No. 2 Arizona snaps out of offensive slump in win over Oregon State

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The offensive issues for No. 2 Arizona began before sophomore forward Brandon Ashley was lost for the season with a broken right foot. In the 60-58 loss at Cal in which Ashley suffered his injury the Wildcats shot just 32.3% from the field, but that was the third of a four-game stretch in which Arizona would shoot no better than 40% in any of those contests.

Accounting for the loss of a player who provided 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game isn’t easy, especially when considering how versatile Ashley is on both ends of the floor. Arizona will have to do so as a unit, with multiple players chipping in, and if that happens they’re still a team capable of making a run at a national title. On Sunday night against Oregon State that was the case, with the Wildcats making 50% of their shots from the field (56.5% from two) on their way to a comfortable 76-54 victory.

Arizona didn’t shoot particularly well from three, making just three of their 12 attempts, but they made up for this by consistently looking to get the ball inside. The Wildcats scored 40 points in the paint, and Aaron Gordon led four players in double figures with 17 points. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson tallied a career-high 16 to go along with five rebounds and three assists, with T.J. McConnell (11 points, six assists) and Nick Johnson (ten points, three assists) also reaching double figures.

Also of note is the fact that without Ashley the Wildcats’ work on the offensive glass becomes even more important, and against Oregon State they corralled nearly 43% of their own misses and converted those opportunities into 13 second-chance points. With the lack of consistent “lights-out” perimeter shooters, paint touches and second-chance opportunities will continue to be important areas for Arizona to take advantage of as the season wears on.

Defensively the Wildcats were good, with Johnson being the primary defender of Oregon State’s Roberto Nelson. The Pac-12’s leading scorer, Nelson was limited to ten points on 3-for-12 shooting from the field. If there’s one thing Arizona’s consistently done this season it’s defend, and that’s unlikely to change thanks to the remaining personnel.

But that’s a known at this point for Arizona. The concern for the Wildcats in the aftermath of Ashley’s injury was whether or not they’d be able to generate enough points against the teams they’ll need to beat in order to be a title contender. Oregon State isn’t the greatest litmus test but after the last four games Arizona needed to get back to creating quality looks inside by way of either the pass or dribble penetration, and they were able to do that.

Tom Izzo’s point is valid, but he’s wrong about the new fouling rules

Eron Harris, Tom Izzo
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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On Sunday night, after No. 3 Michigan State knocked off No. 23 Providence in the final of the Wooden Legacy, Spartans head coach Tom Izzo made sure to make his feelings known about the new college basketball officiating mandates.

He doesn’t like them.

At all.

“I just think we’re taking the flow of the game away,” Izzo said. “Maybe it’ll change. We’ll play by the same rules everybody else does. But I think I can voice my opinion to say that I don’t agree with it.”

Part of what frustrated Izzo was that, in a matchup between the two best players in college basketball, both Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn were sent to the bench with foul trouble.

“I didn’t like it either way,” Izzo said. “I didn’t like having Denzel on the bench, and I didn’t even like watching Dunn on the bench.”

“Don’t tweet this now and leave out the officials,” he added, according to CBSSports.com. “It’s not their fault. Because that’s the way they’re mandated to call them. So I am really either blaming the rules committee, which ends up on the coaches somewhat. So I’m looking in the mirror and blaming myself because I should have argued it more maybe. I just don’t think it’s fun to have these guys sitting.”

This is nothing new for Izzo. This was calculated. He basically said the same thing after Michigan State, then No. 1 in the country, beat Oklahoma in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic two seasons ago, when the rules committee tried to implement these same rules. It was his pushback that started the campaign to get rid of the freedom of movement rules.

But here’s the thing: we all knew this was going to happen. We knew there was going to be an adjustment period, for coaches and players and referees alike. In the long run, freedom of movement is good for basketball. It’s part of the reason the NBA is so much fun to watch these days, as their emphasis on the freedom of movement got us out of the days where the Detroit Pistons were winning titles without scoring 80 points.

Physicality is ingrained in college basketball. Coaches teach defense a certain way. Players play defense a certain way. The guys in the NBA are stronger, but the style of play is much more physical in the college game than the pro game. That doesn’t change overnight.

It changes when those rules are enforced and those fouls are called, and, as a result, the players and coaches learn to adjust to them.

Kennesaw State blows eight-point lead in 16 seconds, loses to Elon

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Kennesaw State entered Monday night at 1-6 on the season, but with 19 seconds left, it looked like the Owls have their second of the season locked up. Kendrick Ray made a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to put KSU up 89-81, and all they had to do was avoid a complete meltdown to get out with a win.

They couldn’t.

A Luke Eddy layup with 16 seconds left cut the lead to six, and after KSU’s Nigel Pruitt missed two free throws, Dainan Swoope his a three with seven seconds left to make the score 89-86.

On the ensuing inbounds, Kennesaw State threw the ball away … and then proceeded to foul Eddy when he was shooting a three. This is what that disaster looked like:

Eddy would hit all three threes before, shockingly, KSU turned the ball over again. Elon could not capitalize this time, sending the game to overtime, where the Phoenix outscored the Owls 14-4.

Elon won 104-94.

Here’s what the comeback looked like on the play-by-play:

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