Iowa State v Kansas

Bench players break out as Jayhawks take Big 12 tourney crown


Ben McLemore was quiet in the Big 12 title game, scoring just five points, but the Jayhawks won it just the same, 70-54 over Kansas State, and another freshman played a big role.

It’s tough for a big man to step on campus as a freshman and dominate. For Perry Ellis, that was certainly true. The new guy from Wichita had a 15 point game against Southeast Missouri State in early November, then proceeded to have an erratic up-and-down campaign off the bench over the next 31 games, logging mostly single-digit appearances.

But he was learning all along. Clearly, because Ellis has exploded in the Big 12 tournament, putting up 23 to help Kansas defeat a tough Iowa State team in the semifinals, and following that up with a 12 point, 6 rebound effort to help Kansas claim the Big 12 auto-bid in a third matchup with Sunflower State arch-rival Kansas State.

The Jayhawks spent much of this season riding freshman shooter Ben McLemore, but it may be the timely emergence of Ellis – a bruising 225-lb. forward – that gets them back on track to reach the Final Four for the second straight season. Having a third forward who can steal minutes behind lanky big men Jeff Withey (17 points, 9 boards in the final) and Kevin Young (9 points, 10 rebounds) gives Bill Self another wrinkle to throw at Big Dance opponents.

Ellis wasn’t the only player to give Kansas fans hope in the final Big Dance tuneup. Backup point guard Naadir Tharpe put up 12 points of his own, all from behind the arc on a 4-6 deep shooting spree.

With other top teams falling early in their conference tournaments, Kansas may have played their way back onto the No. 1 seed line. Whether they have or not, the emergence of KU’s backup studs has made them a very dangerous team at just the right time.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

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.