Sophomore forward Josh Scott continues to make strides for No. 20 Colorado

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LAS VEGAS, Nev. — When it was announced that Andre Roberson would forgo his senior season and enter the 2013 NBA Draft, it was known immediately that No. 20 Colorado’s returning front court contributors would need to raise their production. Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott were both quality players as freshmen, and in redshirt freshman Wesley Gordon the Buffaloes were adding a player who many expect to blossom into a key figure as he gains both experience and maturity.

The process of accounting for the departure of a player as valuable as Roberson can be a difficult one, but through 12 games it appears evident that Scott has taken the steps needed to be one of the Pac-12’s better interior players. In the Buffaloes’ 78-73 loss to No. 7 Oklahoma State on Saturday night Scott accounted for 20 points and 12 rebounds, tallying his fifth double-double of the season.

“[Oklahoma State] didn’t double him tonight, and when teams don’t double Josh we have to go to him because he’s an effective scorer on the low block,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said after the game, but he also lamented the lack of interior touches in the game’s first 20 minutes.

“We had 17 paint touches in the first half, and we want 50 for the game,” continued Boyle. “We weren’t getting the ball inside enough. We need to and we want to, and it was something we talked about at halftime. We did a better job of that in the second half, and we were more effective.”

It’s been said many times in basketball that the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores, but in this current period in which the best freshmen are being fitted for suits once their debut season ends that can be forgotten. Scott’s benefitted from an offseason to work on his game and strength, and the effects have been positive for him individually and for the Buffaloes as a team.

Last season Colorado ranked fifth in the Pac-12 in offensive rebounding percentage (33.6%) and seventh in defensive rebounding percentage (69.6%), with the youth of Scott and Johnson being one reason why. Through 12 games this season the Buffaloes are third in the conference in offensive rebounding percentage (36.3%) and first in defensive rebounding percentage (78.0), with the latter percentage ranking second nationally.

Against Oklahoma State both Johnson (three points, five rebounds) and Gordon (two points, six rebounds) struggled, leaving Scott to do much of the work against the Cowboys’ big men. And if not for his performance as both a scorer and rebounder (five of his 12 rebounds came on the offensive end), it’s difficult to see a way in which Colorado would have gotten to the latter stages of the game with a chance to win.

Maybe the fact that Scott isn’t the most outwardly demonstrative player has impacted the way in which he’s been viewed this season. But if people were paying attention on Saturday night, they saw even more evidence that the sophomore big man has made significant progress in his second season in Boulder.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.