No. 13 Oregon scored the first bucket against BYU on Saturday night, taking a 2-0 at Matthew Knight Arena.
Their next lead?
96-94 in overtime.
In between that time, the Cougars more or less controlled the game, riding Tyler Haws’ hot-hand to a lead that grew to double-digits in the second half. It looked like BYU was going to buck the trend of late. They were going to get a big win on the road. They were going to have a statement victory on their non-conference resume. They were going to have a good chance at earning an at-large bid.
Instead, BYU was lucky to get to overtime, as Elgin Cook missed two free throws with 1.8 seconds left that kept the game tied at 84. Matt Carlino missed a three that would have tied the game with 20 seconds left and Mike Moser hit two free throws at the other end. The Ducks would win 100-96.
Jason Calliste led the way with 31 points while Joseph Young chipped in 25. Mike Moser hit a handful of big shots down the stretch, while Ben Carter and Dominic Artis once again played roles off the bench, combining to go scoreless.
Needless to say, this is a very deep, very talented Oregon team. They have some kinks on the defensive end to work out, but I don’t think it’s crazy to think that the Ducks could challenge Arizona in the Pac-12.
The bigger question is the Cougars.
They won at Stanford, beat Texas and knocked off Utah State. Good wins, but all three of those teams could end up in the NIT as the Cougars head into WCC play having lost three of their last four games and five of their last nine.
There is no question that the Cougars are one of the most entertaining teams in the country.
They’re good enough to get people to watch. But are they good enough to get the wins needed to end up on the right side of the bubble?
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.