E.J. Singler, Nick Johnson

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


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.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?