Contributions both large and small set stage for Mark Lyons’ gamewinner

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TUCSON — The moment Arizona fans have been clamoring for was finally here. Even with an Elite 8 appearance in 2011 there had yet to be a “marquee” game at McKale Center reminiscent of the days when Lute Olson ran the show.

That all changed on Saturday night, as the No. 8 Wildcats hosted No. 5 Florida in the first matchup of Top 10 teams at McKale since 2004. And even though it was Mark Lyons’ drive to the basket that capped a rally in the final minute to give Arizona the 65-64 victory, a “return” to last season put the Wildcats in position to remain undefeated.

That “return” to last season was Arizona going small, a move that happened mainly because freshman 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski was in foul trouble for much of the night.

Head coach Sean Miller continued to play two big men at the same time with Tarczewski on the bench in the first half but the moving of Solomon Hill onto Erik Murphy helped limit the senior in the second, as Murphy looked far too comfortable in scoring his ten first-half points.

Murphy would score six points in the second half but Arizona’s ability to pressure him and take away those pick and pop opportunities that he tends to feast on led to four of his five turnovers. Just as important as Arizona’s defending of Murphy was the fact that they didn’t allow Patric Young to go off, something that cost them dearly in last year’s meeting.

Young tallied 25 points (12-of-15 shooting) and ten rebounds (six offensive) in last year 78-72 triumph in Gainesville, with Arizona lacking the bodies needed to keep him in check. With Tarczewski on the bench his classmates had to step up and that they did, even though Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett combining for five points (all from Jerrett) and six rebounds doesn’t look like much in the box score.

Young finished Saturday’s game with just eight points and two rebounds, with Arizona’s young big men making him work for his post touches. Both Ashley and Jerrett factored into the equation, with Ashley also helping the Wildcats when they needed to press late.

Jerrett also knocked down two important baseline jumpers down the stretch, displaying a confidence that not all freshmen would have when they’ve gone scoreless for that long.

“We had a freshman make two huge baseline shots that gave us the opportunity to make that comeback,” said Miller.

Hill (18 points) and Nick Johnson (15) led the way offensively along with Lyons, but the contributions of players like Jerrett, Ashley and Kevin Parrom (seven points, four rebounds and three assists) set the stage for Lyons’ finish. While there’s a lot of work to be done (and many games left to be played) it bodes well for the future that guys were able to step up in different areas.

“One thing I like about our team is that each of our players has taken turns,” Miller remarked. “Even when one of our guys has an off night, the team as a collective group is able to make up for that. On any one night, any of our players can have a great night.”

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

No. 2 Michigan State holds off upset-minded Oakland 86-73

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DETROIT (AP) — Tom Izzo and Michigan State probably needed a game like this.

Little Caesars Arena definitely needed it.

Detroit’s new downtown sports venue — where empty seats at Red Wings and Pistons games have limited the buzz so far — was a pulsating home for a college basketball doubleheader Saturday, and No. 2 Michigan State capped the all-local event with an 86-73 victory over upset-minded Oakland.

Michigan beat Detroit Mercy 90-58 in the opener , but the atmosphere really picked up after Oakland took the lead in the second half against Izzo’s Spartans. Michigan State finally went on a 12-2 run late in the game to pull away.

“We took some punches,” Izzo said. “They hit some shots in a row, guys, and the place started getting into it. That’s where I thank our fans, because we had more of them, and they rose up and we hit a couple of those 3s. It changed.”

Kendrick Nunn scored 32 points for the Golden Grizzlies, who stayed right with the talented Spartans (10-1) until the final minutes. Michigan State improved to 16-0 against Oakland, but only after the type of test the Spartans can expect again from underdogs down the road.

Nick Ward had 15 points and 15 rebounds for Michigan State, which finished with a 45-30 edge on the boards and made enough outside shots to keep Oakland (6-5) at bay. It was tied at 66 before the decisive run by the Spartans, which included two 3-pointers by Winston.

Kenny Goins had eight rebounds and seven assists for Michigan State.

“Nick and Kenny were huge,” Winston said. “They cleaned it up.”

Michigan State led 38-33 at halftime, but it was clear early in the second half that this would be no easy win for the Spartans. Oakland’s Martez Walker had two four-point plays in the first few minutes of the half. The second one put Oakland up 52-49 with just under 15 minutes remaining.

Michigan State kept scoring, however. Winston finished with 19 points, Joshua Langford scored 17 and Miles Bridges had 11. Jaren Jackson Jr. added 10.

Oakland coach Greg Kampe didn’t want to hear about any moral victory for his team.

“I am not happy,” he said. “We should have won the game. Oakland should have won this game.”

BIG PICTURE

Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies did what they needed to do to make a game of it, shooting 7 of 15 from 3-point range in the second half. They struggled around the basket, though. Michigan State had a clear rebounding advantage, and Oakland had a hard time scoring inside.

Michigan State: The Spartans turned the ball over 17 times but were able to close off the perimeter at the very end, finally containing Nunn. It was a win that bodes well for Michigan State’s ability to stave off potential upsets in the future.

RETURN

Nunn’s status was in question leading up to the game because of an ankle issue. Kampe said there was concern that Nunn could be out for the season, but a second opinion indicated it was just tendinitis that can be managed.

“I was pretty relieved just to know that I couldn’t damage it anymore,” Nunn said.

PREVIEW?

Little Caesars Arena is hosting the first two rounds of this season’s NCAA Tournament, and if all goes well for the Spartans, they’ll be playing close to home in the venue.

“This is so cool for Detroit,” Izzo said. “It’s just starting to feel like a city that’s coming back to life, and if we can be a little part of it today and we can be a big part of it in March, no one will be more excited about it than me.”

UP NEXT

Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies host Towson on Wednesday night.

Michigan State: Winners of nine straight, the Spartans probably won’t be challenged too much Monday night when they host Houston Baptist.

Washington, No. 25 Cincinnati beat UCLA 77-63

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kyle Washington scored 19 points, Jacob Evans III had 16 and No. 25 Cincinnati beat UCLA 77-63 on Saturday.

Cincinnati (9-2) grabbed control with an 18-0 run in the first half. It was one sweet win for the Bearcats, who lost to Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season.

Aaron Holiday scored 17 points for UCLA (7-3), and Kris Wilkes finished with 12.

The Bruins grabbed a 21-18 lead on Prince Ali’s 3-pointer with 6:59 left in the first half, but they didn’t score again until Alex Olesinski made two free throws with 17.7 seconds to go. Cincinnati turned 15 UCLA turnovers into 19 points on its way to a 36-23 lead at the break.

Cincinnati kept up the pressure in the second half, and Gary Clark’s dunk ran its lead out to 17 at 45-28. Clark finished with 10 points.

UCLA is expected to hear soon about suspended players LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, who were punished for shoplifting in China. Ball left school and turned professional. Riley and Hill missed their 10th straight game on Saturday.

BIG PICTURE

Cincinnati: The Bearcats made quick work of UCLA, beating the Bruins at their transition game by forcing mistakes.

UCLA: The Bruins’ lack of depth and short bench really showed in the second half.

UP NEXT

Cincinnati: Hosts Arkansas Pine-Bluff on Tuesday.

UCLA: Hosts South Dakota on Tuesday.

Trae Young, Oklahoma upset No. 3 Wichita State on the road

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Sooner or later, Oklahoma was going to make you take them seriously.

It happened on Saturday, as the Sooners went into Intrust Bank Arena and landed an upset over No. 3 Wichita State, 91-83, in one of the toughest arenas to get a win in college basketball.

Trae Young led the way with 28 points and ten assists for Oklahoma, who improved to 8-1 on the season with the win. Brady Manek added 21 points while Christian James and Kameron McGusty both chipped in with 13 points.

Here are three things to take away from this dominating performance:

1. Trae Young is the best player in college basketball

There is no other way to look at it right now.

With all due respect to the likes of Marvin Bagley III, and Deandre Ayton, and Jordan Murphy, and Trevon Bluiett, and whoever else you want to put into that conversation, it’s Young. We had him ranked as the favorite to win the National Player of the Year award in this week’s rankings, and that was before he went into Wichita and put up 29 points and 10 assists – including 21 points and seven assists in the first half as the Sooners jumped out to a 54-39 lead – on the No. 3 team in college basketball.

Prior to today, there was reason for someone – not me, but someone – to question whether or not that was true, and it mostly had to do with the difficulty of the schedule that Oklahoma had played. Oklahoma lost to Arkansas. Beating Oregon doesn’t appear to be all that impressive. Even going to Los Angeles and knocking off USC in the Staples Center might not be all that great of a win.

But after this?

After eviscerating Wichita State for 20 minutes on their own floor?

There is nothing you can say otherwise. He’s not physically imposing, but the way that Young can impact every single thing the Sooners do on the offensive end of the floor cannot be overlooked. He’s done to Oklahoma’s offense what Lonzo Ball did to UCLA’s last season. They are different players – Young dominates possession much more than Lonzo did – but the effect they have on their team is the same.

That’s how good Young has been this season.

2. We have to start talking about Oklahoma as a factor in the Big 12 race

A lot of that has to do with Young and how good he has been, but it shouldn’t be overlooked just how effective some of Oklahoma’s other pieces are.

Let’s start with Brady Manek, who has been terrific in Oklahoma’s last two wins. He had 21 points and hit five threes against Wichita State. Jamuni McNeace had 10 boards and four blocks on Saturday – including a pair of blocks where he flat-out snatched the ball out of midair – and he’s the second-best big man on the Sooners behind Khadeen Lattin, who started on Oklahoma’s Final Four team. Christian James and Kameron McGusty have been effective on the wings as well.

That’s essentially what this Oklahoma team is. Trae Young and a bunch of role players that Young makes better.

Kansas is going to be the favorite to win the Big 12 regular season title as long as they are a member of the Big 12. That much is simple. But in a year where there is no clear-cut No. 2 team in the conference – and in a season where Kansas has no depth and no size – the Sooners are in the mix as much as anyone.

 

3. Wichita State’s defensive woes are a major, major concern

Wichita State game up 54 first-half points to Oklahoma on Saturday, which would be surprising if the Shockers hadn’t just given up 50 first half points to South Dakota State two weeks ago.

The default for Wichita State is to assume that Gregg Marshall has one of college basketball’s stingiest defenses. That simple fact is a major reason why I wrote a column earlier this season asking if the Shockers were the best team in the country this season. They would be able to work through some of their issues offensively and some of the growing pains heading into a larger conference because of the floor their defense allowed them.

And rest assured, the Shockers are still pretty good on that end of the floor.

But they’ve not been among the elite this season. Currently, they rank 19th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric. The last time they ranked that low was in 2013 … when they reached the Final Four.

So all hope is not lost, but the safest bet in college basketball is that practice for the Shockers is not going to be enjoyable until Marshall sees a marked improvement.

Juwan Morgan’s 34 lead Indiana to overtime win over No. 18 Notre Dame

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Indiana trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half and was still down 65-57 with just over two minutes left before rallying to knock off No. 18 Notre Dame, 80-77, in overtime in the nightcap of the Crossroads Classic on Saturday afternoon.

Juwan Morgan led the way for the Hoosiers with a career-high 34 points and 11 boards. He scored the final 12 points of regulation for the Hoosiers, including a layup with 13 seconds left that forced overtime, and then had eight of the 15 Hoosier points in the extra period.

The Irish were up 77-74 when Morgan scored and got fouled on a layup with 11 seconds left. He would miss the free throw, but Zack McRoberts grabbed the miss and found Morgan for the go-ahead dunk:

Notre Dame’s Matt Farrell would airball a three at the other end and, after a pair of Indiana free throws, Bonzie Colson’s half-court heave rattled in-and-out and Indiana headed home to Bloomington with the best win of the new Archie Miller era under their belt.

Here are three things to know from Indiana’s win:

1. This win says more about the Indiana mentality than the talent in the program

Let’s be frank about this: Indiana had no business winning this game. Notre Dame was in control throughout. They were up 14 midway through the first half. They pushed the lead back to double-digits early in the second half. They were up eight with little more than two minutes left. There was every opportunity for Indiana to roll over and die, and they didn’t. The Hoosiers kept fighting and kept clawing and kept scrapping before, eventually, forcing overtime and winning in the extra frame.

The final possession, the play where McRoberts outworked Bonzie Colson for one of his seven offensive rebounds and found Morgan at the rim for a dunk, personified that mentality. There’s no quit in this group this season, and what we saw on Saturday is such a far cry from what we saw out of the Hoosiers in a season-opening loss to Indiana State. Indiana’s future under Archie Miller is bright, even if the present is a rebuilding season where Indiana will be at a talent deficit more often than not.

2. That said, Juwan Morgan is really good

Morgan broke out on national television on Saturday, but if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that the Indiana junior has been excellent this season. He entered Saturday averaging 14.1 points and 6.6 boards, and after the 34 points and 11 boards he put up, he’s not reached double-figures in seven of his last eight games. He has three double-doubles during that stretch and popped off for at least 24 points three times. Morgan is precisely the kind of undersized and skilled four-man that Miller had so much success with at Dayton. It’s not exactly surprising that he’s been able to have this kind of success.

3. A veteran team like Notre Dame should be finishing games like this off

It really is that simple. If Notre Dame, who has a senior point guard and a senior all-american power forward running the show, cannot protect a 14-point lead against a 5-5 Big Ten team, if they cannot close out a win when they’re up by eight points with two minutes left, then should we really be talking about then as a top 15 team?

Frankly, no, we shouldn’t. Not when they’ve now lost three of their last five games. Not when they blew this lead less than two weeks after losing at home to Ball State. Not when that loss to Ball State came a week after they went into East Lansing and got run off the floor by Michigan State. Lack of size and lack of depth were concerns for Notre Dame entering the season. At this point, they’ve become real issues.

And here’s the irony of it all: No one would be mentioning it if Austin Torres had made one of two free throws with the score tied and 0.8 seconds left.

But he didn’t.

So those underlying issues get brought to the surface and discussed ad nauseum.

Syracuse needs OT to knock off Georgetown

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WASHINGTON — Tyus Battle had 29 points, Oshae Brissett had 25 points, and Syracuse overcame a 13-point second half deficit to defeat rival Georgetown 86-79 in overtime on Saturday.

Frank Howard added 19 points as Syracuse (9-1) made 10 of 23 3-pointers in staging its comeback over the final 10 minutes of regulation to force extra time.

Jessie Govan had 21 points and eight rebounds and Marcus Derrickson had 14 points and eight rebounds for Georgetown (8-1) which entered Saturday as one of six undefeated teams in Division 1. Jagan Mosely had 20 points off the bench for the Hoyas.

Syracuse snapped a two-game losing streak to former Big East foe Georgetown and last beat the Hoyas on the road in 2011.

Hoyas coach Patrick Ewing lost his first game against Jim Boeheim’s Orange after going 8-3 against Syracuse as a player in the 1980’s.

Howard stripped Govan and hit a layup with one minute remaining to tie the score at 69. Syracuse missed three shots at the end of regulation.

Mosely hit two free throws to give Georgetown its largest lead of 53-40 but Syracuse used a quick 5-0 spurt to pull back to within eight after a Brissett 3-pointer with 9:55 remaining.

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Neither team led by more than five points in the first half as both teams shot 37 percent (10 for 27) from the field.

BIG PICTURE

Syracuse: The Orange survived their first road test of the season and won’t play again away from home until traveling to South Bend to face Notre Dame on Jan 6. Syracuse had gone 1-1 in neutral site games in losing to then No. 2 Kansas while defeating former Big East rival in Connecticut at Madison Square Garden.

Georgetown: The Hoyas missed on their only chance to pick up a quality non-conference win against Syracuse. Georgetown’s previous opponents had a combined record of 24-64. The Hoyas last defeated Syracuse three straight times between 2000-02.

UP NEXT

Syracuse: The Orange return to the Carrier Dome to face two in-state foes next week – Buffalo on Tuesday and St. Bonaventure on Friday.

Georgetown: Two more games before the start of Big East play: North Texas on Wednesday and Alabama A&M on Dec. 23.