parker

UCLA needs Tony Parker to build on career night

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Last summer UCLA forward Tony Parker arrived on campus as part of one of the nation’s best recruiting classes, with the expectation that he and his classmates (Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad) would be able to lead the Bruins back to prominence. While UCLA did manage to win the Pac-12 regular season title that isn’t the standard in Westwood, with the end result being a change at the top with Steve Alford replacing Ben Howland.

And for Parker personally the 2012-13 campaign was a disappointing one, as he failed to establish himself in the UCLA rotation and played just over six minutes per game. But the change has served as a rebirth of sorts for Parker, who’s earned more more minutes and just as importantly taken advantage of those opportunities. Up to eight points and just over five rebounds per contest, Parker’s shooting 60% from the field and has been a solid contributor for the Bruins in his sophomore campaign.

Thursday night Parker, facing a Stanford front court led by Dwight Powell, put together the best performance of his career by tallying 22 points, seven rebounds and three steals in the Bruins’ 91-74 victory. Parker made nine of his 14 attempts from the field and was far more active on both ends of the floor than in UCLA’s loss at Utah last Saturday.

“Tony Parker was terrific. That’s the sign of a good team,” Alford said after the win. “When others are hurting, you have others pick it up. Tony really stepped up for us. I thought he did a really good job once we got the ball inside to him. He played 28 minutes and he played with really good energy and urgency and battled on both ends.”

With Kyle Anderson running the show and players such as Adams and Zach Lavine capable of getting things rolling from a scoring standpoint (Bryce Alford and Norman Powell have also been good for much of the season), Parker doesn’t have the pressure of needing to score 20+ points every night. But for all that perimeter firepower at the elder Alford’s disposal, more will be needed from the big men if UCLA is to make a deep run in March.

Travis Wear, who averaged double digits in each of his first two seasons at UCLA, missed the first three games of the season due to a case of appendicitis and has struggled for much of this season. And twin brother David, who’s averaging seven points and four rebounds per game, has reached double digits in scoring just once since racking up 16 in a loss to Duke on December 19.

With this being the case UCLA’s going to need Parker to consistently be a factor inside, and with Cal’s tandem of David Kravish and Richard Solomon visiting Pauley Pavilion on Sunday this will be a good weekend to see if the sophomore’s capable of doing so.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.