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Ennis scores 18 as No. 23 Oregon rallies past Boise St. 68-63

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EUGENE, Ore. — Growing pains are nothing new for the oldest veteran on Oregon’s roster, who may have finally found his comfort zone.

After missing most of the Ducks’ run to the Elite Eight last season because of a foot injury, sixth-year senior Dylan Ennis, a graduate transfer from Villanova, is still getting acclimated to his teammates.

Ennis scored 18 points and No. 23 Oregon rallied for a 68-63 victory over Boise State on Monday night.

Tyler Dorsey added 17 points for the Ducks (5-2), who came back from 14 down in the first half to win their 28th consecutive home game.

A 3-pointer by Ennis with 3:30 to play put Oregon ahead for the first time since early in the game.

“He probably played as well as anybody we had,” coach Dana Altman said.

Ennis also made nine of 10 free throws and had six rebounds in his best all-around game with the Ducks, but he was particularly pleased with his lone 3 when Oregon needed it most.

“That was one that was in rhythm and it just went down,” Ennis said. “I haven’t played with these guys at all. We’re still meshing in and we’re going to get it.

“Last year we had a few growing pains and at the end of the year we got it right, and that can happen this year as well.”

After Dorsey’s free throw gave Oregon a 66-63 lead, the Broncos (3-3) had a chance for a tying shot, but Paris Austin lost possession on a baseline drive with 5 seconds left. Dillon Brooks sealed the win with two free throws.

Brooks, a preseason All-America selection, had five points and shot 1 of 9 in 21 minutes off the bench in his fourth game back from offseason foot surgery.

“He had a bad game,” Altman said. “He was trying too hard, going way too fast.”

Austin led Boise State with 16 points. Nick Duncan added 15 on five of the Broncos’ 11 3-pointers.

Altman thought his team was lucky to come back after Boise State built its big lead from beyond the arc.

“When a team hits more than 10 3s, you’re fortunate to win playing as poorly as we did,” he said.

The Ducks finished with 10 blocks and a 39-32 rebounding edge. Chris Boucher led the way with five blocks and eight rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Boise State: The Broncos missed a shot at their fourth road win against a Top 25 opponent and third under seventh-year coach Leon Rice. Boise State beat unranked Oregon 74-72 last year in Boise.

Oregon: The Ducks won’t leave the state for their next eight games to finish 2016, capped by visits from No. 11 UCLA and USC in late December to start Pac-12 play.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Oregon, which has dropped 19 spots since reaching a school-best AP ranking of No. 4 two weeks ago, should bounce back in the poll with six more games against unranked teams to finish its nonconference schedule.

STAT OF THE NIGHT

Boise State had nine steals to Oregon’s three, a 15-9 edge in second-chance points and played the Ducks even on points in the paint at 20-20 – all of which left Altman shaking his head. “We got beat in every category,” he said.

ROLE PLAYER

Junior point guard Casey Benson, who is adapting to coming off the bench after starting the first four games and leading the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio last season, hit consecutive 3-pointers in the second half that helped spark Oregon’s comeback. “Those were two big shots,” Altman said. “We were stuck in the mud and couldn’t get anything going.”

UP NEXT

Boise State hosts SMU on Wednesday night before traveling to play Evansville as part of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge on Saturday.

Oregon hosts Western Oregon, which reached the NCAA Division II Final Four last year, on Wednesday night and then Savannah State on Saturday to continue a five-game homestand.

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.