Cody Zeller, Jared Swopshire

Late Night Snacks: No. 2 Indiana and No. 14 NC State avoid upsets

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Game of the Day: No. 14 NC State 66, Clemson 62 

Three days after losing by a point at Maryland the Wolfpack bounced back with a close home victory over the Tigers. T.J. Warren led NC State with 21 points off the bench and three starters scored 11 points apiece for the Wolfpack, who remain a game behind Miami in the loss column. Clemson’s Devin Booker led all scorers with a career-high 27 points on 13-of-18 shooting.

Important Outcomes 

1. No. 2 Indiana 67, Northwestern 59 

Cody Zeller scored 21 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, and Jordan Hulls added 15 as the Hoosiers held off the Wildcats in Evanston. Northwestern’s Reggie Hearn led all scorers with 22 points but the Wildcats’ 30.4% shooting from the field in the first half proved to be too much to overcome. Northwestern’s reserves outscored Indiana’s 11-6, and with their recent production in mind should Indiana be concerned about the play of its bench? Click that link for more.

2. Rider 67, Iona 62 

Kevin Baggett’s Broncs are playing their best basketball of the season currently, as they pushed their win streak to five games with a five-point win over Iona. Leading scorer Nurideen Lindsey (concussion) was forced to sit out but Tommy Pereira came to the rescue, knocking down four three-pointers and scoring a team-high 14 points to go along with five rebounds. Lamont Jones (5-of-16 FG) led four Gaels in double figures with 20 points but Iona shot 5-of-24 from three, and that percentage proved costly. Rider’s win keeps them within a game of first-place Niagara in the MAAC standings.

3. Navy 59, Army 50 

Ed DeChellis’ Midshipmen went on a 28-8 run in the first half and hung on from there, snapping a 16-game Patriot League losing streak in the first of two meetings between the long-time rivals. Worth Smith scored 16 points and Kevin “Pookie” Alter added 14 off the bench for Navy, while Ella Ellis led three Black Knights in double figures with 15. Before Sunday Navy hadn’t won a conference game since beating Colgate 75-55 on February 26, 2011.

Starred

1. F/C Cody Zeller (Indiana)

21 points (6-of-11 FG), 13 rebounds and two steals in the Hoosiers’ 67-59 win at Northwestern.

2. F Jackie Carmichael (Illinois State) 

18 points (7-of-12 FG), 14 rebounds and three blocked shots in the Redbirds’ 70-56 win at Southern Illinois. The victory is Illinois State’s first conference win of the season (1-6 Missouri Valley).

3. Northern Iowa 

The Panthers have struggled offensively at times but that certainly wasn’t the case in their 85-55 win over Drake. As a team UNI shot 60% from the field and Deon Mitchell led four starters in double figures with 20 points.

Struggled 

1. Iona 

The Gaels struggled from the field and from three in their 67-62 loss at Rider on Sunday, shooting 33.9% (19-of-56) from the field and 5-of-24 from beyond the arc.

2. F Kayel Locke (UNC Greensboro) 

Locke had a rough afternoon in the Spartans’ 69-61 loss to Furman, shooting 1-of-10 from the field and fouling out in just 21 minutes of action.

3. Drake starters not named Jordan Clarke

Remove Clarke’s 5-of-7 afternoon and the other four starters shot a combined 4-of-20 from the field. Tough to win on the road (85-55 loss at Northern Iowa) when your starters struggle like that.

Super Bowl XLVII and college basketball 

The Super Bowl will have a connection to college basketball, as Indiana head coach Tom Crean is the brother (by marriage) of head coaches Jim (49ers) and John (Ravens) Harbaugh. With the Hoosiers hosting Michigan the night before Super Bowl XLVII will he be there? Yes.

Also, NC State head coach Mark Gottfried is a cousin of the two head coaches and their sister.

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

Denzel Valentine dominant as No. 8 Michigan State whips Indiana

Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (45) shoots over Indiana's Kevin Yogi Ferrell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
AP Photo/Al Goldis
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Trailing by one point at the half, Indiana appeared to be in good shape at No. 8 Michigan State. However the fact that they were unable to slow down Denzel Valentine, who scored 15 first-half points, was a major concern for Tom Crean’s Hoosiers. Sure enough the national Player of the Year candidate continued on his tour de force in the second half, scoring another 15 points and dishing out seven assists as the Spartans rolled to an 88-69 victory.

For the game Valentine finished with 30 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and just one turnover. Of Michigan State’s 48 second half points, Valentine had a hand in 29 of them with all seven of his assists resulting in Michigan State layups. It was a dominant performance from one of the nation’s best players, a versatile guard whose four games missed due to injury may have led to some overlooking him when it comes to those national Player of the Year conversations.

When Valentine’s on everything else flows smoothly for Tom Izzo’s team, as his ability to both score and create results in quality looks for teammates who would struggle if they had to get that part of the job done themselves.

The biggest beneficiary Sunday afternoon was forward Matt Costello, who finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Of Costello’s ten made field goals (10-for-12 FG) five were assisted by Valentine, and he accounted for 13 points and seven rebounds in the second half. As a team Michigan State shot 63.3 percent from the field and assisted on 16 of their 19 made field goals in the second half, turning a tight contest into a blowout.

Tum Tum Nairn returned the court for the first time in seven games, but he played just two minutes and his time on the court will be managed carefully by Izzo moving forward. For many teams not having your point guard at full strength would represent a crippling blow, but that hasn’t been the case for Michigan State thanks in large part to Valentine. Michigan State went 4-3 in those seven games without Nairn, but the three losses were by a total of three points.

Valentine’s ability to make his teammates better will be a key factor down the stretch for Michigan State, and that skill was what led to the Spartans blowing out Indiana on Sunday.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.