home last week for No. 4 Arizona many wondered when the Wildcats’ luck (and 14-game win streak to start the season) would run out.

Enter the Oregon Ducks, who thanks to a balanced offensive effort led by senior E.J. Singler (14 points, seven assists and seven rebounds) handed Arizona its first loss of the season by the final score of 70-66.

Mark Lyons led the Wildcats with 21 points, and the Wildcats’ loss leaves Duke and Michigan are the the nation’s last two undefeated teams.

Once again Arizona struggled offensively, as they were outscored by Oregon 41-19 in the first half after opening the game with an 11-0 run. The Ducks did a better job of taking away the open looks from the perimeter after that 11-0 stretch, which allowed them to take control of the game.

Oregon answered the Arizona run with a 16-2 run of its own, and with their front court outplaying Arizona’s young big men the gap continued to grow throughout the first half. The trio of Arsalan Kazemi, Tony Woods and Waverly Austin proved to be too much for the Wildcat freshmen, and on the night they combined for 22 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots (three by Austin).

That may not seem like much but when compared to the seven points, 11 rebounds and one blocked shot supplied by Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski it’s clear which front court held the upper hand.

As a result of the freshmen’s struggles Arizona went back to its “small” lineup for large stretches of the game with Kevin Parrom (who started) and Solomon Hill at the three and four, respectively. Hill finished with 16 points and six rebounds while Parrom scored seven points in 22 minutes before fouling out.

Last week’s results led many to question just how large the gap was between the Wildcats and the rest of the Pac-12, and tonight’s defeat is an indication not only of the fact that the race is wide open but also that Oregon will be heard from as the season wears on.

Dana Altman’s team doesn’t have a player ranked in the top 20 in the conference in scoring (Damyean Dotson entered the night ranked 24th with an average of 11.8 ppg) but they get it done with balance and they share the basketball.

Seventeen of Oregon’s 25 field goals were of the assisted variety, with Singler (seven assists) and freshman Dominic Artis (three) leading the way. Four starters reached double figures and the fifth, Dotson, scored nine points.

Add to that the fact that Oregon ranks in the top three in the Pac-12 in both field goal (3rd) and three-point (1st) percentage defense and the end result is a team that is more than capable of contending for a conference title.

Next up for Oregon is Arizona State this weekend, and the goal now is to keep building on the positive momentum. With wins over UNLV and now Arizona the Ducks have two wins that will look good on their resume.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.

Four-star guard Fisher commits to TCU

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Jamie Dixon’s presence is already being felt in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail.

TCU received its first commitment of the Dixon era when four-star 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher announced his decision to join the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.

“Due to how comfortable my family and I are with the coaching staff,” Fisher posted from his Twitter account, “and the emphasis the university has put on making basketball a priority, I’m committing to be a student-athlete at TCU.”

Getting a consensus top-75 prospect, who was once committed to UNLV, is a heck of a coup for being just a couple months on the job. It instantly shows the Frogs are going to be a player for some of the country’s top players, which is a necessity if you have designs on making a move up the ladder of arguably the country’s best league in the Big 12.

Maybe the most gratifying thing for TCU, though, is the reason Fisher publicly stated for making his decision, the school’s “making basketball a priority.” The hoops program has suffered immensely in the Big 12 (while the football program has flourished), winning a total of eight games in their four seasons (including a winless 2014), but the school sank $72 million into renovating its arena, made an aggressive move in firing Trent Johnson and then went out and got its dream candidate, Dixon, an alum. Fisher’s commitment is the first time those moves have shown that commitment to basketball paying off.

 

Report: Izundu’s San Diego State transfer ban rescinded

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Washington State transfer Valentine Izundu will be visiting San Diego State after all.

Coach Ernie Kent has rescinded his restriction on the 6-foot-10 graduate transfer from visiting the Aztecs, according to a report from the Spokesman-Review, citing an anonymous source. Izundu will also be reportedly visiting Fresno State and UNLV.

Izundu had previously been barred from considering the Aztecs by Kent because of suspcisions of tampering. Izundu vigorously denied that was the case as at the center of the dispute was a trip he made to San Diego for spring break. He publicly said he did not have any contact with the SDSU coaching staff , though he attended an Aztecs NIT game.

Kent, though, appears to have relented, as many coaches who have similarly faces public pressure in such situations before him have. In this era where so much attention is being paid to player rights and welfare, there only seems to be growing public sentiment against programs restricting transfers beyond the absolute bare minimum is rarely going to go over well. It may make things more difficult for coaches and programs, but it’s the deck is largely already stacked in their favor in most every other instance.

Ex-Michigan State player Keith Appling faces weapons charges

Keith Appling
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DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) Authorities say former Michigan State basketball player Keith Appling faces charges including carrying a concealed weapon after he was found in possession of guns and marijuana in suburban Detroit.

The Wayne County prosecutor’s office says 24-year-old Appling was arrested outside a Dearborn club on Sunday night. Club security called police after seeing a man pull a gun from the trunk of a car.

Prosecutors say Appling was in the driver’s seat of the car when police arrived. Officers found a handgun under the driver’s seat, a loaded weapon in the trunk and a small amount of suspected marijuana.

Weapons and marijuana possession charges were announced Wednesday.

The court says he doesn’t have a lawyer on record.

Appling played for the Spartans from 2010-2014 and plays for the NBA’s development league.

UNLV transfer to finish career at Michigan State

UNLV forward Ben Carter, right, celebrates after his team defeated Oregon in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, in Las Vegas. UNLV won 80-69. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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Former UNLV center Ben Carter announced on Wednesday that he will be transferring to Michigan State to finish his collegiate career.

Carter, who began his career at Oregon, averaged 8.6 points and 6.0 boards in his one season with UNLV before tearing his ACL in late January. He spent two seasons with the Ducks before transferring to Vegas, which is why he’s eligible immediately for the Spartans.

And that’s the biggest reason that Tom Izzo and company targeted him.

The Spartans lost Deyonta Davis to the NBA Draft after one season, a fact that became an inevitability midway through the year but one that the Spartans didn’t necessarily plan for heading into last season. Carter isn’t going to be an instant impact kind of player, particularly not when he’s coming off of an ACL injury, but he is a big body and a veteran presence on a front line that wasn’t going have much of either.