Cody Zeller

Cody Zeller, No. 3 Indiana knock off No. 1 Michigan


It was billed as the Big Ten’s heavyweight title fight of the year and it did not disappoint.

Behind a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds from sophomore forward Cody Zeller, No. 3 Indiana outmuscled No. 1 Michigan down the stretch for an 81-73 victory Saturday night at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind.

Zeller and junior Victor Oladipo set the pace for Indiana on both the offensive and defensive ends. Oladipo’s energy was a catalyst and his impact was felt in more ways than just his 17 points and three rebounds.

Indiana had Assembly Hall on fire from the start, jumping out to a 28-13 lead with 10:13 to play in the first half.

The difference early was energy, with Indiana pushing the basketball and scoring with Oladipo, Zeller, and Christian Watford all contributing and getting the crowd at Assembly Hall to become a factor. Indiana coach Tom Crean was even vocal and visibly expressive in trying to rile up the fans in attendance.

But the same speed that allowed Indiana to get out to an early lead also allowed Michigan to get back into the game, once the Hoosiers sped up too much for their own good.

Indiana turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, almost negating an advantage in rebounding (+8 in 1st half) and shooting percentage (Indiana: 54 percent, Michigan: 40 percent).

While Glenn Robinson III struggled in the first half and Tim Hardaway, Jr., was relatively quiet, point guard Trey Burke carried the Wolverines in the first twenty minutes.

He was relentless in transition and pushed the pace to score 14 of his 25 points in the first half, including a key three-pointer at the close of the half to pull Michigan within four at the break. He would finish with his game-high 25 points on 9-of-24 shooting, while adding eight assists and five rebounds.

Coming out in the second half, Michigan worked to tie the game at 40 with 17:42 to play after three Nik Stauskas free throws.

But from that point, Indiana seized control.

The Hoosiers ripped off an 11-0 run over the next 3:14, capped by a Will Sheehey jumper with 14:27 to play to extend the lead to 51-40. During that stretch, Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr. picked up third foul and was forced to the bench. Despite sitting out for that stretch, he finished with 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting.

Michigan responded quickly with an 11-2 run of its own to pull back within two points, 53-51.

Indiana fought to take control again, never letting Michigan get within four points after the 7:13 mark. Two consecutive Zeller dunks and an Oladipo layup with a questionable “and-one” foul tacked on, extended the lead to seven and the Hoosiers never looked back.

This is the fifth time this season that the No. 1 team has fallen, following Indiana’s loss to Butler, Duke’s losses to both Miami and NC State, and Louisville’s loss to Syracuse.

Indiana now claims sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with a conference mark of 8-1, 20-2 overall. Michigan falls into a tie for second at 7-2 with No. 13 Michigan State and No. 11 Ohio State.

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

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

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Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.