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No. 9 Oklahoma State’s tumultuous season ends vs. No. 8 Gonzaga

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Kevin Pangos led the way with 26 points and Przemek Karnowski finished with 15 points and 10 boards as No. 8 Gonzaga knocked off No. 9 Oklahoma State 85-77.

Don’t let the final score deceive you, as this was one of the most miserable basketball games that I’ve ever been forced to watch. I don’t like ripping the referees, but I’m going to here. They were awful. Remember all those games early in the season where refs were trying to enforce the new contact rules and games turned into a parade of trips to the free throw line?

That’s what happened here, but it was worse. This was the NCAA tournament. Their performance was unacceptable, and it ruined what had the potential to be a terrific game, especially in the final 10 minutes. It was unwatchable.

But moving on to more important matters, congratulations go out to the Zags. They were more or less written off in this game as a result of the way that Oklahoma State played down the stretch of the season, and they came out and earned the win. They never trailed. Kudos.

For Oklahoma State, this was the end to a tumultuous, roller coaster season that saw Travis Ford’s club climb into the top ten and lose seven straight Big 12 games before rallying to earn an at-large bid to the tournament. It also will likely double as the end of Marcus Smart’s tenure in Stillwater, a career that saw Smart earn one more suspension that he did NCAA tournament wins.

It’s a shame to think about what could have been with this team. You’re not going to find a more talented trio than Smart, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash that often at this level of basketball. But between the season ending achilles injury to Michael Cobbins and Stevie Clark’s off-the-court issues, there just was not enough depth on this roster to handle quality opponents. Foul trouble was always going to be the death of this team, and that’s precisely what happened on Friday.

The big question now becomes just how long Travis Ford will last in Stillwater. He’s losing Brown and Smart, and there’s no guarantee that Nash will be back, either. The fan base isn’t happy with him and there are too many empty seats in Gallagher-Iba Arena on a nightly basis.

If Ford couldn’t find a way to win big with this group, is he ever going to?

That’s a question that Ford will want to find a way to answer quickly.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.