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Four Takeaways: Tenth-ranked UCLA knocks off No. 5 Oregon

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UCLA finally defended.

The 10th-ranked Bruins stymied No. 5 Oregon down the stretch to defeat the Ducks, 82-79, in a game in which they trailed by as many as 19 points.

Lonzo Ball was brilliant in the final minutes of the game, finishing with 15 points and 11 rebounds while defending Oregon’s Dillon Brooks on the other end.

The Ducks, who shot 48.7 percent in the first half, made just 33.3 percent of their shots in the second half and were just two of their last 13 as UCLA completed the comeback.

UCLA’s win is a bit of revenge after its undefeated start to the season came to an end in Eugene in late December on a Brooks game-winning 3.

Brooks and Tyler Dorsey both had 19 points for the Ducks, whose loss leaves Arizona atop the Pac-12 standings.

Here’s what you need to know from Westwood on Thursday night:

 

1. UCLA…defended?: Overall, Oregon scored 1.162 points per possession, which isn’t going to make it seem like the Bruins did a whole heck of a lot to slow the Ducks. But make no mistake, the Bruins absolutely buckled down and took Oregon absolutely out of what it wanted to accomplish down the stretch.

The Ducks made just two of their last 13 shots, had only 10 second-half field goals and had just 10 points in the last 8 minutes.

UCLA kept Oregon from getting into its offense early, which totally derailed the Ducks after a scintillating start to the game. Oregon just didn’t have an answer for UCLA was doing defensively.

What a world.

Now, the question for the Bruins is was it a fluke, matchup specific or something they can build on going forward? Their offense, as everyone knows, is as dynamic and electric as any in the country, and maybe one of the best in recent years. The defense, though, well, it’s been bad, bad, bad.

If this is an indication of moving toward average, that’s a game-changer. It doesn’t make them any more dangerous than they already are – their shooting makes them frightening to any opponent – but it does make them more formidable.

 

2. Lonzo Ball is that dude: The freshman was pretty pedestrian, at least by his standards, through the early going, putting up just four shots en route to five first-half points as UCLA fell behind by 19 points in the first half.

In the final 10 minutes of the game, though, Ball was beautiful. He made four of five shots – including a 30-footer with 32 seconds left – that help buoy the Bruins offense down the stretch and keeping Oregon at bay. He also had seven second-half rebounds. From the point guard position.

On the other end of the floor, Ball was instrumental in UCLA’s sudden defensive stoutness. He switched over to man-up on Dillon Brooks and kept the Ducks star in check late.

UCLA has a ton of weapons all over the floor, but Ball is what makes the whole thing go. When he fades into the background, the Bruins struggle to make it to their highest gear. When he’s at the center of the action, look out, defenses.

 

3. Oregon’s play was perplexing but not problematic: When the Ducks lost at Colorado last month, it raised some eyebrows. The Buffs aren’t exactly the most intimidating or accomplished group, yet somehow had Oregon, which was then riding a 17-game winning streak, down double-digits late. When Oregon found itself in a slog, albeit a win, against Arizona State, there was some questions about what was going on in Eugene.

Of course, the Ducks silenced any doubters by absolutely roasting Arizona, and this latest loss shouldn’t arouse any worries, either.

Sure, blowing a 19-point lead isn’t great, but a 19-point lead against UCLA isn’t like a 19-point lead against most teams given UCLA’s ability to fill it up.

The Ducks are – and will be – fine.

That’s not to say those last 10 minutes don’t raise some concerns.

UCLA absolutely defended its guts out and deserve praise, but Oregon looked totally perplexed and stymied. The Ducks are too good, too experienced and too versatile to not have an answer for that long.

4. Ducks interior D withers: On the other side of the floor is another, likely impermanent, concern for Oregon.

The Ducks are typically one of the stoutest interior defenses in the country, allowing opponents to shoot just 45 percent inside the arc while leading the country in block percentage.

In the second half, UCLA was able to do a ton of damage inside. The Bruins shot 56.5 percent on 2-pointers and had 20 of their 43 points in the paint. Meanwhile, Oregon had just one block for the whole game.

The Ducks have been too good for too long this season inside to think this is any sort of red flag going forward, but it does help explain how a 19-point lead went up in smoke.

SMU gets transfer in Georgetown’s Akoy Agau

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SMU pulled in a frontcourt player in Georgetown transfer Akoy Agau, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Agau is immediately eligible for next season as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau started his career at Louisville before transferring to Georgetown after one season. Spending two seasons with the Hoyas, Agau was limited to 11 minutes in his first season due to injuries. He averaged 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season.

Coming out of high school, Agau was a four-star prospect but he’s never lived up to that billing in-part because of injuries. Now, Agau gets one more chance to make a difference as he’s hoping to help replace some departed pieces like Ben Moore and Semi Ojeleye.

South Carolina loses big man Sedee Keita to transfer

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South Carolina big man Sedee Keita will transfer from the program, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 Keita was once regarded as a top-100 national prospect in the Class of 2016, but he never found consistent minutes with the Gamecocks for last season’s Final Four team.

Keita appeared in 29 games and averaged 1.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game while shooting 27 percent from the field.

A native of Philadelphia, Keita will have to sit out next season before getting three more seasons of eligibility.

Although Keita failed to make an impact during his only season at South Carolina, he’ll be a coveted transfer thanks to his size and upside.

Mississippi State losing two to transfer

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Mississippi State will lose two players to transfer as freshmen Mario Kegler and Eli Wright are leaving the program.

Both Kegler and Wright were four-star prospects coming out of high school as they were apart of a six-man recruiting class that is supposed to be a major foundation for Ben Howland’s future with the Bulldogs.

The 6-foot-7 Kegler was Mississippi State’s third-leading scorer last season as he averaged 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Kegler should command some quality schools on the transfer market, especially since he’ll still have three more years of eligibility after sitting out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Kegler’s loss is also notable for Mississippi State because it is the second consecutive offseason that Howland lost a top-100, in-state product to transfer after only one season after Malik Newman left for Kansas.

Wright, a 6-foot-4 guard, was never able to find consistent minutes as he was already behind underclass perimeter options like Quinndary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter last season. With Nick Weatherspoon, Quinndary’s four-star brother, also joining the Bulldogs next season, the writing was likely on the wall that Wright wasn’t going to earn significant playing time.

 

N.C. State lands second transfer of day with Utah’s Devon Daniels

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A big recruiting day for N.C. State continued on Saturday afternoon as Utah transfer and guard Devon Daniels pledged to the Wolfpack.

Earlier in the day, N.C. State and new head coach Kevin Keatts landed another quality transfer in UNC Wilmington guard C.J. Bryce.

The 6-foot-5 Daniels just finished his freshman season with the Utes in which he put up 9.9 points 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. Just like Bryce, Daniels will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations before he has three more seasons of eligibility.

N.C. State now has two potential starters on the perimeter for the 2018-19 season with the addition of Bryce and Daniels as it will be interesting to see what kind of talent the Wolfpack can get around them.

 

UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce follows Kevin Keatts to N.C. State

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N.C. State landed an impact transfer on Saturday as UNC Wilmington guard C.J. Bryce will be following former head coach Kevin Keatts to the Wolfpack, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com

The 6-foot-5 Bryce averaged 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season as he helped the Seahawks to an NCAA tournament appearance. Bryce will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations, but he’ll have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out one season.

With N.C. State getting center Omer Yurtseven back for next season, and with the addition of Bryce, it means that Keatts has retained, or added, some talented players for the next few seasons. The Wolfpack still have to fill a lot of roster spots from last season’s team, but Keatts seems to be having a really good week.