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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.

Alabama loses Nick King, Brandon Austin to transfer

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Alabama is losing a pair to transfer as junior Nick King and sophomore Brandon Austin are planning to transfer, according to a release.

The 6-foot-7 King is expected to graduate and be eligible to play anywhere right away as a graduate transfer while the 6-foot-5 Austin will likely have to sit out a season before playing.

King started his career at Memphis but transferred to Alabama. A former starter at small forward, King played the first seven games of the season until a lung infection shut down his season. He averaged 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game before shutting it down.

A former top-50 recruit from the Class of 2013, King will look to jumpstart his career elsewhere during his final season of college basketball.

Austin only appeared in six games and played a total of 44 minutes this season as he also dealt with injuries like an early bone bruise.

The Crimson Tide are bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in the country next season as their freshmen could see a lot of playing time. So it comes as no surprise that players like King and Austin would transfer to assure more playing time.

Candidates Georgetown could target for head coach

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Georgetown moved on from head coach John Thompson III after 13 years at the helm on Thursday as the move sent shockwaves throughout college basketball.

The Thompson family has been a major institution for Georgetown basketball, dating back to the ’70s when John Thompson Jr. was head coach. So this new hire for the Hoyas will be a fascinating process.

Here’s a list of some early names that could be involved with Georgetown.

Tommy Amaker, Harvard — With a successful tenure at Harvard that at one point included four NCAA tournament bids in a row, Amaker has won at his latest job while coaching at an elite academic institution.

Put together with previous stops at Seton Hall and Michigan and Amaker has run a big-time program while also winning at an Ivy League school. Leaving Harvard might be tough though when Amaker is beginning to recruit at a national level at the program.

Jamion Christian, Mount St. Mary’s — Five years at Mount St. Mary’s has produced two NCAA tournament appearances for Christian as the 34-year-old would represent a bold, young hire for Georgetown.

Also an assistant coach for a season at VCU under Shaka Smart, Christian has recruited in that area before and he’s regarded by many as one of the bright, young head coaches in a low-major league. Coming from Smart at VCU, it should come as no surprise that Christian plays an uptempo system and presses on defense.

It would be a bit risky for Georgetown to hire someone as young as Christian but he also has the kind of enthusiasm to lead the tough rebuild that the Hoyas potentially face.

Nathan Davis, Bucknell — After leading Bucknell to the NCAA tournament in only his second season as a Division I head coach, Davis is someone to keep an eye on for the future.

The Washington D.C. native has quickly established himself as a potential young star in the coaching ranks but he also might be too inexperienced to take one of the Big East’s prestige positions. As a Division I head coach for only two seasons, Davis hasn’t faced the pressure of the high-major level at any of his previous coaching stops. Davis certainly deserves credit for his Division III coaching success and Final Four appearance with Randolph-Macon (Bo Ryan was pretty good in DIII before moving to Division I) but that’s a long way from the Big East.

Davis would have to prove that he’s capable as a coach and recruiter at the Big East level and he would be a risk if hired by the Hoyas.

Patrick Ewing Sr., Charlotte Hornets assistant  — The Hall of Fame center and Georgetown alum would be an intriguing name. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that the Hoyas are considering Ewing as a potential head coach.

This wouldn’t just be a Chris Mullin at St. John’s type of scenario where Mullin had no coaching experience before taking the job. Ewing has been grinding as an NBA assistant coach for the past 15 years in the hopes of getting an NBA head coaching job. Georgetown represents an unique opportunity for Ewing to rebuild his former program and his son, Patrick Ewing Jr., would potentially work for him.

Recruiting would obviously be a major question mark but Ewing has the playing and coaching pedigree to be a wild card in this.

Dan Hurley, Rhode Island — The Rams finally broke through and made the NCAA Tournament in Hurley’s fifth year as head coach this season as Rhode Island made the second round before falling to Oregon in a close game.

Of the coaches on this list, the Rams have recruited a lot of top-100 prospects and futures pros like E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin, so we know that Hurley knows how to navigate elite recruiting.

As the son of legendary high school coach Bob Hurley and younger brother of Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley, Dan Hurley comes from a long line of basketball coaches. He’s made Rhode Island one of the premier programs in the Atlantic 10. Although he’s only made one NCAA Tournament appearance in seven seasons as a head coach, Hurley has things trending in the right direction.

Shaka Smart, Texas — This isn’t likely going to happen but Georgetown is at least going to call. Since Smart was so successful at nearby VCU before taking the Texas job, the Hoyas are going to see if he’d be interested in returning to the area after this season’s disappointing last-place Big 12 finish.

If this Georgetown coaching position had been made available two years ago, before Smart had taken the Texas job, then it would have been intriguing to see where things might stand between the two. But now that Smart has at least four, four-star prospects entering Texas next season, while returning most of the current roster, he has a chance to build from this season’s last-place finish.

VIDEO: Why did the NCAA ban dunking in 1967?

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With UCLA playing in the Sweet 16 tonight, it’s a fitting time to bring up the story of the time that the association banned dunking.

It was in 1967, and it was because there was a kid named Lew Alcindor (who would change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) at UCLA who led the Bruins to a 30-0 record and a national title.

And just think, that rule change, which lasted until 1976, kept some of the game’s greatest dunkers from showing what they could really do in college. Imagine David Thompson rattling rims, rather than his assortment of finger-rolls and layups. Dr. J soared at UMass, but never like Dr. J really could. And so on.

So as you’re watching the rest of the NCAA tournament, thank the rule-makers who brought the dunk back. We’re better for it.

Cleveland State hires Dennis Felton as head coach

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Cleveland State has found its next head coach as the school announced the hiring of Dennis Felton.

A veteran head coach with previous stops at Western Kentucky and Georgia, Felton made three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances with the Hilltoppers before taking the job with the Bulldogs before the 2003-04 season.

Felton takes over for previous head coach Gary Waters, who retired after 11 seasons at Cleveland State.

“I’m extremely excited to return to the head coaching ranks with this opportunity at Cleveland State University,” Felton said in the release. “I’m grateful to Dr. Berkman and Mike Thomas for the opportunity to lead this program. Cleveland State is an outstanding University that continues to grow in stature on the national landscape. I’m eager to start working with our players to build a championship program and getting out to share my vision of how we plan to partner with the entire community to do special things at Cleveland State.”

Felton made one NCAA Tournament appearance in six seasons with Georgia as he was fired in the middle of the 2008-09 season. Having a tough time overcoming NCAA sanctions lobbied after the Jim Harrick’s time with the school, Felton’s time with the Bulldogs never got rolling as he dealt with scholarship limitations and other obstacles.

After his time coaching in college, Felton spent time as a college scout with the Phoenix Suns before becoming director of pro player personnel for the San Antonio Spurs for a few seasons.

Cleveland State finished 18-45 over the last two seasons as they’ve struggled in the Horizon League. Felton will be tasked with turning the Vikings around as he hopes to find some of the magic that helped make Western Kentucky a consistent winner.

But with NBA connections and a lot of head coaching experience, Cleveland State made a solid hire here.

Frank Kaminsky trolls Arizona after high school teammate Sean O’Mara gets winning basket for Xavier

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No. 11 seed Xavier’s upset win over No. 2 seed Arizona left a lot of people stunned late Thursday night. Naturally, people took to Twitter to share their opinions of the Musketeers advancing to the Elite Eight to face No. 1 seed Gonzaga.

Some of those with comments on Arizona’s loss included members of Wisconsin’s back-to-back Final Four teams in 2014 and 2015. You might recall that the Badgers eliminated the Wildcats in both years in the Elite Eight to make the trips to the Final Four–so there is some history here between the two schools.

The Twitter comments started with former Wisconsin guard Ben Brust questioning Arizona head coach Sean Miller for going away from his big men. Brust’s “should have kept touching the big Serb” comment would indicate that getting touches for Arizona center Dusan Ristic was important–although others were pointing out freshman Lauri Markkanen’s minimal involvement in the Arizona offense during the last 10 minutes.

That’s when former Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky entered the discussion and promptly shut things down.

Wisconsin’s personal history with Arizona hit closer for Kaminsky than a normal game when Xavier junior big man Sean O’Mara scored the game-winning bucket for the Musketeers with just under a minute left.

There’s a major connection here. O’Mara hails from Benet Academy in the Western Suburbs of Chicago, the same high school program that produced Kaminsky.

So Kaminsky made sure to mention that after the loss.

When Kaminsky was a senior and Benet started its season 29-0 and was nationally ranked in the USA Today High School rankings, O’Mara was the freshman big man that Kaminsky was beating up in practice every day.

While Kaminsky has turned into a productive member of the Charlotte Hornets rotation this season, O’Mara is having himself a solid 2017 NCAA Tournament run as he’s averaging 12.3 points a game after putting up 6.1 per game during the regular season.

We definitely know who Kaminsky will be rooting for when it comes to the West Region.