No. 10 Oregon arrived in Salt Lake City with a 12-0 record, and their game against Utah represented a significant challenge for a team that until Thursday night had played just one game on an opponent’s home court (Ole Miss). Utah’s 11-1 record may not have been built up against the greatest of competition, but with Delon Wright and Jordan Loveridge leading the way Larry Krystkowiak’s team has been much-improved.
And sure enough the Ducks needed overtime and an excellent defensive play from Damyean Dotson to escape with a win, as his steal and breakaway dunk with six tenths of a second remaining proved to the difference in the 70-68 thriller. Oregon shot just 39% from the field, with Utah doing a good job in the first half of keeping Dana Altman’s perimeter players out of the paint. But that changed in the second half, with Oregon scoring 20 of its 34 points in the paint during the final 20 minutes of regulation.
One important development for Oregon was the production of sophomore point guard Dominic Artis, who missed the first nine games of the season thanks to a violation of NCAA rules. Given how well Oregon’s guards played in his stead it was expected that establishing on-court chemistry would take some time.
In his first three games Artis averaged four points, five rebounds and three assists per game, shooting 33.3% from the field. Against Utah, Artis scored 12 points with seven coming in the first half. With Oregon also featuring Jason Calliste, Johnathan Loyd and Joseph Young at the guard spots and Dotson on the wing, there are plenty of weapons that opponents will have to account for. And there’s also Richard Amardi, who accounted for 14 points and seven rebounds in one of his best outings of the season. Those perimeter players will need production from the front court if they’re to be at their best, and against Utah Amardi provided that.
Utah has some positives to take out of the result as well, with Dallin Bachynski posting a double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds) and the tandem of Loveridge and Wright combining for 35 points and 11 rebounds. Defensively the Utes stuck to their principles as opposed to trying to match Oregon “perimeter player for perimeter player,” and that approach paid off for much of the night. Utah won’t be an easy out for anyone in conference play, and Thursday’s battle reinforced that.
Unfortunately for the Utes, their 3-for-19 shooting from deep and Dotson’s quick thinking prevented them from notching what would have been a signature victory for the program.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.