Will Sheehey

No. 2 Indiana survives Northwestern, but bench play is still a concern

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When talk begins about how the Big Ten is the nation’s toughest conference, Northwestern doesn’t typically come up.

Sunday afternoon, though, the Wildcats were very much so in the conversation, giving Indiana a road test before ultimately falling to the Hoosiers, 67-59, in Evanston, Ill.

Indiana had little trouble with the Wildcats in the first half, leading at the break by 14 points, 31-17. Christian Watford came out aggressive from the opening tip, knocking down a three-pointer on the Hoosiers’ first possession.

But Northwestern’s zone began to take hold in the second half. The Wildcats extended out well away from the basket and, for an eight-minute stretch over the course of the middle of the second, Indiana was held without a field goal.

In that time, Northwestern ripped off a 14-4 run. Integral to that run was the Wildcats spreading the ball around. Four different players scored during that stretch.

Northwestern pulled the game to as close as five points with just over 90 seconds remaining, but a Jordan Hulls floater in the lane pushed the Indiana lead back to seven points.

But one enduring point of emphasis for the Hoosiers is the play of their bench.

Will Sheehey came into Sunday’s game having not scored in the past two games, going a combined 0-of-7 from the floor in 33 minutes. He broke that drought with six points and four rebounds, but that is still off his season average of 10.5 points per game.

Outside of Sheehey, guard Remy Abell went scoreless for a second straight game vs. Northwestern. He now has one combined point in his last three games. Jeremy Hollowell also went scoreless.

Against deeper teams in Big Ten play, Indiana will need more from Sheehey, Abell, and Hollowell.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Auburn suspends leading scorer Canty indefinitely

Auburn guard Kareem Canty (1) screams in pain after being fouled during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Auburn, Ala. Auburn won 75-70.  (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
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Prior to Auburn’s game at Georgia Saturday evening, head coach Bruce Pearl announced that leading scorer and starting point guard Kareem Canty has been suspended indefinitely.

Canty’s currently averaging 18.3 points per game and his abilities as a scorer and distributor have been key for the Tigers offensively. When Canty returns to the court remains to be seen, with Pearl noting that Canty may be able to return before the end of the season.

“Kareem has had some strong moments for our team this season,” Pearl said. “He has demonstrated that at the highest level of competition, he can win his matchup.

“However, his effort and attitude have been extremely inconsistent, which led to actions and behavior that are unacceptable. He will step away from the team for a while and may return later in the season. He is suspended indefinitely.”

According to the release Cinmeon Bowers will move into the starting lineup for Auburn, which is currently 9-12 overall and 3-6 in SEC play. Auburn’s lost four straight and seven of their last nine games, with their most recent defeat being an 80-68 home loss to LSU. Canty played 29 minutes in that game, finishing with 14 points, four rebounds and five assists.

Without him more minutes may be available to freshman New Williams, who played four minutes against LSU and has played sparingly this season. Bryce Brown, who’s been a rotation player, and Patrick Keim will figure more prominently for Auburn on the perimeter as they look to account for Canty’s absence.

Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis go crazy, No. 20 Kentucky beats Florida by 19

Kentucky's Jamal Murray (23) shoots near Missouri's Ryan Rosburg during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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Jamal Murray scored a career-high 35 points and became the first Kentucky player to hit eight threes in a game since 2010.

Tyler Ulis had 18 points and 11 assists.

As a result, No. 20 Kentucky bounced back Tuesday’s loss to Tennessee — when the Wildcats blew a 21-point lead — as they blew out a good Florida team, 80-61. The final score doesn’t really do the beat down justice, either. Kentucky was up 24-5 seven minutes into the game. The Gators, who look like they may end up being seeded as high as the No. 6 line on Selection Sunday, never had a chance.

If Kentucky was trying to prove a point, they did. I’m not sure if Murray and Ulis make up the nation’s best back court in college basketball, but on Saturday, they looked like the best back court in the entire world. They were awesome.

So awesome, in fact, that they were responsible for 64 of Kentucky’s 80 points tonight.

And that’s where this win can be a bit concerning.

Look, the issue with Kentucky is that they don’t get near enough production out of their front court, and if the knee injury that kept Alex Poythress out of the lineup on Saturday ends up being at all serious, than UK’s most productive big will be out of commission. On Saturday, Kentucky’s front court — minus Derek Willis, who is more of a wing that’s been slotted at the four — finished with a grand total of 10 points, 15 boards and 12 fouls.

That issue isn’t going away just because Ulis and Murray played an unbelievable game against one of the nation’s top five defenses, according to KenPom.com. You don’t buy a house with termites just because you love the way that it’s furnished.

But what this performance shows you is what Kentucky’s ceiling is, what they are capable of on the night’s when their two stars play like stars.

If they get hot at the right time, they can beat anyone in March. Hell, this could be enough to carry them to the Elite 8, maybe further.

When those two can play that well in a season where there is no dominant team, you can’t really count anything out.

But it also means that Kentucky is capable of losing to anyone on any given night, and all it takes is one cold shooting night for Kentucky’s run in March to come to an early end.