Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.30.11 EditionPosted by AMurawa on November 30th, 2011
- The Pac-12 conference has turned over a new leaf this week, actually winning games that they are supposed to win. After Tuesday night’s games, the conference is now 6-0 on the week. There aren’t a whole lot of impressive wins in the mix there, but at this point in the game, any win is a good win. The biggest news on the floor came in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where Arizona did just about everything they could to give away a late ten-point lead, but scraped out a seven-point win in a game that could go down as the game that saw the changing of the guard for the Wildcats – quite literally. Freshman guard Nick Johnson got the first start of his career against the Aggies and also stepped right into the role of the Wildcats’ go-to player on the offensive end, hitting eight of his team-high 14 field goals on his way to a career-high 19 points. Further, this was the first game of the season in which freshman point guard Josiah Turner was clearly the best point guard on the roster. While he still hasn’t regained the starting role from sophomore Jordin Mayes, that day is likely just around the corner. Turner is still a work-in-progress (he had a career-high 12 points, but still turned it over four times, including two times after the last media timeout and just before fouling out), but his ability to create offense for himself and for his teammates is undeniable.
- The other Pac-12 game last night saw Oregon hold off a game UTEP team behind Jonathan Loyd‘s career-high six three-pointers. It has been a slow start to the season for Loyd, and with Devoe Joseph becoming eligible in ten days, he’ll see more competition for the Ducks’ precious backcourt minutes. But the 5’7” guard’s quickness combined with his ability from deep means he’ll continue to provide energy for Dana Altman in whatever role he plays. And, we learned after the game that even more backcourt minutes have opened up for the Ducks as it was announced that freshman guard Bruce Barron had left the team too, making him the second backcourt recruit to leave Oregon abruptly in the first month of the season. Jabari Brown left the team ten days ago. While Altman had previously said that the door was open for Brown to return to the team, he offered no such option this time, saying “we’re past that point” and confirming that the team would be comfortable moving forward with the players remaining on the roster.
- Injury problems have plagued Kevin O’Neill and USC all season; they struck again on Tuesday when it was announced that sophomore center Dewayne Dedmon had suffered a stress injury in his right foot and would be out four to six weeks. Not only is this a blow to USC’s chances, it is a blow to the inexperienced Dedmon, who already suffered a broken hand prior to the season but did not miss any games as a result of that injury. USC will shift 7’1” junior James Blasczyk from the bench into Dedmon’s spot, with sophomore Garrett Jackson finding more minutes for himself and 6’5” freshman Byron Wesley possibly getting some time at the four.
- Bouncing back across town to UCLA for a moment, Jeff Eisenberg reported on Tuesday that there were exactly 34 UCLA students at the Bruins’ temporary home at the Sports Arena when their game against Pepperdine tipped off Monday night. And in the 14,500 seat facility, the announced crowd was 3,885 – a generous number at that. With UCLA struggling to find any rhythm early in the season, the fact that the team can’t even count on a student section to stir up some momentum seems to cast an even more dire glow over an already disappointing season.
- Finally, there’s some interesting news out of Arizona State, as their star wing Trent Lockett is taking 21 credits both this semester and next in the hopes of graduating after three years. Clearly the kid has an amazing work ethic, because in addition to handling such a huge class load, he has improved his basketball game every season he has been in Tempe. But – and this is just pure speculation – one has to wonder if maybe, just maybe, the reason he is so intent on finishing up his degree in three years is so he can take advantage of the rule that allows graduates to transfer between academic institutions without having to sit out a year. And really, who could blame a guy as good as Lockett who is mired in a pretty miserable situation with the Sun Devils.