Minnesota v Illinois

No. 8 Minnesota rolls through No. 12 Illinois, 84-67


For the past week, ever since Minnesota kicked off Big Ten play with a win over Michigan State in The Barn, I’ve said that the team that wins big games on the road will win the Big Ten, and that until that road win comes, keep the hype in check.

Well, Gopher fans, it is time for you to start getting hyped.

Because No. 8 Minnesota didn’t just beat No. 12 Illinois on Wednesday. The Gophers went into Champaign and smacked the Illini around, winning 84-67 and never looking back after a 17-5 first half run gave them a 28-21 lead.

Joe Coleman played his best game as a Gopher, finishing with 29 points on 10-16 shooting, while Andre Hollins added 22 points, eight boards and six assists and Trevor Mbakwe chipped in with 19 points and 11 rebounds. The most important number, however, was the 3-24 that Illinois shot from beyond the arc. The Illini score 37.0% of their points from three, so it goes without saying that when they have an off-night, they are going to be in trouble.

Minnesota played some terrific defense on the Illini on the perimeter, using their size and length in the back court to cause problems. They cut down on the penetration the Illini were able to get, which in turn made it easier to contest spot-up threes.

Now, it should be noted that this wasn’t all Minnesota’s doing. Tracy Abrams, Illinois’ point guard and best creator, was in foul trouble for much of the game. And Brandon Paul, Illinois’ all-american two-guard, took a shot to the nose early in the game that looked to knock him out of any kind of rhythm.

But that shouldn’t take away from Minnesota’s performance on Wednesday.

They are, as of today, the third best team in the Big Ten, and that’s more or less inarguable.

But can they truly compete for the Big Ten title?

Well, they have the size and athleticism to match up with Indiana. They have the versatility to matchup with Michigan. They have a hoss on the block in Mbakwe and a dynamic combo-guard running the show in Hollins. Williams, Austin Hollins and Coleman are above-average role-players. If there is a weakness with Minnesota, it’s a lack of depth; they didn’t get a single point off their bench on Wednesday, and the four reserves managed all of four shots.

That question will answer itself in the next week. Minnesota heads to Bloomington to take on the Hoosiers on Saturday, and follow that up by hosting Michigan next Thursday.

Buckle up.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady ‘awake, alert’ after getting stretchered off court

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Wichita State big man Anton Grady was stretchered off of the floor in the second half of a loss to Alabama after a nasty collision with Dazon Ingram.

The video can be seen above. There was nothing malicious about the way that Grady was injured. When he turned to run up the floor after missing a shot in the lane, he went face first into Ingram’s shoulder. He neck bent in an awkward directions and, after stumbling a few steps, he laid motionless on the floor.

It took 10 minutes for the training staff to strap Grady to a backboard and wheel him out of the arena.

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A Wichita State spokesman told NBCSports.com that Grady was taken to a local trauma center for evaluation and that he is “awake, alert and is answering questions appropriately”.

We will have more updates as they come available.

From a basketball perspective, the No. 20 Shockers lost their second game in a row and are now 2-3 on the season.

While for some the Shockers’ résumé is up for questioning following losses to USC and Alabama, two teams projected to finish in the bottom half of their respective leagues, the team’s health is the biggest concern.

Fred VanVleet has been dealing with a hamstring issue since the season began, and an ankle injury limited him in a loss at Tulsa earlier this month. He won’t play again until at least Dec. 5th. and who knows when he’ll be back to full strength. The same can be said for back up point guard and freshman Landry Shamet, who underwent surgery to address a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. Their injuries have led to even more being asked of senior guard Ron Baker, and the loss of Grady for any significant amount of time certainly isn’t going to help matters..

These early-season losses won’t help Wichita State when it comes to the NCAA tournament, but it’s important to make note of the circumstances surrounding those defeats. To be shorthanded, with one of the absent players ranking among the nation’s best point guards, has an impact that has to be accounted for when evaluating Wichita State. The Shockers will add Conner Frankamp in mid-December, which will help them on the perimeter.

But with their rotation currently being in flux, it’s tough to make any definitive statements on what Wichita State will have to do in order to make another trip to the NCAA tournament. At this point Gregg Marshall and his staff will look for other contributors, one of whom being Markis McDuffie (14 points, seven rebounds vs. Alabama), to emerge and show themselves capable of picking up the slack.