UCLA has been on one heck of a roller-coaster ride this season. Fans were preparing to run Ben Howland out of town on a rail after a November home loss to Cal Poly, and another round of midseason player defections. Then came a ten-game win streak and solid play from freshmen Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad that put the Bruins right back in the heat of the Pac 12 race. Now inconsistency has crept into the mix again.
There was a time when a trip to Tempe was a rather easy win for the Bruins, but it was not this day. The Sun Devils made an emphatic statement today, beating visiting UCLA by 18 points, and staking a legit contender’s claim. Herb Sendek did it with Iron Man minutes from his starting five, including a full 40 minutes played by freshman point guard Jahii Carson. Ruslan Pateev scored two points in ten minutes off of the bench; the rest came from the starting lineup.
Center Jordan Bachynski – he of the triple-double against Northridge – played the fewest minutes of any starter, logging just 30, but he was the most effective part of a sterling group effort. The big man scored 22 points to go with 15 boards and six blocked shots, which is very much the kind of performance basketball fans have come to expect. Carrick Felix was actually the leading scorer for the Sun Devils, however, notching 23 to complement eleven boards, three steals and two blocks.
UCLA struggled to score, shooting just 34.7 percent from the floor against the stolid interior play of Bachynski and Felix. The dysfunction that characterized UCLA’s early season returned to some degree, with David Wear putting in a mediocre effort while his brother Travis sat due to injury, and Anderson fouling out with just six points to his credit.
The Sun Devils are in good shape for a tourney bid right now, with the toughest part of their schedule already behind them. They won’t face a currently ranked team until they close the season against arch-rival and current No. 6 Arizona.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
James Banks announced on Thursday that he has committed to Texas, joining Jacob Young in Shaka Smart’s first recruiting class as the head coach of the Longhorns.
Banks is an interesting prospect. A 6-foot-10 center from Georgia, Banks is a still-developing prospect that was recruited more on his potential than his immediate ability.
“James Banks emerged as a good low post prospect this spring and summer,” NBC Recruiting Analyst Scott Phillips said. “With a good set of hands, some offensive potential and a frame that can add weight, Banks is a nice upside grab for Texas.”
He’s probably a few years away from having a major impact in the Big 12, but he may not have that much time to develop. Cameron Ridley, Prince Ibeh and Conner Lamert all graduate after this season, meaning that Banks is going to have to contribute immediately when he sets foot on the Austin campus for the 2016-17 season.
Texas has three commitments in the Class of 2015. Smart convinced Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis to remain committed to the program when he took over for Rick Barnes while he landed a commitment from Tevin Mack, who pledged to Smart when he was at VCU.
Memphis just cannot catch a break.
It’s to the point where I almost feel bad for Josh Pastner.
Today, CBSSports.com reported that Kedren Johnson, a 6-foot-4 point guard that was on track towards being an all-SEC point guard at Vanderbilt, could end up missing the season due to a shoulder injury. If he can handle the pain he can avoid surgery and play with the injury, but at the very least, Johnson is going to be less than his best.
Johnson averaged 6.7 points and 2.7 assists last season for the Tigers. He sat out 2013-14 after leaving Vanderbilt and entered last season incredibly out of shape. There was hope that he would be able to make a bigger impact this season and help fill the void at the point guard spot.
This news comes on the heels of Memphis finding out that Jaylen Fisher is heading to UNLV. Who’s Jaylen Fisher? Well, he’s a point guard and top 40 recruit from Memphis that was Pastner’s No. 1 recruiting target that opted to leave the city for his college hoops instead of play for the Tigers.
That’s a bad sign, but not quite as bad as Memphis losing star center Austin Nichols — another local kid — to a transfer over the summer. Nichols transferred to Virginia.