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Huge test awaits CU Buffs men’s basketball at No. 5 UCLA

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Huge test awaits CU Buffs men’s basketball at No. 5 UCLA

The UCLA men’s basketball team that trudged off the floor at the Pac-12 Conference tournament last March wasn’t too dissimilar to the Colorado team that experienced a similar late-season fate a year earlier.

The Bruins were forced to regroup for the NCAA Tournament on the heels of four consecutive losses, including a defeat against lower-seeded Oregon State in the opening round of the conference tournament. A year earlier the Buffaloes were ticketed for an NCAA Tournament berth despite five consecutive losses that also culminated with a quick exit at the league tourney.

Those Buffs, however, were denied a chance at redemption when the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last spring, the Bruins took full advantage of a fresh start in the postseason. And the rest, as they say, is history.

As a No. 11 seed, the Bruins stormed out of the “First Four” round all the way into the Final Four and, with that entire cast returning this season, UCLA once again is a Final Four contender and the heavy favorites in the Pac-12 Conference.

That late slide by UCLA at the end of the regular season began with a loss in Boulder. On Wednesday, the Buffs will see the Bruins for the first time since their postseason run caused a seismic shift in Westwood when CU continues Pac-12 play at Pauley Pavilion.

It will be the Pac-12 opener for the Bruins, while the Buffs began league play on Sunday with a down-to-the-wire 80-76 win at home against Stanford. It will be the first of two straight top-15 foes for CU, which hosts No. 13 Tennessee on Saturday.

“We need to stick to what we do. It’s more about us than them,” sophomore forward Jabari Walker said. “I think if we go in with a nothing-to-lose mindset, that will be key for us. It’s a big week. We’ve got to lock in mentally. I’ve been trying to get as much rest and recovery as I can, because I want to bring the best that I can to these games.”

While the Bruins welcomed back the entire cast that led the Final Four march, the Buffs have lost the players that accounted for 47 of CU’s 70 points in that win in Boulder in February that began the Bruins’ late hiccup. Outside seniors Elijah Parquet and Evan Battey, who is coming off a career-high 22 points in the win against Stanford, the extent of the Buffs’ experience at Pauley Pavilion is the 26 combined minutes played there last season by Walker, Tristan da Silva, and Keeshawn Barthelemy.

“Respect everybody but fear nobody. That mantra is true whether we’re playing Eastern Washington or Cal Bakersfield or UCLA,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “It goes both ways. You’d better respect the teams that maybe don’t have the street cred that UCLA does, but you cannot be intimidated by them either. You just have to understand — you practice, your habits, you put all this time in in the offseason to play games like this. You’re preparing to beat good teams. And UCLA is a good team.

“I think every game (between the teams) since Mick Cronin has been there has come down to the last four minutes. Now, the first three, they won, because they made plays down the stretch. Last year at our place, on Senior Night, we made plays down the stretch and they didn’t, and we won. That’s what it’s going to come down to. You have to beat UCLA, because they’re not going to beat themselves.”

CU Buffs men’s basketball at No. 5 UCLA Bruins

TIPOFF: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. MT, Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles.

BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Networks; Radio — 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Colorado 6-1, 1-0 Pac-12 Conference; UCLA 6-1, 0-0.

COACHES: UCLA — Mick Cronin, 3rd season (47-23, 412-194 overall); Colorado—Tad Boyle, 12th season (239-144, 295-210 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: UCLA — G Johnny Juzang, Jr., 17.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg; G/F Jaime Jaquez, Jr., 15.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg; G Jules Bernard, Sr., 14.6 ppg, .438 3-point percentage; G Tyger Campbell, R-Jr., 11.4 ppg, 3.6 apg, .464 3-point percentage. Colorado — F Evan Battey, R-Sr., 14.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, .631 field goal percentage; F Jabari Walker, So., 13.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg; G Keeshawn Barthelemy, R-So., 14.6 ppg, 2.4 apg, .500 3-point percentage; F Tristan da Silva, So., 8.9 ppg, .500 field goal percentage.

NOTES: UCLA has played without senior forward Cody Riley since he suffered a sprained left MCL in the season opener…CU hasn’t posted a win against a ranked team in a true road game since a 48-47 victory at No. 19 Oregon on Feb. 7, 2013…The Buffs are just 2-10 all-time at UCLA, but those wins occurred somewhat recently in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons…Evan Battey finished his memorable game against Stanford at No. 38 on CU’s all-time scoring list with 1,003 points. Next on the list are Andre Roberson (1,012) and Chauncey Billups (1,020)…Saturday’s game against No. 13 Tennessee (noon, FS1) will mark the first time the Buffs have played consecutive top-15 opponents since sweeping No. 4 Arizona State and No. 14 Arizona on Jan. 4 and Jan 6, 2018.

 

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Streaking Nuggets not apologizing for close call vs. Nets: “We’re not judging the wins”

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Streaking Nuggets not apologizing for close call vs. Nets: “We’re not judging the wins”

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Somewhere over Ohio, Nuggets coach Michael Malone found some enlightenment.

As the Nuggets bounced from the Midwest to New York amid the start of their latest six-game road trip, it dawned on Malone that something about this season wasn’t the same as his previous two decades in the NBA.

The veteran coach realized that the COVID-crunched schedule had all-but eliminated practice times. The only reason the Nuggets were in Brooklyn on Wednesday night for their 124-118 win over the Nets – the team’s third trip to New York in less than two months – was to make up a postponed game. Which meant a six-game road trip instead of five, and three games in four nights instead of a rare, extended stay in New Orleans.

Malone reasoned that he was getting unnecessarily upset with his team for defensive mistakes or other simple fixes that often come with practice time. In fact, in poring over game film, he spotted the same miscues with other teams, too.

“When you don’t have that (practice), sometimes it’s infuriating,” he said. “I just gotta calm the hell down.”

All you need to do is keep one eye trained on the action and one eye on Malone to get a pulse for what the team’s huddles sound like. The fiery coach is not subtle. He’ll dip his face into his hands, lean back and stare at the ceiling or sometimes just turn his back to the action in disgust. The tells occurred several times at Barclay’s Center on Wednesday night.

But in the lighter moments after Wednesday’s win, the team’s third in a row and eighth in its last 11, Malone acknowledged that he needs to recalibrate at times.

“Enjoy the wins,” he said. “Was it pretty? Did we play great? Could we have been better? Of course we could.”

It’s a lesson team president Tim Connelly is constantly harping on. Buried in the trenches of the nightly schedule, it’s hard to see a bigger picture, for anyone, let alone a coach so invested in his team’s result.

Which brought him to halftime of Wednesday night, with his team trailing by 11 to the skeleton Nets. Kevin Durant hadn’t splashed jumpers, Kyrie Irving hadn’t criss-crossed defenders and James Harden hadn’t bullied his way to the free-throw line. The Nets’ Big 3 were all out.

Instead of laying into his team, something he said he was tired of doing, he challenged them. He put the onus on their effort, and the Nuggets responded. Their 70-53 second half was a resounding affirmation of his decision to let his players dictate the result.

Austin Rivers came alive, skipping into timeouts and jousting with the crowd, in a way that energized Denver on the second night of a back-to-back. His 25 points and seven 3-pointers were a beautiful reminder that on a team as unselfish as the Nuggets, almost anyone has the potential to go off.

And Rivers, a 10-year veteran who’s seen the business end of the NBA more than once, knows how much harder this season is than most. He’s not apologizing for scraping out a victory against veterans like LaMarcus Aldridge or Patty Mills or a promising rookie like Cam Thomas.

“We’re taking wins,” Rivers said. “We’re not judging the wins.”

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Public health expert Dr. Ashish Jha: ‘We can’t be fearful of this virus’

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Public health expert Dr. Ashish Jha: ‘We can’t be fearful of this virus’

One of the world’s preeminent COVID-19 scholars joined Lowell U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan on Facebook Live, where he allayed fears about the omicron variant sweeping through the country.

“This virus is going to be with us for a long time,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, a physician, health policy researcher and the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “We can’t be locked down. We can’t be shut down. We also can’t be fearful of this virus — we now know how to manage it.”

Jha added that, both nationally and in Massachusetts, “we have turned the corner in the last five, seven days,” he said. Although the Bay State saw very high rates of infection, they’re now down about 50% from their peak. Although he expects hospitalizations to soon decrease, “it’s going to be a little bit longer before hospitals really feel any sense of relief.”

Given these numbers, Jha said it’s still prudent to wear a mask. However, he said it would also make sense to pull back on the mask restrictions when cases drop in a few weeks.

Jha later expanded on this idea, envisioning a future where mayors or governors recommend or require mask-wearing for a month at a time while infections or a new variant spread, then drop it again as cases subside. He noted on Twitter that doing so keeps people from becoming restriction-fatigued.

Jha offered a series of recommendations for combating COVID-19, including rapid testing before spending time with senior or other immunocompromised people.

On a broader scale, he recommended using a lull in infections to make bigger investments in public health.

“Let’s make sure we have just an absolutely massive amount of testing widely available, so that the next time there’s a surge that begins to happen, we flood the zone,” he said. “Let’s make sure that we build up our stockpile of therapeutics. We now have treatments that are gonna make an enormous difference in making this virus even less deadly.”

He also advocated for expanding the wastewater surveillance system that began here in Massachusetts, eventually expanding to other pathogens beyond COVID-19, and to the entire U.S.

Overall, “we have to invest in the science,” he said. “I mean, what’s bailed us out of this pandemic is the science.”

He advocated for increased investments in the NIH and other public health entities.

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Massachusetts could miss out on same-day voter registration if House leaders get their way

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Massachusetts could miss out on same-day voter registration if House leaders get their way

House lawmakers have teed up debate on a voting rights reform bill that would permanently expand early voting opportunities and make voting-by-mail a standard option in future elections, but excludes same-day registration provisions already approved by the state Senate.

“We’ll listen to the debate and see if someone changes my mind,” House Speaker Ron Mariano said on Monday, when asked if he would support same-day registration. The Quincy Democrat previously voted against the provision last year when it was offered unsuccessfully as an amendment to a broader COVID-19 relief bill.

House members will debate the so-called VOTES Act on Thursday. Unless same-day registration is included, it sets up a showdown with Senate, which in October passed it’s own version of the bill intended to enshrine into law popular changes in voting rules made to minimize health risks amid the pandemic.

While the decision to leave out same-day voter registration puts them at odds with their colleagues in the Senate, it could be a strategy to avoid a potential veto on the larger voting rights expansion package from Gov. Charlie Baker.

The outgoing Republican governor last year knocked “the complexity” of the provision.

But U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who represents parts of Boston, weighed in saying she’s “deeply disappointed” that the House bill excluded same-day voter registration and urged House lawmakers to “swiftly reverse course.”

“Same-day registration is critical to boosting voter turnout, especially among Black, brown, low-income, and immigrant communities, and arbitrary voter registration deadlines should not be a barrier to exercising the right to vote,” Pressley said in a statement.

There’s still a chance House lawmakers could slip same-day registration into the bill via an amendment. Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa of Northampton had already filed a same-day registration amendment by Wednesday afternoon. And 84 House members co-sponsored the original VOTES Act filed by Rep. John Lawn, of Watertown, which included same-day registration.

“We have talked to so many legislators over the past few days and same-day registration is still so popular, so we are excited about working with many members of the House on an amendment,” said Geoff Foster, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts.

Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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