Kenny Kadji, Milton Jennings

No. 3 Miami survives despite Clemson neutralizing Shane Larkin

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Offensively the game between No. 3 Miami and Clemson was not one that the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will request a recording of anytime soon. But all that matters is the result, and with the 45-43 victory the Hurricanes move to 12-0 in ACC play (21-3 overall).

Kenny Kadji hit a three-pointer with 36 seconds remaining gave Miami the lead for good, and they survived after Clemson missed two attempts at the tie in the final seconds. Kadji was the lone Hurricane to reach double figures, finishing with 12 points, and as a team Miami shot just 34.6% from the field.

The question to be asked in the aftermath of this close call: is there anything that future opponents can take and apply to their own game plans?

The one obvious answer, which has hung over Miami throughout ACC play but hasn’t been carried out with much success before Sunday night: neutralize point guard Shane Larkin.

Larkin finished the game with seven points (2-of-8 FG), three assists and three turnovers with Clemson’s ball-screen defense playing a role in his struggles. Brad Brownell’s big men didn’t switch but they hedged just enough to prevent Larkin from turning the corner, giving guards Rod Hall and Jordan Roper the time needed to get back in position to defend him.

When Larkin’s able to turn the corner in those scenarios shots open up for Trey McKinney-Jones and Durand Scott, who combined to score nine points on 3-of-13 shooting. With those three and a big man in Kadji who has range out to the NBA three-point line Miami can be lethal in ball-screen situations. Clemson limited Miami’s opportunities and thus had a chance to pull off the upset, leading by four with less than two minutes remaining.

But due to their own offensive struggles (30.4% shooting) the Tigers were unable to gain the separation needed, leaving the door open for Miami to pull off the victory. And as veteran teams tend to do the Hurricanes took advantage of the opportunity.

Clemson’s defensive performance could provide the remaining six opponents on Miami’s regular season schedule with a blueprint on how to beat the Hurricanes, but it isn’t as if the need to slow down Larkin was a secret before Sunday (Boston College did so and lost by one in Chestnut Hill, for example).

Knowing what needs to be done and actually carrying out the game plan are two entirely different things. And even if an opponent successfully slows down Larkin, Miami has shown itself capable of winning anyway.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady ‘awake, alert’ after getting stretchered off court

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Wichita State big man Anton Grady was stretchered off of the floor in the second half of a loss to Alabama after a nasty collision with Dazon Ingram.

The video can be seen above. There was nothing malicious about the way that Grady was injured. When he turned to run up the floor after missing a shot in the lane, he went face first into Ingram’s shoulder. He neck bent in an awkward directions and, after stumbling a few steps, he laid motionless on the floor.

It took 10 minutes for the training staff to strap Grady to a backboard and wheel him out of the arena.

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A Wichita State spokesman told that Grady was taken to a local trauma center for evaluation and that he is “awake, alert and is answering questions appropriately”.

We will have more updates as they come available.

From a basketball perspective, the No. 20 Shockers lost their second game in a row and are now 2-3 on the season.

While for some the Shockers’ résumé is up for questioning following losses to USC and Alabama, two teams projected to finish in the bottom half of their respective leagues, the team’s health is the biggest concern.

Fred VanVleet has been dealing with a hamstring issue since the season began, and an ankle injury limited him in a loss at Tulsa earlier this month. He won’t play again until at least Dec. 5th. and who knows when he’ll be back to full strength. The same can be said for back up point guard and freshman Landry Shamet, who underwent surgery to address a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. Their injuries have led to even more being asked of senior guard Ron Baker, and the loss of Grady for any significant amount of time certainly isn’t going to help matters..

These early-season losses won’t help Wichita State when it comes to the NCAA tournament, but it’s important to make note of the circumstances surrounding those defeats. To be shorthanded, with one of the absent players ranking among the nation’s best point guards, has an impact that has to be accounted for when evaluating Wichita State. The Shockers will add Conner Frankamp in mid-December, which will help them on the perimeter.

But with their rotation currently being in flux, it’s tough to make any definitive statements on what Wichita State will have to do in order to make another trip to the NCAA tournament. At this point Gregg Marshall and his staff will look for other contributors, one of whom being Markis McDuffie (14 points, seven rebounds vs. Alabama), to emerge and show themselves capable of picking up the slack.