Nerlens Noel

Nerlens Noel’s double-double helps Kentucky outlast Texas A&M in overtime


Blowing a nine-point halftime lead, letting a team creep back and force overtime, turning the ball over 18 times. It likely wasn’t exactly what Kentucky coach John Calipari wanted from his team Saturday against Texas A&M, but the Wildcats fought to stay in control and closed the door in the extra period, winning, 72-68, at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas.

Freshman Nerlens Noel, so important down the stretch in Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss earlier in the week, was key against Saturday evening, tallying a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds. Guard Julius Mays also had 19 points, including 4-of-6 shooting from three-point range.

On the final possession of regulation, Kentucky tried to double-team guard Elston Turner on the perimeter, but he was able to dribble through and hit a pull up from the right elbow that kissed off the front of the rim, popped in the air, and fell through.

Texas A&M never led, though they were able to tie the game three times, including Turner’s jumper to end regulation. That run erased a nine-point Kentucky lead at halftime.

In overtime, Kentucky made a more concerted effort to keep the ball out of Turner’s hands with more double teams. The result was a stagnant A&M offense, until Turner was able to hit a three with 2:07 to play to pull the Aggies within three, 69-66.

Kentucky, though, tightened up on defense on Texas A&M’s last possession to secure the victory. Turner was forced into a long three-pointer to tie the game, which rattled out and Kentucky came down with the rebound.

After an up-and-down non-conference season, Kentucky now moves to 6-2 in the SEC and 15-6 overall. The win likely pulls the Wildcats into a tie for second in the conference with Ole Miss, who was losing by double-digits late in the second half to Florida at the time of publication.

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

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.