Jim Larranaga

Miami makes a statement with a win over Michigan State


While the Nevin Shapiro scandal centered around the Miami football team, there were a couple of basketball players that found themselves caught in the Ponzi-scheming booster’s web.

Durand Scott was one of those players, and his suspension was handed down so late in the season that he was forced to miss the start of this year as well. And while Miami entered this season with as much expectation as they’ve had seemingly since the internet was invented, the absence of Scott happened to coincide with an ugly start to the season: an eight point win over Stetson in which they trailed in the second half and a loss to lowly Florida-Gulf Coast.

Scott’s first game back resulted in a 15 point win over Horizon League contender Detroit, which happened to be the number of points that Scott scored in the game. He followed that up with another 15 point performance on Wednesday in a much more impressive win, as the Canes knocked off No. 13 Michigan State 67-59.

And in the process, Miami reminded everyone why they were picked by many to be the team that would finish fourth in the ACC behind the Power Triangle.

Trey McKinney-Jones led the way for Miami with 18 points, hitting 5-7 from beyond the arc, while Shane Larkin added 15 points. That trio looked like they could play with perimeter attack in the country on Wednesday. Throw in the front court duo of Reggie Johnson, the burly low-post bruiser, and Kenny Kadji, a stretch-four that creates space in the paint with his ability to shoot, and Jim Larranaga has a formidable starting lineup.

But there are some concerning aspects about this win.

Like, for example, the fact that they only got two point from their bench. Or that they needed to shoot 9-16 from the floor to do it. Or that they only had six assists in the game. None of those are “winning” totals.

It didn’t matter Wednesday, because Miami was able to slow down Michigan State’s work on the offensive glass and because they did a terrific job defending Keith Appling in the screen-and-roll.

The bottom-line is this: Scott is back for Miami, and with him in the lineup, they beat Michigan State pretty thoroughly, keeping control of the game for most of the second half.

And regardless of the situation, that’s a statement for this Miami team.

The question now: is this a step towards becoming a tournament team, or will this win end up being the highlight of Miami’s season?

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

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.