Game of the Day: No. 8 Michigan State 75, No. 4 Michigan 52
In a crowded Big Ten race, Michigan State is starting to prove its worth. Granted, it caught Michigan at the end of a long stretch of tough conference games, but the Spartans were firing on all cylinders Tuesday. The inside game was working with Derrick Nix. The outside game was working with Gary Harris. The defense was disrupting Michigan’s array of offensive weapons.
Michigan State can win games in a number of ways, showing another unique way Tuesday night. I’m not saying Michigan is no longer an elite team, but Michigan State proved that the Wolverines need to improve that interior play before the NCAA tournament rolls around.
Florida was in cruise control for much of this one, though Kentucky looked like they had chances to make a comeback. The biggest story and really the only story considering both of these teams will likely be in the NCAA tournament, is the health of Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel. He left the game with what appeared to be a pretty serious knee injury. For the sake of the Wildcats and his NBA future, hopefully it is only minor.
Virginia could not suffer a letdown win Tuesday and they avoided such a scenario. With road games at UNC and Miami coming up, this win over the Hokies scores another victory in a key category: winning games at home in which you are favored. The Cavaliers are now 8-3 in conference play.
The Missouri Valley race is a wild one. Wichita State lost three in a row before bouncing back against Indiana State. Creighton has lost two games in a row. Now, Indiana State, poised to have taken at least a share of the lead in the MVC race Tuesday, could not capitalize. Jake Odum did all he could with 21 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists, but it was not enough.
1. Gary Harris, Michigan State (17 points, 5-of-9 3pt FG, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals)
While still battling through back spasms, Harris was a key engine for Michigan State in its win over Michigan. The Spartans are looking like a serious contender not only in the Big Ten, but in March as we move forward.
2. Joe Harris, Virginia (26 points, 7-of-12 FG, 5-of-7 3pt FG)
Harris has hit the 20-point mark in four of the last five games and, fittingly enough, the Cavaliers are 4-1 when he reaches that scoring total. He was 5-of-7 from three-point range and helped Virginia keeps its NCAA tournament hopes alive. At 8-3 in the ACC, the Cavaliers are now solidly in third place in the ACC.
3. Patric Young, Florida (12 points, 5-of-7 FG, 11 rebounds)
Without Will Yeguete in the lineup due to injury, Young had to step up on the interior and did so with a big double-double in a blowout win. He will only become more important as we come down the home stretch of conference play.
1. Tim Hardaway, Jr., Michigan (2 points, 1-of-11 FG, 0-of-5 3pt FG)
The Michigan offense was stagnant against an active Michigan State defensive attack and Hardaway, Jr. fell victim to it as well. He never found his groove from the field and, alongside Glenn Robinson III, who also struggled.
2. Ryan Harrow, Kentucky (0 points, 0-of-3 FG, 2 TOs)
One key element that has been missing from the Kentucky offense this season is reliable point guard play. Part of the reason the Wildcats slumped against Florida Tuesday was because Harrow struggled and was unable to spark much on the offensive end.
3. Derek Needham, Fairfield (5 points, 1-of-10 FG, 6 TOs)
Fairfield trailed by 21 points at halftime and a lack of production from the team’s leading scorer did not help matters.