UCLA lets golden opportunity slip away at Oregon State

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Figuring out the Pac-12 race after No. 1 Arizona, which lost at California on Saturday night, has been a difficult task to this point in the season. While the Golden Bears and UCLA have been locked in a struggle for second place in the Pac-12, there are five other teams within a game of those two teams. UCLA’s game at Oregon State on Sunday afternoon represented an opportunity for the Bruins, with a win giving Steve Alford’s team sole possession of second place and placing them just a game out of first.

Unfortunately for UCLA, the combination of their worst offensive performance in conference play and Oregon State freshman guard Hallice Cooke resulted in a 71-67 defeat. Cooke scored a career-high 20 points (14 in the second half) on 7-for-9 shooting, leading five Oregon State players in double figures.

Craig Robinson’s team hasn’t been the most consistent group but they don’t lack for talent, with Roberto Nelson, Eric Moreland, Angus Brandt and Devon Collier the leaders on most nights. On Sunday Cooke and Moreland (11 points, 14 rebounds and five assists) proved to be especially problematic for the Bruins, who had to navigate an 0-for-9 afternoon from Jordan Adams and 38.6% shooting from the field as a team.

UCLA nearly stole this one too, with their move out of the 2-3 zone and into a trapping defense unsettling Oregon State down the stretch. But they were unable to get over the hump offensively, with Adams’ frustrating day being capped by a dubious offensive foul call with 15 seconds renaming and UCLA trailing by just one point. Much of what UCLA does depends upon the effectiveness of Adams and Kyle Anderson, with Adams being their most productive perimeter scorer and Anderson being the versatile option who can score and make sure his teammates get quality looks as well.

Anderson finished with 18 points and nine rebounds but dished out just two assists, with the struggles of his teammates obviously impacting the assist count. UCLA can adjust on days in which their supporting cast struggles, but this isn’t the case when it comes to Adams and the inconsistency of those other players is the reason why. Adams struggled against Oregon State, and the end result was UCLA’s failure to cement its status as the second-best team in the Pac-12.

And given the unknown status of Arizona’s Brandon Ashley, UCLA entered Sunday with a great opportunity in front of them even without a second meeting between the two teams on the schedule. The Bruins didn’t take advantage of this, and they’ve only got themselves to blame.

Boise State loses guard Harwell to torn ACL

Leon Rice
Associated Press
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Expected to be one of the favorites in the Mountain West this season, Boise State’s perimeter ranks have shrunk by one player due to injury. Thursday it was reported by the Idaho Statesman¬†that freshman guard Malek Harwell will redshirt after suffering a torn ACL in practice. Along with fellow freshman Paris Austin, Harwell is expected to be a key part of the Broncos’ future beyond the upcoming season.

Now, instead of competing with an experienced backcourt that includes four redshirt seniors, Harwell will work to get his knee back to full strength for the 2016-17 season.

Among the guards who will play significant minutes this season are Anthony Drmic, who took a medical redshirt last season, Montigo Alford, Mikey Thompson and grad transfer Lonnie Jackson (Boston College). Chandler Hutchison, who started in Boise State’s final 18 games of the 2014-15 season as a freshman, will also compete for playing time.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.