Memphis v Michigan State

Eliminating turnovers, more Keith Appling go hand-in-hand for Michigan State

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Gary Harris scored 23 points and hit a series of big jumper for the Spartans. Adreian Payne once again boosted his NBA Draft stock with 14 points, 10 boards, five blocks and a few absurdly athletic plays for a 6-foot-11 center with three-point range. Derrick Nix chipped in with 13 points and eight boards while Denzel Valentine posted nine points, six boards and six assists while committing just a single turnover.

Put it all together, and what you get is a 70-48 win for No. 3 seed Michigan State as they advance past No. 6 Memphis and into the Sweet 16.

The Tigers made a run late in the first half, using a triangle-and-two defense to trim a 13 point Spartan lead to 32-29 at the half. Take away that 16-6 surge, and Memphis was utterly and completely dominated by Michigan State. It wasn’t much of a game, to be frank.

And the scary part?

The Spartans did it without much from starting point guard Keith Appling. Appling finished with two points on 1-4 shooting with just two assists and two turnovers in 28 minutes before leaving the game with a shoulder injury. (It’s not thought to be too serious, as he was reportedly available to return.) He was a non-factor, plain and simple, and that’s usually not a good thing for the Spartans. They survived today because their offense was clicking, their defense was overwhelming and Memphis was simply outclassed. But I’ll tell you this much — Duke, Louisville and St. Louis also inhabit the Midwest Region, and they may not be as kind to the Spartans as Memphis was.

And here’s the thing about the Spartans: it’s not necessarily the scoring that Michigan State needs out of Appling. They have other guys that can get them points, especially on the nights when their front line is in full-fledged beast mode as it was tonight. What Appling provides is a steadying — relatively — hand as a ballhandler and ability as a creator.

Michigan State had 18 turnovers on Saturday, coughing the ball up on 27.6% of their possessions. This isn’t an isolated issue, either. They rank 222nd in the country in turnover percentage. And this came on a night when their worst offender — Valentine — happened to have six assists and just a single turnover.

Appling is the only player on the Michigan State roster with an assist rate higher than his turnover rate. They need him — and they need him healthy — simply because he’s the least likely to turn the ball over.

They won’t be making the Final Four if they turn the ball over 18 times against Louisville, Duke, St. Louis or even Creighton.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

VIDEO: Kentucky’s ‘Dancing Guy’ has scary fall while carrying girl

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Kentucky’s ‘Dancing Guy’ has turned into a fan favorite at Rupp Arena.

Every home game, during one of the TV timeouts in the second half, ‘Mony Mony’ will come on, Dancing Guy will hop into the aisle and he’ll break it down like only a middle-aged white guy from Kentucky can.

As you can see, it didn’t quite go all that well for Dancing Guy on Tuesday night, as he tried to do a rail slide while holding a young, female fan and completely ate it.

Here’s another angle of the fall:

It looks much scarier that it actually was, as all reports indicate that everyone made it through the fall healthy.

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.