No. 16 Oregon comes back to beat Wazzu, remains Pac-12 favorite

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That’s the last time that Oregon started out the season 6-0 in conference play. They weren’t playing in the Pac-12 or the Pac-12 then. It was the Pacific Coast Conference. Mac Court wasn’t even built.

But on Tuesday night, the No. 16 Ducks moved to 6-0 in the Pac-12, 17-2 overall, with a 68-61 come-from-behind win over Washington State. Oregon shook off a sluggish start, using a 19-7 run — the last 10 of which were scored by EJ Singler — to erase a 39-29 halftime deficit, eventually taking control down the stretch. Singler scored 14 of his team-high 19 points in the second half.

It’s time to start believing. The Ducks are for real. They have a talented, albeit youthful, back court led by Damyeon Dotson and Dominic Artis that compliments their versatile front line nicely. Tony Woods takes up space in the paint, Arsalan Kazemi is the glue guy that does the dirty work, and Singler and Carlos Emory are the talented swingmen that allow the Ducks to go big (by putting them at the two and the three) or small (using them at the three and the four).

It works.

Oregon is as balanced as any team in the country, with five guys averaging between 10.1 points and 11.9 points and a sixth player — Kazemi — who leads the team in rebounding, averaging 9.5 boards, while chipping in with 8.8 points-per-game.

But that’s not why Oregon has become the overwhelming favorite to win the Pac-12 three weeks into league play.

It’s because they’ve beaten both UCLA and Arizona already this season, and they won’t have to face either UCLA or Arizona again.

As of today, the Ducks hold a one game lead in the loss column on both teams. After tonight, that lead will be push to two games over whoever loses when they square off tonight. UCLA and Arizona will square off again on March 2nd, and assuming that home-court advantage holds, the Ducks more-or-less have a two-game advantage in the Pac-12 and don’t have to play their two biggest challengers in the conference again this season.

That’s a good place to be.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.