Nick Johnson

Turnovers once again an issue in No. 8 Arizona’s win over Washington

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The key for No. 8 Arizona being successful in March is a simple one, and it’s been stated so many times to this point in the season. “If they find a way to limit their turnovers…”

In the aftermath of the Wildcats’ 57-53 win at Washington on Thursday night, is it time to ask whether or not Arizona is capable of cutting down on their turnovers? Arizona turned the ball over 17 times on Thursday, with 12 of the miscues coming in the first half, but they got away with it due in part to their scoring 20 points off of 17 Washington turnovers.

The turnover issue goes hand-in-hand with Arizona’s sluggish starts, something that throughout the course of the season has been matched by their flair for the dramatic in wins over the likes of Florida and Colorado. And on Thursday night the Wildcats played one of their worst halves of the season to date.

“I’d size the game up like this: that was as bad of an offensive first half as we’ve had all season,” head coach Sean Miller said after the game. “Along the lines of Southern Miss, because we had 12 turnovers and it’s kind of a struggle because we have individually talented guys and usually as the season grows things become easier to play together as a team.

“It’s not an intent issue where people don’t want to play team ball, being able to pass, being patient on possessions, taking what the defense gives, we didn’t have any of that in the first half.”

The Wildcats shot 8-of-23 from the field in the first half and tallied just three assists, and if not for their work on the defensive end the Wildcats would have been down a lot more than five (28-23) at the break.

Nick Johnson led four starters in double figures with 15 points and his work defensively against C.J. Wilcox (11 points, 4-of-16 FG) has to be noted, and overall Arizona’s defensive performance is a positive that can be taken from their first win at Washington in six years.

But for this group the ultimate goal isn’t a win in late January, regardless of how long Arizona had gone without a win in Seattle. And with that in mind the Wildcats need to remedy their issues when it comes to turnovers and slow starts.

“No question, for us to do special things and continue to win, playing the 12 or few [turnovers] is our goal and we have to be more consistent in that area,” said Miller. “And I think our offense needs to develop.”

Quotes courtesy of University of Washington

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

Justin Jackson, No. 9 North Carolina survive at Boston College

North Carolina's Justin Jackson (44) reacts following a basket against UNC Greensboro during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. North Carolina won 96-63. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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No. 9 North Carolina’s trip to Chestnut Hill to play ACC cellar dweller Boston College was expected to be a routine one, with Roy Williams’ team taking care of business and heading back home. The game was anything but routine, beginning with Williams’ decision to start a completely different front court from the one that struggled in a loss at Notre Dame Saturday night.

Add in Williams having to leave the sidelines after collapsing in the second half and the Tar Heels’ struggles throughout the night against Jim Christian’s Eagles, and North Carolina was in position to suffer a stunning setback. Yet in the end North Carolina won 68-65, thanks to a timely four-point play from Marcus Paige and 20 points from sophomore forward Justin Jackson.

Due to his recent shooting slump Paige has been the most often discussed Tar Heel of late, but given his overall track record there were few who thought he wouldn’t find a way to turn things around. He is North Carolina’s best player, and ultimately how far the Tar Heels go this spring will depend upon how well Paige plays. But he can’t do it all alone, and in the case of Jackson the Tar Heels have a gifted wing capable of making plays offensively…when he chooses to do so.

Against Boston College an aggression that hasn’t been seen from Jackson on a consistent basis this season, since a stretch in late November of three straight games of 20 points or more, was present. He attacked the Boston College defense on a night in which North Carolina’s perimeter shots once again missed the mark (5-for-16 3PT), scoring 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting from the field. The benching seemingly lit a fire under Jackson, giving North Carolina a much-needed boost in a game that turned out to be far more difficult than many expected.

The question now is what Jackson does to build on this performance. The skill is there, but this is a matter of having the mindset needed to make plays without being prodded. Brice Johnson has struggled with similar issues throughout his career, but he put forth the best basketball of his career earlier this season with Kennedy Meeks out of the lineup.

North Carolina struggled for much of the night, even before Williams had to leave the sidelines, and that cannot be glossed over. The Tar Heels have the talent needed to produce better performances than this, one that nearly led to them losing a game they were expected to win convincingly. But there is the positive of Jackson’s performance to take from it, as he looked to attack the Boston College defense consistently and experienced success in doing so.

The Tar Heels will face tougher competition in their remaining ACC games, and with that comes the need to have Jackson continue to play at this level. Tuesday night represents a step forward for Jackson, but how big of a step that is will be determined by what he does over the next month.

No. 18 Purdue survives No. 8 Michigan State in overtime thriller

Purdue center A.J. Hammons (20), center, celibates with forward Vince Edwards (12) and forward Jacquil Taylor (23) following an NCAA college basketball game in West Lafayette, Ind., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Purdue defeated Michigan State 82-81 in overtime. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Rapheal Davis hit a free throw with five seconds left and after missing the second, A.J. Hammons grabbed the offensive rebound and killed the clock as No. 18 Purdue survived No. 8 Michigan State in overtime, 82-81, in Mackey Arena.

It was a fitting way for the game to end, as Davis finished with a career-high 24 points, scoring 19 and hitting all five of his threes in the first half as the Boilermakers opened up a lead that, at one point, ballooned to 18 points. Hammons chipped in with 19 points, 13 boards (seven offensive), eight blocks and three assists, doing the majority of his damage in the second half.

Purdue needed this win for a number of reasons, not the least of which is seeding. This is easily Purdue’s best win of the season, depending on how you value beating Florida on a neutral court and winning at Pitt. Not only will it behoove them on Selection Sunday, but with how crowded the middle of the Big Ten is, this could be a valuable tie-breaker for the Big Ten tournament seeding.

Case in point: the Boilermakers are currently all alone in fourth place in the Big Ten standings. Michigan State is all alone … in seventh. It would be the other way around had the Spartans won.

But more than that, Purdue just needed a big win. Entering Tuesday night, the Boilermakers lost basically every big game they’ve played this season. There was that disappointing effort against Butler in the Crossroads Classic. There was the 19-point lead they blew at home against Iowa. They lost the rematch with Iowa two weeks later. They gave away a late lead against Maryland over the weekend.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe, to Purdue, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge game at Pitt and the Hall of Fame Classic matchup with Florida mattered just as much to them. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the games that drew the most national attention all ended up in a disappointing performance — or, more accurately, a disappointing finish — from the Boilermakers.

But Purdue came very, very close to doing the exact same thing on Tuesday.

Because they were up by 18 points in the first half and, thanks to 27 points, 10 assists and eight boards from Denzel Valentine, Michigan State stormed back to take a late lead. In fact, Purdue scored the last four points of regulation just to get this game to overtime, and if Valentine had hit a tough, pull-up jumper at the buzzer, this would be a totally different column.

But Purdue survived, and it will be interesting to see how this will affect their confidence in big games moving forward.

As far as Michigan State is concerned, it was a bit worrisome how poorly Bryn Forbes and Eron Harris played. They combined to shoot 4-for-19 from the floor and 2-for-9 from three. Part of that can be attributed to Rapheal Davis and his ability to chase people off of screens, but that duo missed so open looks and, in Harris’ case, a pair of dunk attempts.

Sparty needs them to be better if they are going to reach their potential.