Fran Dunphy

Balanced effort in win over Big 5 rival La Salle bodes well for Temple

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Fran Dunphy’s Temple Owls have been a tough team to figure out for much of the season. Capable of beating almost any team in the country, as evidenced by their win over then-No. 3 Syracuse back in December, the Owls have also lost to Duquesne.

With a share of the Big 5 title on the line Thursday night “good Temple” showed up, as the Owls took care of La Salle by the final score of 82-74 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final margin would indicate.

The best thing about the victory for Temple with an eye towards the Atlantic 10 and NCAA tournaments (should they be selected for the latter): the victory didn’t require a Herculean effort from Khalif Wyatt.

Wyatt, one of the best guards in the Atlantic 10, finished with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists but he also turned the ball over six times. Those miscues didn’t hurt Temple however, thanks to the play of Wyatt’s teammates.

Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson played the best game of his college career, establishing career highs in both points (23) and rebounds (18) while also dishing out five assists. And with Scootie Randall (15 points, ten rebounds) and Anthony Lee (ten points) also reaching double figures, Temple (25-of-43 on two-point shots) had more than enough options on the offensive end.

In each of Temple’s five games prior to Thursday Wyatt scored at least 20 points, with Temple going 3-2 and all five contests being decided by one-point margins. Not all of those games featured Wyatt carrying Temple with little help offensively, but getting consistent offense from the supporting cast has been an issue.

If Hollis-Jefferson and Randall, both of whom made La Salle pay for going small after the move initially got the Explorers back into a game they trailed by 19 at one point, can build on their performances tonight Temple will be a better team going forward.

Wyatt’s going to get his points but for Temple to be at their best the scoring load can’t rest solely on his shoulders. It didn’t on Thursday, and the result was a convincing victory over a city rival.

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

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.