Laurence Bowers, Phil Pressey

Pressey drains Mizzou’s game-winner over VCU

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You wouldn’t think third place in the Battle 4 Atlantis would be such a big deal. But both Mizzou and VCU came indoors out of the sunshine to play a hard-fought contest as the undercard to the Louisville/Duke title game.

Both teams traded buckets down the stretch, but it was Phil Pressey’s timely step-through between two Ram defenders that provided the winning margin. Pressey’s basket came with 14.6 seconds left on the clock, putting the Tigers up by three, but Troy Daniels’ attempt to tie the game fell short. The Tigers claimed a 68-65 win as time expired.

It was a meaningful neutral-court game for two programs preparing to test the waters of new conferences. VCU is a new member of the Atlantic 10 this season, and Missouri is already a favorite to make waves as newbies in the SEC.

Pressey’s heroics in the final minute put him into double figures for the night. He ended with 11 points, 8 assists and 5 turnovers against VCU’s pressing defense. Pressey’s busy night as a distributor paid dividends for his teammates as well. Earnest Ross (11 points) and Negus Webster-Chan (12 points) helped Missouri keep pace with VCU, going a combined 5-11 from behind the arc. Laurence Bowers led all scorers with 14 points, and chipped in a game-high 11 boards as well.

VCU got 12 points apiece from Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic, but fell to 3-3 on the season. Mizzou is now 5-1, with a relatively easy stretch of four games against lesser oponents before the Braggin’ Rights game against Illinois on December 22, followed by a Dec. 28th trip to No. 11 UCLA.

This had to be disappointing for VCU players and coaches. Even though they’ve moved to a competitive, multi-bid league, early season wins against power-conference opponents are crucial to their chances of nabbing a post-season Big Dance invite. A December game against Alabama and former Rams coach Anthony Grant will be the last BCS test before A-10 play begins.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

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.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“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.