Elgin Cook

Oregon beats No. 9 Utah, adding much-needed win to its NCAA tournament resume

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Five days ago with the team facing home games against Colorado and No. 9 Utah, Oregon senior guard Joseph Young guaranteed that the Ducks would wind up in the NCAA tournament. After beating the Buffaloes on Wednesday, Young and his teammates completed the home sweep with a 69-58 win over the Runnin’ Utes in Eugene, adding a much-needed quality win for their NCAA tournament resume.

Young didn’t shoot particularly well, scoring 14 points on 5-for-16 shooting (1-for-8 3PT), but he had plenty of help from his teammates. Freshman forward Dillon Brooks, who within the course of a year has gone from reclassifying from the Class of 2016 to being one of the Pac-12’s best freshmen, scored 19 points (two of which can be seen in the video above) and grabbed seven rebounds and Elgin Cook added 12 points.

Oregon shot 45.5% from the field on Sunday, but what really won the game for the Ducks was their matchup zone. Head coach Dana Altman made the move in the second half, and the zone successfully slowed down the Runnin’ Utes. Utah shot 36.5% from the field, and outside of the efficient Delon Wright (6-for-9 FG, 4-for-4 FT, 20 points) they struggled mightily from the field.

Brandon Taylor shot 2-for-10 from the field, with all of his shot attempts being three-pointers, and Jordan Loveridge shot 2-for-8. Outside of Wright, the lone player who had success penetrating the Oregon matchup zone, no Utah player scored more than seven points (Loveridge) on the day. Twenty-nine of Utah’s 52 field goal attempts were three-pointers, which is far too high a number when considering both the presence of Jakob Poeltl and Utah’s overall size advantage in the front court.

Oregon was able to use the zone looks to limit the post touches for Utah’s big men, and that resulted in the Ducks picking up their biggest win of the season to date.

Prior to Sunday, Oregon’s two RPI Top 50 wins came against Illinois (in Chicago) and UCLA (at home, and the Bruins were without Tony Parker) and their three KenPom Top 50 wins came against UCLA and Arizona State (twice). Regardless of which ratings system one prefers, there’s no denying the fact that this was a huge victory for Oregon as they look to return to the NCAA tournament.

With three road games and the Pac-12 tournament remaining on their schedule, Oregon may make a prophet out of their senior point guard.

Video credit: Fox Sports 1

Oregon head coach Dana Altman: ‘We have had a bad year and we do have to address that’

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For Oregon head coach Dana Altman, four 20-plus win seasons and two consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament have been overshadowed by the growing list of off-the-court issues involving members of his basketball team.

In the spring, three players — Damyean Dotson, Dominic Artis and Brandon Austin — were all accused of sexual assault by a female student. While no charges were filed, all three were dismissed from school and are barred from campus for the next four years. Austin, who transferred midway through last year, had a been accused of sexual assault at his previous school, Providence.

Sine late July, Ray Kasongo and JaQuan Lyle, two Oregon commits, failed to enroll into school. Just this past week, Elgin Cook and Jalil Abdul-Bassit, two of the three returning scholarship players, were cited for shoplifting.

MORE: Oregon one of five teams on the decline in 2014-2015

On Thursday, after months of turmoil within his program, Altman spoke to reporters.

“We have had a bad year, and we do have to address that,” Altman said, via Austin Meek, columnist for the Register-Guard.

According to Meek, Altman has altered the team’s living arrangements. The Ducks are required to live across from the Matthew Knight Arena, in the same apartment complex as the graduate assistants. Whether or not those changes occurred after the Oct. 5 shoplifting incident was not stated.

With only nine scholarship players — just one standing taller than 6-foot-7 — the Ducks are in for an uphill battle in 2014-2015. It’s something Altman, who has exceeded on-the-floor expectations before at Oregon, will have to do again in Year 4, as he needs to also restore the image of the program in the process.

Oregon begins the season on Nov. 14 against Coppin State.

Two Oregon players cited for shoplifting

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More trouble for the basketball program at Oregon as two more players were cited for shoplifting for allegedly taking items at a grocery store across the street from Matthew Knight Arena in September.

Jalil Abdul-Bassit and Elgin Cook, two of the three scholarship players returning from last season’s Oregon team, were caught with stolen goods at 3:17 p.m. on Sept. 12, according to a report from The Register-Guard in Eugene.

Abdul-Bassit and Cook were both cited in lieu of custody for theft in the third degree, a Class C misdemeanor where stolen property totals less than $100. Both players were given a date to appear in court.

According to the Register-Guard, Craig Pintens,  the senior ­associate athletic director for marketing and public relations at Oregon, said the university “knew of the incident the day it happened, and the two players were disciplined immediately.”

He also provided a statement from men’s basketball coach Dana Altman to the Register-Guard.

“We are disappointed with these two young men,” Altman said in the statement. “We expect our student athletes to conduct themselves as solid members of this ­community and team. Both are being disciplined internally.”

After three Oregon players, Dominic Artis, Brandon Austin and Damyean Dotson were expelled after an investigation for sexual assault last spring, this is not a good look for Oregon’s basketball program to have more off-the-court problems.

For Oregon to have two players cited for shoplifting who were on the team during that investigation shows that Altman needs to do a better job of getting through to his players. In the wake of that investigation last spring, and the public relations nightmare afterward, the last thing Oregon’s men’s basketball program needed was more trouble with the law.

The 6-foot-6 Cook appeared in all 34 games last season and averaged 6.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game for Oregon. The redshirt junior is expected to be a contributor this season as one of the Ducks’ few returning scholarship players with experience. Cook helped lead Oregon to a 2014 NCAA Tournament victory over BYU in the Round of 64 last year with a 23-point, eight-rebound performance in only 23 minutes off-the-bench.

The 6-foot-4 Abdul-Bassit, a senior, played in 17 games last season and averaged 1.9 points per game.

Both Abdul-Bassit and Cook transferred into Oregon before last season after spending time at the junior college level.