cooke

Could a lineup change be in order for Oregon State?

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After 14 games Oregon State is averaging 77.1 points per game, a mark that ranks sixth in the Pac-12, and their 49.9% shooting from the field ranks tenth nationally (fourth in the Pac-12). With talented scorers like guard Roberto Nelson and forwards Angus Brandt and Devon Collier, the points came early and often for the Beavers in non-conference play as they surpassed the 70-point mark in 11 of their 12 games before the start of Pac-12 play.

But in their opening conference games at No. 20 Colorado and Utah, Oregon State struggled offensively. In the two defeats Craig Robinson’s team averaged 63.5 points per game, shooting 43.9% from the field and turning the ball over an average of 16 times per game. With conference play usually meaning that there are few (if any) secrets thanks to familiarity, some adjustments need to be made if Oregon State is to hold its own in a Pac-12 that deeper and more talented than at any point in the three seasons prior.

One possible adjustment, according to Connor Letorneau and Jon Clifford of the Oregonian, could be to move freshman guard Hallice Cooke into the starting lineup in place of junior Challe Barton. The reason? Cooke, who played at St. Anthony HS in Jersey City for Bob Hurley Sr., has proven to be more of a threat offensively than Barton.

Promoting Cooke could prove a worthwhile solution. The rookie, after all, leads Barton in nearly every statistical category despite playing about three fewer minutes per game. He often sparks the Beavers’ second unit with hustle plays and three pointers.

Though OSU benefits having a potent shooter off the bench, it’s possible Cooke would bring necessary energy to a first five prone to sluggish starts.

Cooke’s averaging 5.9 points per game on the season, but over the last three games he’s averaged 10.0 points and 3.0 assists per contest while making ten of his 18 field goal attempts. Barton gives Oregon State an experienced defender who can be a helpful facilitator offensively, but with the amount of attention that Brandt, Collier and Nelson will receive from opponents the Beavers need a guard who’s both willing and able to knock down the looks that come as a result.

Oregon State’s next three games are in Corvallis but they’ll be difficult, as the Bay Area schools (Stanford and Cal) roll into town this week and in-state rival No. 10 Oregon the next. With that being the case, it’ll be interesting to see how Robinson and his staff deal with the Barton/Cooke question.

No. 22 Indiana falls at Penn State

Penn State's Shep Garner (33) moves towards the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in State College, Pa., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
(AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
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Brendan Taylor scored 24 points to lead Penn State to a 68-63 upset of No. 22 Indiana on Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions were 2-8 in Big Ten play entering the weekend. Indiana? They were 9-1 and tied for first in the conference. It’s the second loss in four games for the Hoosiers following a 7-0 start to Big Ten play, a fact made all the more concerning by the fact that their league schedule is finally about to get difficult.

The Hoosiers play No. 5 Iowa at home and No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing next week. The following week they get No. 18 Purdue at home. In the final week of the regular season, Indiana squares off with No. 5 Iowa on the road and close the regular season with a visit from No. 4 Maryland.

That’s a lot of good teams that the Hoosiers to close out the year.

The question has been asked since Indiana’s hot start to league play: Are they for real? Did the Hoosiers really somehow turn things around defensively, or was that winning streak simply a by-product of their schedule?

The truth is that it was probably a combination of both. Calling them a fraud would be unjust — if you watched those games, there wasn’t much fluky about them; Indiana earned the Ws — but it does seem fair to say this is something of a regression to the mean.

They were going to slip up eventually.

And it will totally be forgotten if the Hoosiers can find a way to close the regular season with a winning record in their final seven games.

Bonzie Colson leads Notre Dame to come-from-behind win over No. 2 North Carolina

Notre Dame's Demetrius Jackson (11) hugs teammate Notre Dame's Bonzie Colson following an NCAA college basketball game against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. Notre Dame beat Duke 95-91. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
(AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
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Less than an hour after No. 1 Oklahoma lost to Kansas State, No. 2 North Carolina fell on the road against Notre Dame, 80-76.

The Tar Heels led by 15 points with two minutes left in the first half. They were still up double-figures with 16 minutes left in the game, but the Irish made more plays down the stretch and, quite frankly, were the tougher team in crunch time.

The final sequence was a microcosm of the second half. With North Carolina down 80-76 and 10 seconds left, Notre Dame let the Tar Heels roll the ball all the way to their own three-point line. Joel Berry II picked the ball up and went in for a relatively uncontested layup … that he bricked. Notre Dame’s Zach Auguste grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He missed the front end of a one-and-one, but he was able to knock the ball out of Brice Johnson’s hands and run out the clock.

That’s the way it went for most of the second half.

Notre Dame shot just 34.8 percent from the floor and 3-for-16 from three, but they got to the foul line 38 times, they finished with 20 offensive boards — 12 came in the second half, when UNC only got 10 defensive boards — and they snagged seemingly every loose ball.

Combine that with the fact that the Tar Heels had fits trying to defend Notre Dame’s ball-screens, and this is what you get.

Bonzie Colson led the way with 19 points and 10 boards for UNC, and if you need any more examples for why I’m saying that the Irish won this game because they were tougher, this is it. Colson is 6-foot-5 on a good day, and he posted a double-double with six offensive boards against a front line that includes Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks. He posted 13 of those points and seven of those boards (four offensive) in the second half.

So congratulations to Notre Dame.

This is a big win for them.

But it’s also the kind of loss that we’ve seen far too often with this North Carolina team. Seeing them get pushed around like this is not exactly new. They’re big and strong and athletic and talented … and soft. They’re the most talented team in the country but there is no one on this team that you could call a junkyard dog.

“I’ve got a wonderful bunch of kids, but we’ve got to decide that we want to compete when it’s tough, not just when it’s easy,” Roy Williams said.

As one coaching friend puts it, “they don’t have MFers, and it’s hard to win without them.”

That’s why the team that, on paper, should be the best in the country is not. That’s why they lose games on the road and why they’ve made a reputation out of underperforming in the last few years.

The good news?

They’re not the only flawed team in college basketball this season.

Everyone is.

Literally everyone.

Which is why the Tar Heels can certainly still win either ACC title and reach a Final Four, especially if the Marcus Paige we got tonight — 19 points, 5-for-7 from three — is the Marcus Paige we get for the rest of the season.

But if you’re wondering why North Carolina loses games like this, games where their opponent shoots 34.2 percent while erasing a 15-point deficit, you have your answer.