Illini fans should be mad about the intentional foul call, but not at the ref

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Missouri’s basketball team is slowly but surely becoming must-see TV.

Back in November, the Tigers lost to Georgetown in overtime as a last-second Chris Wright three wiped out Missouri’s 18 point comeback and three straight Jason Clark triples in the extra period won the game. Two weeks later, Marcus Denmon overcame the tragedy of his cousin’s death to take over in the second half and overtime as Mizzou knocked off Vanderbilt.

Tonight’s Braggin’ Rights matchup with Illinois, a 75-64 win for the Tigers, was just as exciting as the previous two Missouri games, but it will be remembered for the wrong reasons, especially in the eyes Illini fans.

With 44 seconds left, Michael Dixon was stripped in the back court by Mike Davis, who found DJ Richardson wide open on the left wing. Richardson buried a three to cut the Missouri lead to 62-61, but in typical Missouri fashion, the Tigers remained on the attack.

Kim English inbounded the ball to Denmon who hit a streaking Laurence Bowers, who had gotten behind the Illinois defense. Bowers went in for the layup and was pushed with two hands in the back by Mike Tisdale. Bowers made the layup and Tisdale was called for an intentional foul, meaning that Missouri then got two shots and the ball back. Bowers hit both free throws, then Denmon got himself wide open for a layup on the ensuing out of bounds play.

All told, Missouri scored six points in the span of a second on a single possession, turning a 62-61 nailbiter into a 68-61 lead and almost certain win. Essentially, the call on Tisdale ended the game.

And that call, no doubt, angered the Illini fans.

Its a tough pill to swallow, and its a terrible way to end such a terrific basketball game, but in no way did the ref make an incorrect call.

The intentional foul rule was put into place, in part, to prevent injuries that occur when one player is in the air and another player fouls him without making a play on the ball. Tisdale is trailing Bowers on the play in question, and while I truly doubt that his intention was to injure Bowers, Tisdale clearly gives him a two-handed shove in the back while he is in the air. This play is precisely the situation that the intentional foul rule was created for. Tisdale was trying to foul Bowers to prevent the layup. A two-handed shove in the back is not a play on the ball.

The foul Tisdale committed is a dangerous one. Its the reason that there is a rule that punishes that particular sort of foul more harshly.

If Illini fans are going to be mad at anyone about the way the game ended, it should be Tisdale.

Bowers had him beat. If he gives up the layup, its still a one possession game with 40 ticks left. That is far from an insurmountable lead, especially with the number of three point shooters Illinois can put on the floor.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

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“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.