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Balanced effort pushes Arizona past No. 7 Texas A&M

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Having struggled in non-conference play, most notably going 0-3 at the Battle 4 Atlantis, Arizona needed a quality win for its non-conference profile. The Wildcats picked up that win Tuesday night, as they beat seventh-ranked Texas A&M 67-64 at the Valley of the Sun Shootout in Phoenix. DeAndre Ayton, Brandon Randolph, Dusan Ristic and Dylan Smith led the way offensively for the Wildcats, scoring 13 points apiece, with Ayton adding ten rebounds.

Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis led all scorers with 21, but it wasn’t enough as the Aggies suffered their first loss of the season. Here are three takeaways from Arizona’s win over Texas A&M.

1. Arizona won despite an off night from Allonzo Trier.

The junior guard entered Tuesday’s game averaging 23.9 points per game, shooting 57.1 percent from the field, 39.5 percent from three and 78.0 percent from the foul line. Texas A&M managed to neutralize Trier, as he was just 2-for-7 from the field and finished the night with seven points to go along with three rebounds, three assists and three turnovers. Given Arizona’s struggles to get consistent offense from players other than Trier or Ayton in games against quality competition, the Wildcats finding a way to win despite the team’s leading scorer having an off night is a positive development.

In addition to Smith, who scored in double figures for the first time as a Wildcat, Randolph reached double figures for the third time in the last four games. Randolph, a part of Arizona’s highly regarded recruiting class, scored a total of six points in Arizona’s first four games. There’s still a lot to be improved upon, but grinding out a win despite Trier going cold is a positive for the Wildcats.

2. Tyler Davis may not be as high on draft boards as Robert Williams III, but he’s a tough cover for just about any front court.

Tuesday’s matchup between Williams and DeAndre Ayton was the one many NBA Draft types were looking forward to, as both have the potential to be lottery picks in June. But there’s something to be said for a veteran big man as well, with Tyler Davis being the one player Arizona did not seem to have an answer for defensively. Davis made nine of his 12 field goal attempts, doing much of his work on the low block.

Whether it was Ayton, Dusan Ristic or any other big man, Arizona could not do much to put Davis in situations where he would struggle to get a quality look at the basket. With Williams still being a work in progress when it comes to his offensive skill set, having a big man who can consistently produce offense on the low block will certainly help Texas A&M in its quest to win the SEC.

3. Arizona needs to be a bit more judicious with its shot selection.

Entering Tuesday’s game 31.9 percent of Arizona’s field goal attempts were three-pointers, a mark that ranked 280th in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Against Texas A&M the Wildcats attempted 22 three-pointers, making seven, with nearly 47 percent of Arizona’s field goal attempts coming from beyond the arc. And outside of Dylan Smith, who made all three of his three-pointers, Arizona combined to shoot 4-for-19 from three.

Texas A&M’s front court can make it difficult on opposing teams when it comes to finding quality looks around the basket, but there were also instances in which Arizona settled for perimeter shots. The eventual return of Rawle Alkins should help with this, but there’s also no excuse for six of Allonzo Trier’s seven shot attempts being three-pointers.

If Arizona is to reach the expectations set for them before the season began, they’ve got room to grow on both ends of the floor. That being said, building on Saturday’s win over UNLV with this quality result should help the Wildcats moving forward.

Oregon State PG JaQuori McLaughlin to transfer

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Friday afternoon it was announced that sophomore point guard JaQuori McLaughlin has been granted a release from his scholarship and will transfer from Oregon State. McLaughlin, who started 30 games and averaged 10.5 points and 3.3 assists per game as a freshman, struggled to reach that level in Oregon State’s first six games of the season.

Making five starts, McLaughlin was averaging 2.7 points, 3.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds per contest while shooting just 23.8 percent from the field. In addition to the on-court struggles, McLaughlin mentioned challenges away from the court in the release sent out by the school Friday.

“Being a student-athlete is a lot of work and there are some challenges that I’ve been faced with that have impacted me and kept me from being able to compete to the best of my ability in a way that would help my team win games,” McLaughlin said in the release.

With McLaughlin no longer in the fold, redshirt sophomore Kendal Manuel is the player most likely to see an increase in minutes with both Stephen Thompson Jr. and Ethan Thompson averaging more than 30 minutes per game. Manuel, who’s played 12.7 minutes per game this season, is averaging 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds per game.

The Thompson brothers, and even leading scorer Tres Tinkle, should have even more opportunities to make plays with the basketball in their hands moving forward as a result of McLaughlin’s departure from the program.

Arizona rolls over Long Beach State 91-56

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Sean Miller sat down after his team shot 60 percent in a 35-point win and talked about what was missing.

For nearly 25 minutes, the Arizona coach kept hitting the same point: Effort, particularly on the defensive end.

The Wildcats don’t have it, at least consistently, and it’s gnawing at Miller, even after a 91-56 rout over Long Beach State on Wednesday night.

“We really struggled to play with great effort and I don’t think we’re going to be very successful until that’s fixed,” Miller said. “We’re a lifeless group a lot of times.”

Arizona (4-3) dropped out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2012 following a 0-for-3 trip to the Bahamas. The Wildcats looked much more comfortable back at the McKale Center, shooting 60 percent and making 12 of 22 from 3-point range to win their 44th straight non-conference home game. Allonzo Trier scored 15 points, Deandre Ayton added 13 and six players scored in double figures.

Defensively, they were not as Miller had hoped, particularly after harping on it in practice.

“Disappointed just watching our team where we’re at,” he said. “We’ve had our moments over the last six, seven years where you watch a group, but I don’t know if I’ve seen a group that can’t bring it, can’t work, can’t really fight defensively. Man, is it disappointing.”

Long Beach State coach Dan Monson likes to schedule tough opponents to build the 49ers’ RPI and this season has been no different.

The 49ers (3-5) have already faced Oregon State, West Virginia, Missouri, and Nebraska, with a game against No. 3 Michigan State still to come.

Long Beach State won one of those games — against Oregon State on Nov. 24 — but was never really in it against the big, athletic Wildcats, falling into a 23-point hole in the first half on the way to a blowout loss.

Bryan Alberts led the 49ers with 12 points.

“We were out-manned,” Monson said. “It was not smart scheduling on my part because this is our sixth game on the road in 13 days.”

Arizona needed a bounce back from a lost week in the Bahamas. The Wildcats went into the Battle 4 Atlantis undefeated and ranked No. 2. They came home winless in three games and dropped all the way out of the rankings on Monday, becoming the first team since Louisville in 1986 to drop out of the AP Top 25 from the No. 2 spot.

The big issue: Defense.

Arizona allowed 89 points twice in the three games in the Bahamas and is allowing nearly 75 points per game, high numbers for a Sean Miller-coached team.

The Wildcats were good defensively back at home, contesting shots and jumping into passing lanes while holding the 49ers to 10-of-27 shooting in the first half.

On offense, the Wildcats gave Long Beach State a heavy dose of Ayton early, repeatedly feeding it to the 7-foot-1, 260-pound freshman in the high and low post. Ayton scored six quick points and was good at recognizing double teams, working the ball out to open shooters.

Ayton had 10 points and eight rebounds by halftime, helping Arizona to a 42-24 lead.

The 49ers used a short run to cut Arizona’s lead to 13 early in the second half, but the Wildcats ran away with a series of fast breaks and 3-pointers.

“We got it down to 13, but turned it over three straight times,” Monson said. “We just have to stay together and battle a little bit more as we grow as a team.”

NUMBERS

Long Beach State shoots 71 percent from the free-throw line, but went 8 for 17 against Arizona. … The Wildcats had a 38-24 advantage in the paint and nine more rebounds. … The 49ers had 19 turnovers that led to 27 points for Arizona. … Parker Jackson-Cartwright ran Arizona’s offense efficiently, as usual, finishing with 12 points, five assists and one turnover.

BIG PICTURE

Long Beach State was overmatched by the oversized Wildcats, but these tough early-season tests should help them once the Big West season rolls around.

Though the opponent was from a small conference, Arizona appears to be headed back in the right direction on offense. Defensively, they have a lot of room for improvement, according to their coach.

UP NEXT

Long Beach State hosts Fresno State on Saturday.

Arizona plays at UNLV on Saturday.

___

More college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Aaron Holiday’s value on full display as No. 23 UCLA beats Wisconsin

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With the trio of Lonzo Ball, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton starting on the perimeter, UCLA point guard Aaron Holiday was forced into a supplementary role as a sophomore last season. With all three of those players gone and another highly-regarded freshman class on campus, Holiday is in a position of leadership for a UCLA program that saw its depth vanish due to the suspensions of three players who were caught shoplifting in China earlier this month.

Holiday’s been the leader the Bruins needed at this point in the season, with Tuesday’s 72-70 win over Wisconsin (2-3) in the third-place game of the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City being his best outing of the season to date. Holiday capped the game with a layup with eight tenths of a second remaining to give UCLA (4-1) the win, but it was his play throughout that afforded the Bruins the opportunity to avoid suffering a second defeat in as many nights.

Holiday was efficient throughout, scoring 18 points (14 in the second half) on 7-for-12 shooting from the field and dishing out five assists without committing a turnover. The junior led five Bruins in double figures, and on a night in which a few of his teammates struggled to take care of the basketball — Prince Ali and G.G. Goloman were responsible for 11 of the team’s 19 turnovers — Holiday’s work with the ball in his hands was critical.

UCLA trailed by as much as 12 late in the first half, with their 5-0 spurt to finish the stanza giving Steve Alford’s team a boost of sorts heading into the locker room. Holiday’s layup just before the buzzer was the final basket of that run, and he would make one three-pointer and assist on another as UCLA managed to regain the lead before the first media timeout of the second half.

A dogged defender on the perimeter, Holiday’s offensive skill set and poise were incredibly important for UCLA Tuesday night and will continue to be throughout the season. While there are some veterans on the roster in addition to Holiday, most notably Thomas Welsh, UCLA will have to rely on newcomers in key positions as well (Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes, especially).

Having Aaron Holiday to call upon gives UCLA a safety net of sorts; he rarely gets out of control and puts in the work on both ends of the floor night in and night out. That was the case Tuesday night at a time when UCLA needed him most, and thanks to Aaron Holiday’s play down the stretch the Bruins found a way to escape Kansas City with a win.

Report: UCLA players accused of shoplifting at three stores, will stay in China when team flies home

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Things aren’t getting much easier for the three UCLA men’s basketball players arrested and accused of shoplifting in China earlier this week.

According to a report from ESPN’s Arash Markazi, citing a source close to the situation, UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill will likely have to stay behind in China for “a week or two” while the team flies home after Friday night’s season-opening win over Georgia Tech.

Ball, Riley and Hill were arrested on shoplifting charges on Tuesday as they were accused of allegedly stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou. Both teams participating in the China game were staying in the same hotel earlier this week before moving to Shanghai, where the Pac-12 China Game was played. All three were released on bail early Wednesday morning as they’ve been forced to stay at the Hyatt Regency in Hangzhou with a UCLA representative while the legal process plays out.

Making matters potentially worse for the three arrested Bruins are new details that more stores could be involved in a potential shoplifting spree. According to Markazi’s report, there could be surveillance footage of the UCLA trio shoplifting from two more stores besides the Louis Vuitton store in the high-end shopping center that includes Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Salvatore Ferragamo stores.

If these new details prove to be true, then this looks even worse for the arrested trio as the one shoplifting incident wouldn’t be an isolated thing.

The UCLA players do have some key local support from Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, the presenting sponsor of the Pac-12 China Game. Alibaba’s executive vice chairman and co-founder Joe Tsai has been vocal in his support of eventually releasing the arrested UCLA trio as both teams toured the company’s facilities on Monday. Tsai recently reached an agreement in principle to purchase a 49 percent minority stake in the Brooklyn Nets, as he’s a big basketball fan who has been a large part of the Pac-12 having a game in China.

The Pac-12 and Alibaba also announced an extension for the Pac-12 China Game through 2020 with the company remaining the main sponsor. Next year’s Pac-12 China Game was also announced on Friday as Cal will face Yale.

Alford refused to comment to reporters about the arrests after UCLA’s win over Georgia Tech on Friday night.

 

Brad Augustine and Munish Sood not indicted in FBI case

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 26: Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Attorneyâs Office, Southern District of New York, on September 26, 2017 in New York, New York. announce charges of fraud and corruption in college basketball. The acting U.S. Attorney announced Federal criminal charges against ten people, including four college basketball coaches, as well as managers, financial advisors, and representatives of a major international sportswear company. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)
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After more than a month had passed since ten people, including four Division I assistant coaches, were arrested in connection with an FBI investigation into corruption and fraud, indictments were handed out to eight of the ten. The two people who have yet to be indicted are Munish Sood and Brad Augustine, with Sood being a financial planner based in New Jersey and Augustine formerly running the 1-Family grassroots program.

1-Family, which is based in Florida, is an adidas-sponsored grassroots program. Among the eight men who were indicted are two men with deep connections to adidas, Jim Gatto and Merl Code. While they’re not being indicted does not mean that Sood and Augustine have already begun to cooperate with authorities, it is a development that bears mentioning.

According to Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports, Sood and Augustine no longer appear by name in the indictments, with Sood now referred to as co-conspirators. Sood is “CC-1” and Augustine “CC-2” in the updated reports.

Indictments in the case were handed out this week, with coaches Tony Bland (USC), Lamont Evans (Oklahoma State), Chuck Person (Auburn) and Emanuel “Book” Richardson (Arizona) among those who will now have to sit in front of a grand jury. It should be noted that even though Sood and Augustine have not been indicted at this time, that does not rule out the possibility down the line.

There’s still a lot to be figured out with regards to this case and its ultimate impact on college basketball. Much of that will depend upon what the FBI gathers from those willing to speak in order to avoid serious penalty.