Dominic Artis

Dominic Artis will be back Thursday, play limited minutes

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For the first couple of months of the season, Oregon looked like the best team in the Pac-12 and, potentially, one of the best teams in the country.

They were 17-2 on the season and held wins over both UCLA and Arizona in league play while also knocking off UNLV in Vegas.

But then starting point guard Dominic Artis injured his foot, which has kept him out of the lineup for the past month. The Ducks have fallen back to earth without Artis, losing three in a row and four out of seven at one point. They didn’t come completely unglued, thanks in large to the rapid improvement that Johnathan Loyd showed as Artis’ replacement at the point.

Loyd wasn’t blowing anyone away, but he turned into a serviceable point guard that allowed Oregon to hold on to a share of the Pac-12 lead without Artis in the lineup.

The good news? Artis should be returning for the Ducks this week:

Point guard Dominic Artis will play limited minutes against the OSU Beavers on Thursday night at Matt Arena. He has been sidelined with an undisclosed foot injury for over a month and Coach Altman said today that he could’ve returned earlier but they want to take it slow with him. They’ll have him on a minute limit and may reduce it based on how he feels.

Jonathon Loyd will start. Oregon’s goal is to have Artis back at full strength when conference tourney play starts in 2 1/2 weeks in Las Vegas.

Artis is one of Oregon’s best perimeter shooters and their most dynamic creator off the bounce. For a team that has issues scoring — not to mention a pesky turnover problem — getting Artis back, even if it is on a limited basis at first, is big news.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)