Oregon finds a way to pick up needed victory at UCLA (VIDEO)

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When news broke just a couple hours before Thursday’s game that UCLA guards Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams were suspended one game for a violation of team rules, it seemed to be a formality that Oregon would pick up a much-needed victory. Sure the Bruins still had some talented players available, but to expect UCLA to be a threat after losing its top two scorers seemed to be a bit much.

But that wasn’t the case, with UCLA putting up a greater fight than most expected and Oregon seemingly doing its best to make sure the Bruins hung around. After getting off to a good start offensively the Ducks slowed down in the second half, with UCLA’s 2-3 zone factoring into the issues experienced by Dana Altman’s team. Given the number of quality guards at Altman’s disposal this wasn’t the expectation, but far too often the Ducks failed to attack the middle of the UCLA zone.

And then there were the final seconds of regulation, with the Ducks losing track of David Wear after a Joseph Young free throw with 1.3 seconds remaining. After Young made the shot he was looking to miss Travis Wear fired a strike to his twin brother, with David knocking down the 30-footer as time expired. Oregon would have to work five more minutes of the win, and after the two teams combined to score four points in the first extra session five more.

Ultimately Young (26 points) and Mike Moser (12 points, 20 rebounds and five assists) would lead the Ducks to the 87-83 double overtime win, keeping alive their hopes of getting hot and earning a spot in the NCAA tournament. Oregon was able to win not only because of their outlasting UCLA, but also their advantages in points off turnovers and second-chance points. Oregon converted 11 UCLA turnovers into 18 points (+11 advantage) and rebounded 39.5% of their missed shots, scoring 17 second-chance points (+12).

Of course those are two areas in which Anderson and Adams have been so influential this season, as they’re also UCLA’s top two rebounders and Anderson the leader in assists. Oregon did much of its work in these areas early, leading by as much as 15 early in the second half. But the Ducks’ ability to make things difficult on themselves has been a theme of sorts in the majority of their conference games, and that was once again the case on Thursday night.

However given Oregon’s status as a bubble team it’s the result that matters. Some will look to add an asterisk of sorts to this result given the absence of Anderson and Adams, and while this would be fair it isn’t Oregon’s fault that they were suspended. Regardless of who was on the court for UCLA, Oregon had to get the win regardless of how long it took. And after fifty minutes of basketball, the Ducks accomplished that task.

Battle 4 Atlantis title proves Syracuse will be relevant this season

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Michael Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney added 15 points and five assists as Syracuse left the Bahamas with a title, beating No. 25 Texas A&M 74-67 in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

I guess it’s time to start taking the Orange seriously.

There’s a lot to like about this group. Gbinije and Cooney are both fifth-year seniors that not only understand how to operate at the top of the 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim runs, but they both have developed into versatile offensive weapons. Cooney was known as nothing more than a jump-shooter when he arrived up north, but he’s now averaging 3.5 assists on the season.

And Gbinije?

He has been one of the best players in the country through the first two weeks of the season. Through six games, he’s averaged 19.7 points, 4.2 assists, 3.0 boards and 2.8 steals while shooting 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshman Malachi Richardson, who had 16 points in the win over A&M, has scored double-figures in all six games this season while another freshman, Tyler Lydon, was against terrific on Friday, finishing with 13 points and eight boards. He’s now shooting 58.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.

And that’s where this team is going to do the majority of their damage this season.

Through six games, they’re shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. In the three wins in the Bahamas, the Orange knocked were 34-for-73 from beyond the arc, a 46.5 percent clip. The question isn’t whether or not that rate can continue — four of the six players that saw action on Friday are dangerous three-point shooters while the other two, Tyler Roberson  and DaJuan Coleman, aren’t going to be shooting threes — but what happens on the nights where the threes aren’t going down.

There are going to be nights where they shoot 5-for-25 instead of 11-for-25. Will they have enough firepower then? Will their defense be good enough? Will guys like Roberson and Coleman be able to supply a scoring punch? Will Cooney, Gbinije and Richardson attack the paint instead of settling for jumpers?

Because at the very least, these three games in the Bahamas have proven that the Orange are going to be relevant this season, even in the loaded ACC. Whether that means they’re going to push for a top four finish or simply end the year as a tournament team remains to be seen, but this much is clear: Jim Boeheim has himself a squad Upstate.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.