Keith Appling, Nnanna Egwu

The Morning Mix

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Thursday was a fun night. A handful of teams threw away games with poor execution down the stretch. Niagara on the other hand, capitalized not one, not two but four times.

Let’s hit the links.

Friday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – Yale @ Harvard
7:00 p.m. – Rider @ Fairfield
7:00 p.m. – Manhattan @ Siena
8:05 p.m. – Milwaukee @ Valparaiso
9:00 p.m. – Youngstown State @ Detroit
 
 
Top Stories:
VIDEO: Middle Tennessee State survives on buzzer-beating lob: The Blue Raiders got a big road win at Florida International thanks to a well-executed out-of-bounds play at the buzzer.

Investigator questions Mark Emmert, NCAA’s look into enforcement: The NCAA has completely botched the Nevin Shapiro case at Miami, and NCAA investigators are questioning Mark Emmert’s motives.

Is Georgetown better off without Greg Whittington? Yes and no: Since Georgetown’s Greg Whittington was declared academically ineligible, the Hoyas have bounced back from an 0-2 Big East start and are now 5-3. John Thompson III has made two significant changes that have helped the hows produce without their second leading scorer.

Saint Louis forces 23 turnovers in 75-58 win over No. 9 Butler: A stingy Billiken defense took advantage of the Bulldogs’ sloppy ball control. When Saint Louis’ defense is on their game, there as good as it gets.

Tonight we saw the Keith Appling Michigan State needs every night: The fiery guard led a strong second half comeback at the Breslin Center, to knock off the Illini 80-75. The Spartans used a 24-6 second half run to storm back, and eventually take the lead, which they would not relinquish.

Niagara strengthens grip on first place with wild 93-90 overtime victory over Iona: The game of the night was in the MAAC, as Juan’ya Green hit a three pointer with less than a second left to give the Purple Eagles a thrilling win.

Blessing in disguise: A redshirt season allowed Jahii Carson, Ben McLemore to thrive: Arizona State’s Jahii Carson and Kansas’ Ben McLemore are having two of the best freshman seasons in the country. Both players benefited from having to sit out last year and learn the ropes. Their difficult redshirt years look to be paying off in 2013.

Doug McDermott, Cody Zeller among 12 on Oscar Robertson Award midseason watch list: The United States Basketball Writers Association released their mid-season watch list for the Oscar Roberston Player of the Year Award. All the likely candidates made it, with very few, if any, omissions.

Three UCLA freshmen among 12 on midseason Wayman Tisdale Award watch list: The USBWA also released their mid-season watch list for the Freshman of the Year. The list is headlined by a trio of UCLA rookies, a duo of Wolverines, and a bunch of talented young freshman. There were some notable snubs, such as St. John’s JaKarr Sampson, Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon and Xavier’s Semaj Christon.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– New Mexico State forward Tyrone Watson has been suspended indefinitely due to his suspected involvement in a beating of a 19-year old New Mexico State student. (College Basketball Talk)

– Velton Jones, the top player for Robert Morris, went down early with a shoulder injury in the Colonials 71-61 loss to St. Francis. If Jones is out for an extended period of time, RMU could be in a spot of trouble. (Big Apple Buckets)

– UNC guard P.J. Hairston remains doubtful for the Tar Heels game against Virginia Tech this weekend. (Fayetteville Observer)

– Michigan State used a big second half run to secure a victory over Illinois. But the Spartans suffered two injuries in their backcourt. Both Gary HArris and Travis Trice suffered nagging injuries and did not return. (MLive.com)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– Sam Dekker is a freshman at Wisconsin. In two years, he is going to be a superstar. You’ve been warned. (Rush The Court)

– This is the first real reporting I’ve seen on this subject, and I had been questioning it months ago. I knew something was askew. But alas, I did nothing. But on Thursday, according to Deadspin (Of course) a lawsuit claims that the former athletic director and assistant basketball coach at Detroit had an ongoing affair. In October, the two resigned from their posts within hours of each other. Then another assistant coach, Carlos Briggs, was fired the next day. If you followed The Morning Mix on November 1st, November 3rd, and December 7th, you’d be all over this. (Deadspin)

– A nice preview on the big Big-5 tilt this weekend between Temple and St. Joe’s, two teams both struggling to find consistency. (PhilaHoops.com)

– Indiana State is hoping that a solid BracketBusters opponent will help them boost their ever-growing resume. The Sycamores are hoping to be the third Missouri Valley Conference team to make the tournament. It’s expected that both Creighton and Wichita State will earn automatic bids. (ESPN)

– Jeff Borzello covers a lot of ground in his “Recruiting Rodeo”, including the Class of 2013 players that could end up being “busts”. (Eye on College Basketball)

– ESPN raised a record $1.6 million during Jimmy-V Week back in late November. (Yahoo Sports)

– A psychedelic psychoanalysis of Kentucky’s Alex Poythress, with the soothing sounds of The Alan Parsons Project. (A Sea of Blue)
 
 
Video(s) of the Day:
NC-State sharpshooter Scott Wood hit a pretty nifty trick shot yesterday. But hey buddy, if you want to get famous, you have to do more than one. Nobody wants to watch just one trick shot. (Backing The Pack)


 
Dunk(s) of the Day:
Adreian Payne with a Payneful ally-oop. Payneful. Yeah I know, not somemy best work. (Run The Floor)


 
 
Do you like the new Morning Mix? Hate it? Have a suggestion or want something featured? Troy Machir will take all your praise, insults and inquiries via Twitter (@TroyMachir)

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.