Keith Appling

Keith Appling injures shoulder as No. 8 Michigan State beats No. 18 Minnesota

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With the Michigan State backcourt already thinned out by injury, the Spartans needed freshman Gary Harris in the lineup Wednesday against No. 18 Minnesota.

Though at times visibly in pain from back spasms, Harris fought to score 15 key points, including a big layup plus the foul with 1:35 remaining to lift No. 8 Michigan State to a 61-50 win over the Gophers at Breslin Center in Lansing, Mich.

Harris also finished 4-of-8 from three-point range, but the biggest concern came with under a minute to go when starting point guard and captain Keith Appling went down in pain with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. He was taken to the locker room, but returned to the bench a short time later.

He did not re-enter the game and an update on the extent of his injury will be provided as it becomes available. He finished with 14 points and three assists.

In the first half, Minnesota was cold from the floor and fell behind, 13-6, with 10:07 to play after a three-pointer from Michigan State Harris.

But at that juncture, Tubby Smith and the Gophers switched to a zone defense that kept Michigan State at bay and sparked a 14-5 run to end the half.

Minnesota’s Rodney Williams’ personal 5-0 run started the Gophers on the right track, punctuated by a Joe Coleman three-pointer with 0:03 before the break to cap the comeback.

Michigan State shot just 24 percent from the floor in the first half and was unable to work the inside game with Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix. The two combined to shoot 0-of-6 from the floor in the first and were scoreless.

Without an inside presence, guards Harris and Appling were able to pace the Spartans in the first with  six points each.

Coming out in the second half, the Spartans once again focused on the perimeter.

Harris and Appling hit back-to-back threes to give Michigan State its first lead of the second half, 26-25, with 16:51 to play.

Midway through the half, Payne left the game with a bloody nose after taking an inadvertent elbow to the face.

In his absence, Branden Dawson came alive after a slow first half. He finished with seven points and three steals. Dribble penetration created open shots on the perimeter, with the Spartans shooting 9-of-18 from deep on the game.

Minnesota was able to stay in the game by dominating on the backboards, 36-27. Payne returned to the floor and became the focus down the stretch on the interior and the Gophers had no answer. He finished with 11 points, including a 7-of-8 mark from the free throw line to seal the game in the final minutes.

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

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.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: