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Pac-12 Conference Reset: How many teams go dancing?

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College basketball’s non-conference season is finally coming to a close.

To help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.

Who has been the best player in the biggest leagues?

Who is on track to get an NCAA tournament bid?

What have we learned about the conference hierarchy, and what is left for us to figure out?

We break it all down here.

Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Pac-12.

MIDSEASON PAC-12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tra Holder, Arizona State

Having improved statistically in each of his first three seasons at Arizona State, Holder has made another major leap forward as a senior. Averaging 21.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, Holder is doing this while shooting 46.7 percent from the field, 45.8 percent from three and 83.1 percent from the foul line. It’s one thing to be given the green light to make plays, as is the case for Arizona State’s guards under head coach Bobby Hurley. It’s another to do so at a high level and help lead a team through non-conference play undefeated.

THE ALL PAC-12 FIRST TEAM

  • TRA HOLDER, ARIZONA STATE
  • ALLONZO TRIER, ARIZONA: For all the critiques of Trier following last season’s Sweet 16 exit, he’s been incredibly efficient as a junior. Trier’s averaging 21.2 points per game while shooting 56.2 percent from the field and 43.1 percent from beyond the arc.
  • AARON HOLIDAY, UCLA: This pick was a tough one, because Arizona State’s Shannon Evans II has a very good argument as well. However Holiday’s also performed well thus far, averaging 17.6 points, 5.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game.
  • DEANDRE AYTON, ARIZONA: To say that Ayton may be the toughest individual matchup in the Pac-12 would be a conservative statement. The 7-foot-1 freshman is averaging 19.5 points and 11.4 rebounds per game while shooting 61.7 percent from the field.
  • REID TRAVIS, STANFORD: While the Cardinal have struggled thus far,
    going 6-7 in non-conference play, Travis has been one of the Pac-12’s most productive front court players. The redshirt junior is averaging 21.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, and he’s shooting 52.7 percent from the field in doing so.

POSTSEASON PREDICTIONS

  • NCAA:Arizona, Arizona State, USC, UCLA, Oregon
  • NIT: Utah, Washington
  • OTHER/NO POSTSEASON:Colorado, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington State, California
Tra Holder (David Becker/Getty Images)

THREE THINGS WE’VE LEARNED

1. OFF-COURT ISSUES CHANGED THE EQUATION FOR MULTIPLE SCHOOLS: One had to have the feeling that this would be an interesting season in the Pac-12 dating back to late-September, as the still-ongoing FBI investigation saw two teams have assistant coaches arrested and later indicted (Arizona’s Emanuel Richardson and USC’s Tony Bland). Add in UCLA losing three freshmen due to their decision to shoplift while in China, and non-conference play has been an adventure to say the least.

While Arizona hasn’t lost a player due to the FBI investigation USC has, as versatile sophomore guard DeAnthony Melton continues to sit as the school looks into things. And UCLA’s rotation is three players lighter as Cody Riley and Jalen Hill will sit out the entire season and LiAngelo Ball will be playing professionally in Lithuania. For all this turmoil recent results suggest that each team should be OK, however. Arizona has won seven straight, USC won the Diamond Head Classic and UCLA picked up a win over Kentucky. But merely being “OK” may not equal making a deep run in March, which all three programs have the goal of doing.

2. CONSIDERED A TOURNAMENT TEAM BEFORE THE SEASON STARTED, ARIZONA STATE MAY BE EVEN MORE THAN THAT: There are only three undefeated teams in college basketball, and to the surprise of many the Sun Devils are in that class (Villanova and TCU being the others). Given the talent and experience back on the perimeter in Tra Holder, Shannon Evans II and Kodi Justice, to see Bobby Hurley’s team as an NCAA tournament squad was not far-fetched. But thanks to the combination of holdovers and newcomers, the Sun Devils have the look of a team that can play deep into March.

Romello White has been an impact addition after sitting out last season, and the same can be said of fellow forward De’Quon Lake. Those two combined to average 24.2 points and 14.9 rebounds per game in non-conference play, and while his numbers may not jump off the page Vitaliy Shibel’s contributions should not be overlooked, either. Adding Mickey Mitchell — and eventually Kimani Lawrence — improves Arizona State’s front court depth. Lastly, we cannot forget to note the impact that freshman Remy Martin’s had on the perimeter. The energetic newcomer can be an absolute pest on the perimeter defensively, and he’s also averaging 9.9 points per game. If they can improve defensively and on the boards, Arizona State should (at minimum) contend in the Pac-12.

3. THERE’S CLEAR SEPARATION IN THE CONFERENCE PECKING ORDER: While there have been some surprising results produced by teams expected to finish in the bottom half of the conference, most notably Washington’s win over Kansas and Washington State winning the Wooden Legacy, there have also been a host of losses that would give one pause when considering whether or not to believe in those teams. As a result, entering conference play it appears as if there are five surefire NCAA tournament teams with the rest either being questionable or worse.

Washington State followed up the Wooden Legacy with losses to UC Davis, Idaho and UTEP, Oregon State has losses to Long Beach State and Kent State on its ledger, Colorado’s lost to Colorado State and San Diego, and both California and Stanford begin league play below .500. Washington may have the best shot of any of those teams of making a run at the NCAA tournament bubble, as none of its three losses (Providence, Virginia Tech and Gonzaga) would be considered “bad.” But the pickings are slim, which in addition to hurting the bottom of the Pac-12 could hurt bubble teams in search of quality wins in the months of February and March.

Deandre Ayton (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

THREE STORYLINES TO FOLLOW

1. ARIZONA STATE’S STAYING POWER: The Sun Devils’ 12-0 start to the season has certainly been impressive, with wins over Kansas and Xavier being the headliners. But for a program that last reached the NCAA tournament in 2014, it’s fair to wonder whether or not Arizona State will be able to sustain this run of form and at the very least contend in the Pac-12. As noted above there is some work to be done on the defensive end of the floor, as Arizona State is ranked 122nd in adjusted defensive efficiency per kenpom.com.

The biggest reason for those struggles: defensive rebounding, as Arizona State is rebounding just 68.6 percent of its opponents’ missed shots. That figure ranks 11th in the Pac-12, with Washington (67.4) being the only team that’s been worse. Mickey Mitchell, who has a personal defensive rebounding percentage of 23.1 in his limited time on the floor, should help in this regard. Addressing the rebounding issue could be the difference between going to the NCAA tournament and simply winning a game or playing deep into the month of March.

2. WILL DE’ANTHONY MELTON BE ALLOWED TO PLAY?: USC managed to rebound from its overtime loss to Princeton by winning the Diamond Head Classic, with tournament MVP Bennie Boatwright and sophomore guard Jonah Mathews both looking healthier after having been hampered by injuries prior to the Trojans’ trip to Hawaii. But this is a team that still misses the contributions of Melton, a versatile guard who can have an impact for this team on both ends of the court.

Defensively, Melton has both the size and athleticism to defend multiple positions on the perimeter. Offensively, he can operate with or without the basketball in his hands. Simply put, Melton can be a “mixing agent” for a team that really doesn’t have that kind of player at this point in time despite its wealth of talent. Will USC ultimately clear Melton to return to the court? And if that happens, how prepared will Melton be to have an impact once on the floor? USC has the tools to contend in the Pac-12 without Melton, but his return would certainly improve their chances of winning the league.

3. CAN OREGON INSERT ITSELF INTO THE CONFERENCE CONVERSATION?: Given the fact that Oregon lost six of its top seven scorers from last season’s Final Four team, it should come as no surprise that the current group of Ducks needed some time to adjust not only to Dana Altman’s system but to each other as well. Oregon’s field goal and three-point percentages are about where they were a season ago, with this year’s group shooting 47.9 percent from the field (48.0 last season) and 37.7 percent from three (38.0).

After going through a stretch in which it lost three of four games, Oregon has won five straight to wrap up non-conference play. While the win at Fresno State is the only result that will make an impression from an NCAA profile standpoint, it’s important to note that was a game the Ducks trailed by 12 early in the second half. Payton Pritchard has taken a step forward as a sophomore, and newcomers such as Elijah Brown and Troy Brown have looked more comfortable of late. There’s also Kenny Wooten, who’s elicited comparisons to Jordan Bell with his production defensively (3.2 bpg) while also being an effective finisher around the basket.

As part of the quintet of teams in the league most likely to go dancing, can Oregon be a Pac-12 title contender? If they continue to grow together, it’s certainly possible.

Aaron Holiday (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

THREE PREDICTIONS

1. ARIZONA WINS THE PAC-12 OUTRIGHT: The Wildcats did not play well at the Battle 4 Atlantis, but it’s important to remember that Rawle Alkins was out with a broken foot. Since the trip to the Bahamas the Wildcats have won seven straight, the last four with Alkins in the lineup. His return gives Arizona a power wing who can more than supplement what Allonzo Trier and DeAndre Ayton bring to the table. And the supporting cast, most notably Dusan Ristic, has become more comfortable with their respective roles of late.

That being said, the offense isn’t the concern for Sean Miller which is a bit of a departure from seasons past. It’s the defense, partially a byproduct of have two players who are most effective at the center position (Ayton and Ristic) on the court at the same time for significant stretches of time. They’ve become more comfortable with each other defensively, which will be a key moving forward. If that continues to happen and Arizona gets better at defending the three, they’ve got the talent needed to win the Pac-12 title outright. And the prediction here is that this will happen.

2. WASHINGTON JUST MISSES OUT ON AN NCAA BID: There wasn’t much expected of the Huskies in the first season of Mike Hopkins’ tenure as head coach, but the Huskies have been a positive surprise in non-conference play. Of course there’s the win over Kansas in Kansas City, one of the league’s most impressive non-conference victories. And even though the Huskies had some close calls, none of their losses were particularly damaging. For that reason Washington enters conference play in better shape to potentially earn an NCAA bid than many anticipated back in October.

That all being said, even with the play of veterans such as Noah Dickerson, David Crisp and Mathysse Thybulle and freshman Jaylen Nowell, Washington’s struggles on the defensive end of the floor will be why this team lands in the NIT. Opponents are averaging nearly 76 points per game, and Washington is ranked in the two hundreds nationally in both effective field goal percentage defense (52.3; 223rd) and defensive rebounding percentage (67.4; 287th). Washington has the talent to be a middle of the pack team in the Pac-12, but if they’re to do what few expect and reach the NCAA tournament this team has to get better defensively.

3. SOMEONE FROM A TEAM IN THE BOTTOM HALF OF THE LEAGUE CONTENDS FOR PAC-12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: The pick for the Pac-12’s top played in non-conference play here is Arizona State’s Tra Holder, and one can find a host of worthy contenders from other top teams in the conference. Shannon Evans II, Allonzo Trier, DeAndre Ayton and Aaron Holiday are just some of the contenders from teams that at the very least should hear their names called on Selection Sunday.

While those are the teams that tend to produce Player of the Year winners, with voters generally preferring to reward team success, there are some options on teams that may not finish in the top half of the conference worth considering as well. Stanford’s Reid Travis and Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle (18.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.2 apg) are two possibilities, and with the conference going with a 10-member first team at season’s end at bare minimum both should land on that list.

Pac-12 all-star team to tour Australia in July

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While the majority of summer tours in college basketball consist of teams making the trek overseas (or to Canada) together, there are all all-star teams put together to represent a conference or some other entity. The Pac-12 has put together an all-star team of sorts in recent years, and on Tuesday they announced the 12-member squad that will visit Australia to play three games in early July.

Two of those games will be played against the Australian men’s national team, which will be preparing for the Summer Olympics to be played in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August.

The coaching staff will be led by Mike Montgomery, who led the programs at both Stanford and California before retiring in 2014, with former Stanford head coach Trent Johnson and former Stanford players Casey Jacobsen and Brevin Knight serving as his assistants. Ten of the conference’s 12 teams will be represented on the roster, with Oregon (which has some players hoping to reach the Olympics for other countries) and UCLA being the teams without a player making the trip.

Also of note for Oregon is the fact that they’ll be taking a summer trip to Spain in August, so their players are already set up for a busy summer.

Arizona and Oregon State will each have two players on the roster, with Kadeem Allen and Chance Comanche making the trip representing Sean Miller’s program and Drew Eubanks and Stephen Thompson Jr. doing so for Wayne Tinkle’s program. Of the 12 players two earned honorable mention all-conference honors (USC’s Jordan McLaughlin and Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson), and Colorado’s Wesley Gordon was a Pac-12 All-Defensive Team selection.

Below is the full roster, and the team is scheduled to depart for Australia from Los Angeles July 7.

G Kadeem Allen (Arizona)
C Chance Comanche (Arizona)
G Tra Holder (Arizona State)
G Stephen Domingo (California)
F Wesley Gordon (Colorado)
F Drew Eubanks (Oregon State)
F Stephen Thompson Jr. (Oregon State)
G/F Dorian Pickens (Stanford)
G Jordan McLaughlin (USC)
G Lorenzo Bonam (Utah)
F Matisse Thybulle (Washington)
F Josh Hawkinson (Washington State)

Pac-12 Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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The expectation entering the season was that there were at least five teams capable of winning the Pac-12. Sure enough many of the expected contenders remained a factor for a significant portion of the season, with Oregon eventually rising as the class of the conference. Dana Altman’s Ducks went undefeated at home in Pac-12 play and finished above .500 on the road, which is generally a good formula to at the very least contend for a conference title. The play of Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and company may make Oregon the favorites in Las Vegas, but they’ll have plenty of challengers as well.

Utah has the conference’s Player of the Year in sophomore center Jakob Poeltl, Arizona and California both have talented rotations and teams such as Colorado, Oregon State, USC and Washington are all capable of making a run as well. As of right now the Pac-12 could be a seven-bid league depending upon not only what happens in Las Vegas but also in other conference tournaments across the country. This much is certain: given how balanced and talented the league is, whoever cuts down the nets Saturday night will have been pushed to their limit.

The Bracket

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When: March 9-12

Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas

Final: March 12, 10:00 p.m. (FS1)

Favorite: Oregon

The Ducks may have just a seven-man rotation, but it’s the versatility within that group that makes them so difficult to deal with. Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin are three forwards who can play just about anywhere on the floor. Freshman Tyler Dorsey can play either guard spot, and big man Chris Boucher is a 6-foot-10 senior who can score in the paint and also on the perimeter.

Both Boucher and Jordan Bell run the floor like gazelles and are incredibly active defensively, and point guard Casey Benson’s improved throughout the course of the season. They’ll score points thanks to the talent and Dana Altman’s offensive schemes. But if Oregon can make things happen defensively and get out in transition, they’re an incredibly tough team to beat.

And if they lose?: Utah

Utah’s rise from team that appeared to be headed towards the NCAA tournament bubble to second place in the Pac-12 is due in large part to the development of their perimeter rotation. Brandon Taylor’s embraced the facilitator role down the stretch, and Lorenzo Bonam’s made strides as well. The Runnin’ Utes can surround elite big man Jakob Poeltl with shooters, thus keeping the spacing that ultimately produces quality shots on a regular basis. Utah ranked second in the conference in field goal percentage defense and fourth in three-point percentage defense, and even with the occasional offensive issues they’ve been solid defensively.

Other Contenders:

  • Arizona: The Wildcats are still formidable, even with the end of their streak of two straight Pac-12 regular season titles. Gabe York’s been on fire of late, and with Ryan Anderson and Allonzo Trier leading the way Sean Miller’s team doesn’t lack for talent either.
  • California: The Golden Bears were the team many were waiting for to get going, and down the stretch they did. The return of Tyrone Wallace helped, and they’ve got two of the nation’s top freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. But they’ve had their issues away from Berkeley, so we’ll see what they can do in Las Vegas.

Sleeper: USC

The Trojans have struggled a bit down the stretch, losing six of their final eight games of the regular season. That being said, USC’s offensive balance and tempo could lend itself to a run in Las Vegas. Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs make up a very good point guard duo, and the Trojans have capable scoring options both in the front court and on the perimeter (six players averaging double figures). They’ll need to keep the turnovers to a minimum, but Andy Enfield’s team is one to keep an eye on.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Colorado: The Buffs are in the field. But a loss to a bad Washington State team could make the wait more nerve-wracking than it should be.
  • Oregon State: The Beavers may have been overlooked by some when it comes to their NCAA tournament hopes. Beat Arizona State, and that should be enough.
  • USC: The Trojans arrive in Las Vegas in solid shape to land a bid. Avoiding a bad loss against UCLA in their tournament opener should be enough to make them feel comfortable.

Pac-12 Player of the Year: Jakob Poeltl, Utah

Poeltl was the preseason pick for the award, and despite Utah’s occasional issues on the perimeter he’s been very consistent for Larry Krystkowiak’s team. In conference play Poeltl averaged 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, shooting a Pac-12 best 62.4 percent from the field.

Pac-12 Coach of the Year: Dana Altman, Oregon

Three times in the last four seasons Altman’s won this honor, with this most recent award being for leading the Ducks to a regular season Pac-12 title. Oregon navigated injuries early in the season, most notably the loss of the player expected to run the point in Dylan Ennis, and found their groove in conference play when all healthy pieces were back in the fold. And in a season in which road teams had an incredibly hard time picking up wins on a consistent basis, Oregon was one of two teams to sweep two Pac-12 road trips this season (Utah being the other).

First-Team All Pac-12:

  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah(POY)
  • Andrew Andrews, Washington: Andrews has been the unquestioned leader for a very young squad, and in conference games he averaged 22.3 points (first in Pac-12) and 5.1 assists (third) per game.
  • Gary Payton II, Oregon State: Payton’s was named the league’s best defender for a second straight year, and there’s also his versatility. The senior ranked in the top ten in the league in rebounding (ninth), assists (first), steals (first) and assist-to-turnover ratio (third), and 11th in scoring.
  • Dillon Brooks, Oregon: As good as Brooks was as a freshman, he was even better this season. Averaging 17.1 points per game in Pac-12 play, Brooks was a serious contender for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
  • Ryan Anderson, Arizona: In his lone season on the court for Arizona, the Boston College transfer averaged 16.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest. He was one of two Pac-12 players to average a double-double in conference play (Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson).

Second Team All Pac-12:

  • Jaylen Brown, California
  • Rosco Allen, Stanford
  • Dejounte Murray, Washington
  • Elgin Cook, Oregon
  • Josh Scott, Colorado

Defining moment of the season: Oregon ends Arizona’s 49-game home win streak

CBT Prediction: Oregon’s the pick here, but it would not be a surprise if any of the top four teams left Vegas with the crown.

Anderson leads No. 23 Arizona to 79-64 win over Cougars

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PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) Ryan Anderson scored a career-high 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead No. 23 Arizona to a 79-64 victory over Washington State on Wednesday night.

Gabe York added 14 points and Mark Tollefsen had 12 for the Wildcats (18-5, 6-4 Pac-12).

Ike Iroegbu led Washington State (9-13, 1-9) with 20 points. Josh Hawkinson added 14 points and 17 rebounds for the last-place Cougars, who have lost eight straight.

Anderson, a senior transfer from Boston College, was 10 of 16 from the field and 11 of 17 from the free throw line. Anderson helped limit Washington State to 34.9 percent shooting from the field. The Cougars came into the game shooting 47.9 percent.

Arizona led 39-30 at halftime. The Wildcats missed 12 of their first 15 shots before hitting 12 of 19 the remainder of the opening half.

The Wildcats held a 29-28 lead before outscoring the Cougars 10-2 over the final 3:17 of the first half. Tollefsen made two 3-pointers during Arizona’s late run.

Arizona built a 59-42 lead before the Cougars briefly pulled within eight by making an 11-2 run midway through the second half.

TIP-INS

Arizona: Sophomore point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright made his first college start when regular starter Kadeem Allen became ill. Allen played 7 minutes and fouled out after scoring two points. Standout freshman guard Allonzo Trier missed a seventh game with a hand fracture. The Wildcats hope Trier can play Saturday against Washington in his hometown of Seattle.

Washington State: Wednesday’s loss assured the Cougars of a non-winning record in conference play for the 19th time in 21 years. The stretch began with a 9-9 mark in 1995-96. The current streak of eight non-winning conference seasons includes a 9-9 showing in 2010-11. Washington State has not finished above .500 overall since a six-year run of winning seasons ended in 2011-12.

UP NEXT

Arizona visits Washington on Saturday.

Washington State hosts Arizona State on Saturday.

SUNDAY’S SNACKS: Washington pulls off a stunning comeback

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GAME OF THE DAY: Washington 87, USC 85

With 14:18 remaining in the game, USC led 66-44 and appeared poised to complete a road sweep of the Washington schools on the first weekend of Pac-12 play. Obviously things didn’t go as planned for the Trojans, who without Julian Jacobs (left the game early in the second half with a left foot injury) unraveled against Washington’s defensive pressure.

Dejounte Murray led Washington with 29 points, and an Andrew Andrews layup gave the Huskies an 86-85 lead with 25 seconds remaining. Jacobs, Jordan McLaughlin and Bennie Boatwright scored 15 apiece for the Trojans in defeat, as 12 second-half turnovers opened the door for a Husky comeback.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 8 Arizona 94, Arizona State 82: This game turned about halfway through the second half as Gabe York knocked down three huge three-pointers, resulting in the Wildcats winning in Tempe for the first time in three years. Also of note in this one: Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley was ejected in the game’s final minute.

Ohio State 75, Illinois 73: Marc Loving scored 27 points and grabbed seven rebounds as the Buckeyes held off the shorthanded Fighting Illini in Columbus. The difference came at the foul line, where Ohio State outscored the visitors 28-9. Illinois attempted 32 three-pointers, making 12, but they were unable to make up for the free throw disparity or the fact that Ohio State scored ten more points in the paint (30-20).

Oregon State 70, Oregon 57: Wayne Tinkle’s Beavers controlled the game from start to finish as they beat the rival Ducks in Corvallis. Playing in his first conference game Tres Tinkle led five Beavers in double figures with 19 points to go along with six rebounds. Tinkle and fellow frosh Stephen Thompson Jr. combined to score 29 points off the bench, and defensively Oregon State kept Oregon from getting out in transition. Oregon didn’t score a single fast break point and shot just 35.8 percent from the field.

STARRED

Marshall’s James Kelly: Kelly accounted for 27 points and 11 rebounds in the Thundering Herd’s win over Western Kentucky.

Washington’s Dejounte Murray: The freshman scored 29 points and grabbed five rebounds in a stunning comeback win over USC.

George Washington’s Tyler Cavanaugh: Cavanaugh accounted for 21 points, ten rebounds and three assists in the Colonials’ 69-63 win over Fordham.

STRUGGLED

Hampton’s Akim Mitchell: Mitchell missed all seven of his shots from the field, scoring four points in the Pirates’ 30-point home loss to Princeton.

Bradley’s Ronnie Suggs: He had a hard time against the Wichita State backcourt Sunday afternoon, shooting 2-for-10 from the field and committing three turnovers on the 85-58 defeat.

USC’s Jordan McLaughlin: McLaughlin had a rough go of it in the second half of USC’s loss at Washington, committing seven of their 12 second-half turnovers.

Oregon’s Dwayne Benjamin: Benjamin scored just three points in a loss at Oregon State, shooting 1-for-10 from the field.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Freshman Donovan Mitchell had his best game as a Cardinal, scoring 18 points and grabbing eight rebounds, as No. 18 Louisville outlasted Wake Forest, 65-57. Chinanu Onuaku (15 rebounds) and Damion Lee added 12 points each, while Devin Thomas and Bryant Crawford scored 14 apiece for the Demon Deacons.
  • No. 21 Utah dropped to 0-2 in Pac-12 play with a 71-58 loss at California. The Golden Bears are now 2-0 in league play, and freshman Ivan Rabb scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half to go along with ten rebounds to lead the way. Cal’s now won eight of their last nine games, so how have they managed to turn things around after a bad trip to Las Vegas during Thanksgiving?
  • Also off to an 0-2 start in Pac-12 play is No. 25 UCLA, which lost 85-78 at Washington State. The Bruins have lost their last three games in Pullman, and Sunday night they allowed the Cougars to shoot 55 percent from the field. Josh Hawkinson (ten rebounds) led five Cougars in double figures with 20 points, with UCLA’s Isaac Hamilton scoring a game-high 27.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • James Kelly scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in Marshall’s 94-76 win over Western Kentucky. The Thundering Herd shot 52.1 percent from the field and forced 19 Hilltopper turnovers.
  • Vermont picked up a nice road win, as they beat Harvard 65-62 at Lavietes Pavilion. Ethan O’Day led the Catamounts with 16 points and Ernie Duncan added 14.
  • Wichita State scored 48 first-half points, beating Bradley 85-58 on the road. Markis McDuffie scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds, and Fred VanVleet added 13 and five assists.
  • South Dakota State moved to 14-3 on the year with a 63-59 win over Western Illinois. The Jackrabbits shot just 33.3 percent from the field but still managed to win, with George Marshall scoring 18 points, Mike Daum 17 and Deondre Parks 16.
  • In a matchup of two of Conference USA’s better teams, UAB erased a 12-point halftime deficit to beat Middle Tennessee 78-67. Robert Brown and Nick Norton scored 14 apiece to lead the way for the Blazers.
  • Hooper Vint posted a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds as UTEP beat North Texas 84-75 in El Paso.
  • Seth Berger and Donte Clark scored 15 points apiece to lead UMass to a 74-67 win at La Salle in the Atlantic 10 opener for both. Jordan Price led all scorers with 23 points, but the Explorers shot 7-for-25 from three.
  • Tyler Cavanaugh scored 21 points and grabbed ten rebounds and Patricio Garino added 12 and nine as George Washington held off Fordham, 69-63.
  • Colorado survived in Palo Alto, beating Stanford 56-55 in a game they led by as many as 16 points. Josh Scott finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Buffaloes, with Stanford’s Michael Humphrey leading all scorers with 19 points.

POSTERIZED: USC’s Elijah Stewart catches defender under the rim

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Entering their Pac-12 opener at Washington State tonight, USC was 1-20 in their last 21 conference road games with the lone win coming in Pullman in 2014. Andy Enfield’s Trojans have been the conference’s biggest surprise to this point in the season, having won 11 of their first 13 games, and they’re well on their way to continuing that run on the Palouse.

One of the highlights of the first half: Elijah Stewart making Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson pay dearly for turning the ball over. Stewart picked off the pass just in front of the half-court line and then attacked the basket, dunking on Hawkinson with two hands and getting fouled as well.

This was the first of three straight possessions for USC that ended with a dunk, as they had little trouble finding quality looks against the Cougar defense (they shot nearly 58 percent from the field in the first half).