As rough as the injury news has been for Alabama over the last couple of weeks, they’ve got nothing on SEC West foe Mississippi State.
Rick Ray’s first season in Starkville has been anything but smooth thanks to injuries and more bad news hit the program this week, as senior forward Wendell Lewis suffered a fractured right patella during a non-contact drill on Wednesday.
According to the school Lewis will undergo surgery on Monday and is expected to miss at least eight weeks of action.
Lewis is averaging 8.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game for the Bulldogs, who take on Loyola (IL) Saturday night in Chicago and will have just six scholarship players available.
Guard Jalen Steele remains out of the lineup with a broken wrist while freshmen DeAndre Applewhite and Jacoby Davis both suffered torn ACLs before the season even began. Add in the concussion that forced Roquez Johnson to miss the season opener and what you have is a team that’s had more injuries to deal with than just about any team in the country.
Freshman forward Gavin Ware is moving into the starting lineup with Lewis injured, with Ware averaging 7.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game on the season. His best performance came in the Bulldogs’ second game at the Maui Invitational, where he tallied 11 points and six rebounds in an 89-62 loss to Marquette.
While Mississippi State will have just six scholarship players available tomorrow the Ramblers have nine players averaging at least 16 minutes per game. After Saturday’s contest the Bulldogs have home games against Central Arkansas, Alabama A&M and New Orleans before opening SEC play against South Carolina on January 8.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.