Solomon Hill, Chase Tapley

Pregame Shootaround 1.24.13: West Coast action heats up Thursday night

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Game of the Day: UCLA vs. No. 6 Arizona (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

In the night’s biggest game, the Bruins head down to Tucson to take on an Arizona team in a game that is crucial to UCLA’s hopes of winning the Pac-12 regular season title. Both the Bruins and the Wildcats have lost their only game against Oregon this season, and a loss on Thursday would drop them two games behind the Ducks in the league standings.

The good news for Arizona, however, is that the Wildcats match up very well with UCLA. They have the size on the wings — with Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom — to negate the advantages that Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad have grown accustomed to. Specifically, Hill should be able to take away Muhammad’s post-up game. Arizona also has the kind of size up front that can overwhelm the Bruins. What cost UCLA against Oregon was the Wears’ inability to deal with Tony Woods and Oregon’s big front line.

That said, trusting Arizona at this point in the season is not the easiest thing to do. Hopefully, we’ll be able to watc this game while listening to Bill Walton rant about whatever is it that Bill Walton rants about.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 19 VCU at Richmond (7:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)

Richmond does not matchup all that well with VCU. They turn the ball over too much, and no one in the country is as good at forcing turnovers as VCU is. They don’t rebound the ball all that well defensively, and VCU can crash the offensive glass really well. One thing that Richmond does well, however, is chase their opponents off the three-point line. The Rams love to shoot threes. If the Spiders can keep Treveon Graham and Troy Daniels from getting hot, this is a rivalry game. The kind of game where you can throw the records out the window. We’ll see what happens.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Belmont at Morehead State (7:00 p.m. ET)

Morehead State likes to press and press and press some more. They are coached by Sean Woods, who makes Frank Martin look docile and calm. Rick Byrd, on the other hand, isn’t afraid of getting up and down the floor and like to use a press as well. Bruins’ guard Ian Clark has been as hot as anyone in the country over the last two weeks, and Belmont enters this game undefeated in the OVC. Can it last?

Five Things to Watch For

1) UNLV hosts Wyoming at 9:15 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Net) tonight, after the Cowboys knocked off San Diego State on Saturday and UNLV lost to Colorado State on the road. The Pokes are trying to figure out how to play without Luke Martinez — they previously lost to Boise State and Fresno State — but the Rebels are not an easy team to beat in Vegas.

2) The WCC will provide some quality hoops on Thursday night, with a pair of games tipping off at 11:00 p.m. ET tonight. BYU visits No. 10 Gonzaga, a team that the Cougars actually matchup pretty well with. They have some size inside to matchup with with the Zags’ massive front line. St. Mary’s will also be taking on San Diego, two teams that are currently sitting at 4-1 in WCC play.

3) Colorado and Stanford are probably the two most disappointing teams in the Pac-12. Both were expected to compete for the league title; neither of them are above .500 in league play.

4) Bryant has been the nation’s biggest surprise this season, as they currently sit at 6-0 in the NEC this year. They will take on Sacred Heart tonight on the road.

5) Belmont-Morehead State isn’t the only good game tonight in the OVC. Tennessee State will be taking on Eastern Kentucky in a battle for second place in the Eastern Division.

The Top 25

  • Purdue at No. 2 Michigan (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • UCLA at No. 6 Arizona (9:00 p.m. ESPN2)
  • BYU at No. 10 Gonzaga (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • No. 19 VCU at Richmond (7:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)
  • Tennessee at No. 23 Ole Miss (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.