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: Marquette’s Henry Ellenson shows off his versatility

Marquette's Henry Ellenson is fouled by Providence's Ben Bentil as he drives to the basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)
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I’m on record saying that I would consider Marquette freshman Henry Ellenson if I had the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft, and while, at this point, I think that Brandon Ingram is probably going to end up going No. 2 — (Maybe No. 1???) — I still believe that Ellenson is going to be one of the best players from this draft class.

Why?

Well, just take a look at these highlights from the 26-point, 16-rebound performance he had in a win over Providence last night.

Then remember that Ellenson is 6-foot-11:

POSTERIZED: Pensacola State’s Jamal Thomas dunks through block attempt, makes coach go nuts

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A solid poster dunk went down in the junior college ranks last night as Pensacola State sophomore Jamal Thomas finished a dunk through a block attempt against Northwest Florida State.

The 6-foot-3 Thomas used his power and momentum to go through the opposing shot blocker and the play made his head coach, Pete Pena, go nuts with an over-exaggerated fist pump. The video is short, but be sure to watch for Pena’s reaction near the logo at the top right of the screen.