Bengals, Steelers players suspended for actions Monday night

Published: Tuesday, December 05, 2017 @ 1:53 PM

Iloka says JuJu's actions were bush league

Pittsburgh wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cincinnati safety George Iloka have been suspended one game for their actions in Monday night’s 23-20 Steelers win.

Both players drew 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalties in the final 7 minutes of the game, beginning with the Pittsburgh rookie wide receiver, who was flagged twice on the same play.

Smith-Schuster's illegal blindside block on Vontaze Burfict resulted in the Bengals linebacker leaving the field on a backboard on a cart with a concussion. 

>> Injuries, ‘dirty’ hits pile up in nasty Bengals-Steelers game

The receiver then stood over the injured Burfict taunting him, drawing another 15-yard penalty, although only the taunting was enforced.

Five plays later on Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s game-tying touchdown pass to Antonio Brown, Iloka hit the Steelers receiver helmet-to-helmet in the end zone.

>> 5 things to know about Bengals loss to Steelers

NFL Vice President of Football Operations Jon Runyan issued the suspensions. In his letter to Iloka, Runyan wrote, “You violently struck a defenseless receiver in the head and neck area. The Competition Committee has clearly expressed its goal of ‘eliminating flagrant hits that have no place in our game’ and has encouraged the League office to suspend offenders for egregious violations such as the one you committed last night.”  

>> Iloka flag one of 13 that led to franchise record for penalty yards

In his letter to Smith-Schuster, Runyan wrote, “You are suspended for the dangerous and unsportsmanlike acts you committed during the fourth quarter of last night’s game. Specifically, with 7:10 remaining, on a passing play to a running back, you lined up a defender and delivered a violent and unnecessary blindside shot to his head and neck area. You then “celebrated” the play by standing over him and taunting him. The contact you made with your opponent placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury and could have been avoided. Your conduct following the hit fell far below the high standards of sportsmanship expected of an NFL player.”

Smith-Schuster apologized for actions against Burfict on Twitter after the game, adding “praying he gets better.”

At least one Pittsburgh player defended Iloka on Twitter, with safety Mike Mitchell writing that the Bengnals safety is “a good friend” and “not a dirty player.”

Both players are expected to appeal to their suspensions. They have three days to do so.

If Iloka’s appeal is denied, he will be the third Bengals player suspended this year. Cornerback Adam Jones served a one-game suspension for his actions following a Jan. 3 arrest, and Burfict was supended for the first five games for his preseason hit on Kansas City fullback Anthony Sherman, although it was reduced to three games on appeal.

>> Composite list of Burfict fines and suspensions 

Burfict also served a three-game suspension to start the 2016 season for repeated violations of the league’s player safety rules, culiminating with his hit on Pittsburgh’s Brown in the 2015 wildcard playoff game.

And he was fined again this season for actions against the Steelers, when he kicked fullback Roosevelt Nix on the first play of the game, drawing a $12,154 penalty.



What Oregon coach Dana Altman said after the Ducks’ win over UCLA

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 8:38 PM

On Saturday night, Oregon pulled out a much-needed win over UCLA, jumping out to a 17-point lead in the first half and holding off a frenzied UCLA comeback to win, 94-91.

The win is Oregon coach Dana Altman’s 200th with the program. In his eight seasons in Eugene, Altman has won at least 20 games in all of them, with a high of 33 last season during a Final Four run.

“We had really bad turnovers. We were up eight and they trapped Troy [Brown] and he just gave it to them for a layup,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said afterwards. “But the guys found a way. Defensively, we didn’t get many stops in the second half. They kind of took it wherever they wanted. We didn’t fight the dribble very well. [Aaron] Holiday created a lot of opportunities for their guys and they shot it well, but a lot of those were really good penetration kicks and our rotation wasn’t very clean.”

“We needed to find a way to win one,” he continued. “Payton [Prichard] hitting the free throws late — really good.”

Here’s a full video of Altman’s press conference afterwards.

Analysis: John Calipari says Kentucky is ‘fine’ after Florida loss, but is it?

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 7:44 PM

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky lost for the second time in as many games, the third time in SEC play and fifth time overall this season on Saturday night against Florida. The Wildcats coughed up mind-boggling turnovers, had another horrible 3-point shooting night, turned a rousing start into a rotten finish again.

But strangely, when it was over, the 66-64 defeat punctuated by an uncalled takedown on UK’s tying attempt with 2.5 seconds to go and one last turnover to seal the deal, coach John Calipari was in a wonderful mood. At the podium, at least.

“We’re going to be fine,” he told reporters. “What I saw today: That is one of the best offensive teams in the country [and] we held them to 33 percent [field goals] and 20 percent from the 3-point line. We had some freshman mistakes [but] the ability to pass the ball to one another, the ability to really scramble defensively and do some good things — we’re going to be fine.

“I was worried after South Carolina, now. I’m not worried after this. We’ll be fine.”

But will they? Calipari knows his fan base is prone to panic, and that having 5-star recruiting target Zion Williamson make a surprise commitment to archrival Duke at roughly the same time Saturday night’s game tipped off only makes things worse.

So forgive the skeptic for thinking his postgame cheer might’ve just been Calipari’s attempt to talk them — and himself — down off a ledge.

“I’m good,” he said. “I know there’s some people out there that will be panicked and all this. Be panicked. I’m glad I’m not sitting with you, because I am fine.”

RELATED: Everything Calipari said after the loss

Perhaps the most popular meme on the Internet today, non-Crying Jordan division, is a cartoon of a dog sitting down for coffee with a burning house all around him and the caption, “This is fine.” Calipari said the Wildcats will be “fine” six times Saturday night in front of the cameras.

He was less reassuring behind the closed doors of Kentucky’s locker room.

“He didn’t show us none of that after the game,” freshman center Nick Richards said. “He was basically on us the whole time. He said we fought but we all just made dumb fouls — we’re not thinking as the game is going along. He was yelling at us, basically.”

To be fair, the 18 th-ranked (not for long) Wildcats did do some really good and potentially encouraging things against the Gators. Namely, Kentucky (14-5, 4-3) held Florida (14-5, 6-1) well below its season scoring average (82 ppg) and 3-point percentage (.397).

The visitors shot just 6 of 30 from beyond the arc in what was the Wildcats’ best display of perimeter defense all season.

“I thought Kentucky played really hard … defended us at as high a level as any team has defended us,” Gators coach Mike White said. “I was really impressed with the length in person, the closing speed on shooters, the attention to detail. It was pretty suffocating.”

The Wildcats also outrebounded Florida 49-38 and outscored the Gators 38-26 in the paint. Sophomores Sacha Killeya-Jones and Wenyen Gabriel were terrific again off the bench — a combined 17 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes between them — and Richards delivered his best game in weeks with 8 points, 9 boards and 2 blocks in 20 minutes.

Kentucky, which has started five freshmen every game this season, was good enough to build an eight-point lead late in the first half and nearly erase a six-point deficit with 44 seconds to go. Kevin Knox and Wenyen Gabriel hit clutch 3-pointers and both Quade Green and PJ Washington had close-range looks at tying buckets in the final 10 seconds, but both were blocked (fouled?) and ended up on the ground.

Proud of them. They gave themselves a chance to win,” Calipari said. “You know, we’re OK. We’re OK.”

There he goes talking himself — and Big Blue Nation — into it again. Except, the Wildcats also made just 23 percent of their 3-pointers Saturday and have hit only 5 of 28 in consecutive losses to South Carolina and Florida.

And they coughed it up 16 times Saturday, including four in a row during a 13-3 Gators run to close the first half. That left Kentucky playing catch-up the rest of the way. In the postgame locker room, Calipari did away with most of his happy talk.

“He definitely took some encouraging things from this game,” Gabriel said, “but he’s definitely frustrated. He sees what we can be out there, but we just keep stumbling away from that.”

So, not fine?

“What do you mean, ‘fine’? It’s tough taking two losses like this,” Gabriel continued. “But we’re going to be good. It’s not the end of the world. Basketball has its ups and downs. We’re going to start winning again, and I feel like we’re going to get back on a roll eventually.”

RELATED: Jemarl Baker ‘not close’ to return for Cats

UCLA falls on the road to Oregon: Three things we learned

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 7:31 PM

It was a road trip in which UCLA could not afford to be swept. And yet that’s exactly what happened, as a loss at Oregon State on Thursday preceded another to Oregon on Saturday night in a game that the Bruins fought and fought and fought — and ultimately fell short.

UCLA lost, 94-91, going down big early, only to battle all the way back to within three before the comeback bid was snuffed. With just 10 games left on the schedule for UCLA, it is getting dangerously into must-win territory, as the Bruins are now 13-7 and mired in the middle of a struggling Pac-12.

Three things we learned from the loss:

UCLA needs to shore up its rebounding

The Bruins caught the Ducks on a torrid shooting night. Sometimes this happens, regardless of what the defense does. But what can’t happen is giving a torrid shooting team extra opportunities, which UCLA gifted to Oregon over and over again on Saturday night.

Had it not been for Thomas Welsh, UCLA’s lone formidable presence inside, it’s a wonder what the Bruins would have given up on the glass. Troy Brown alone accounted for three of the Ducks 11 offensive rebounds en route to 17 points for Brown.

The Bruins’ defense has enough trouble as it is, ranking No. 268 in the country. Allowing offensive rebounds does nothing to help the cause.

UCLA’s turnovers doomed the Bruins

Midway through the second half, UCLA’s primary ball handlers, Aaron Holiday and Jaylen Hands, accounted for 10 turnovers, four and six, respectively.

At that exact same point in the game, Oregon as a team had turned the ball over just four times total.

Those numbers rarely portend anything positive for obvious reasons. Aside from limiting its own offense, UCLA jumpstarted Oregon’s, allowing Payton Prichard and Victor Bailey to run wild in transition, eating up easy buckets, running up 52 points by halftime.

UCLA’s defensive woes are rough enough on their own. They can’t afford to allow the offense to contribute to the problem.

On the plus side…UCLA’s free throws were money

The only reason the Bruins were able to keep this one as close as it was for so long was because they were so sharp from the free throw line. They made 13 of their first 16, proving to be their only reliable source of points in the first half, and ended the game 26 of 32.

It was a nice surprise to see UCLA shoot well from the stripe, as it has struggled this year, making just 69.8 percent of its free throws on the year, good for 209 in the country.

If there’s a positive to take from the night, let that be the silver lining.

Oregon basketball survives comeback from UCLA: Three things we learned

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 7:29 PM

In a fight for Pac-12 relevancy, the Oregon Ducks survived a frenetic comeback from UCLA on Saturday night, 94-91.

The Ducks leapt out to a quick lead, claiming a 17-point advantage late in the first half — an advantage that proved to be barely enough. UCLA fought back to within three but couldn’t put the comeback together. It was a much-needed win for Oregon, which entered the contest just 2-4 in Pac-12 play and a disappointing 12-7 on the year.

After losing three of the past four, the Ducks’ win now pushes them to 13-7 with a home tilt against Oregon State a week away.

Three things we learned from the win:

Oregon’s press was its best offense

The first half was a track meet for the Ducks, as they reeled off 52 points in the first 20 minutes. Some of this was done in the half-court, but the majority of the damage was done via the press, which UCLA struggled mightily with. The Bruins turned the ball over eight times in the first half, resulting in easy buckets the other way for the Ducks.

“UCLA is running backwards while the Ducks are flying downhill,” Bill Walton said, in one of his more coherent thoughts of the night.

It’s an adequate summation of the first half, and the majority of the game as a whole, for Oregon’s offense.

Payton Prichard is lethal in transition

The final score doesn’t suggest it, but Oregon’s offense often grew stagnant at times in the half-court. As mentioned above, the press resulted in a number of easy baskets, but so, too, did its blink-and-you-missed-it transition offense, led, namely, by Payton Prichard, who finished with a game-high 25 points.

When the Ducks were able to secure a clean rebound and outlet it to Prichard, the result was almost a foregone conclusion: Prichard layup, Prichard dish to a layup, or two Oregon free throws. It’s why the Bruins were saddled with foul trouble early, and one of the primary reasons Oregon was able to jump out to such a quick lead, able to simply maintain it the rest of the way.

Victor Bailey had his breakout game

Victor Bailey was the No. 85-ranked recruit for the Class of 2017, a four-star Texas native who was, reasonably, expected to make significant contributions this season. And he did at first, scoring 15, 16, and 18 in three of the Ducks’ first four games.

And then he disappeared. As hit shots stopped falling, his minutes waned, and he failed to reach double-figures in eight of he nine games preceding Saturday night’s matchup with UCLA.

In the first half alone, Bailey poured in 15 en route to 18 total for the night.