Ohio State v Marquette

Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson lead No. 10 Ohio State to a win over No. 17 Marquette

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In a season that’s been defined by an excess of fouls that stems from an effort to increase the amount of scoring that we see on a nightly basis in college hoops, it was somewhat refreshing to see a good old-fashioned defensive slug-fest on Saturday afternoon.

No. 10 Ohio State held No. 17 Marquette to 18.9% (10-53) shooting from the floor, a 1-for-18 performance from three and forced 20 turnovers en route to a 52-35 demolition of the Golden Eagles in Milwaukee. The final score simply does not do justice to the level of dominance portrayed by Thad Matta’s club in the final 20 minutes. Marquette went 12 minutes without a field goal in the second half, which is not a good way to go about getting a win.

Much of that can be pinned on Marquette, as they got a ton of minutes out of Derrick Wilson and Jake Thomas, two role-playing guards that don’t provide much of an offensive threat. That forced the Golden Eagles to rely on the unreliable Todd Mayo for a perimeter scoring punch. Mayo went 3-for-15 from the floor and played an all-around horrendous offensive game.

Why didn’t Buzz Williams give more minutes to his talented freshmen class? JuJuan Johnson and John Dawson didn’t see the floor. Deonte Burton barely got off the bench.

But credit must be given where credit is due, and there is no way around the fact that the Buckeyes simply played suffocating defense. That should not come as a surprise to you, either. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are two of the best perimeter defenders in the country. There’s simply no disputing that fact. Lenzelle Smith certainly is no slouch on the defensive side of the ball, and Sam Thompson’s length and athleticism will give opposing wings nightmares.

We expected this, however. We knew heading into the season that the Buckeyes were going to be able to play stifling defense. The question marks were on the offensive end of the floor, and based on what we saw out of this group this afternoon, Ohio State fans should feel quite confident.

When Ohio State took over in the second half, it was because Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson, and to a lesser extent Aaron Craft, got it going offensively. Scott provided the spark with a couple of buckets in transition before finding a few lanes to penetrate in Marquette’s halfcourt defense. Thompson continued the run with a series of perimeter jumpers and baskets slashing to the paint. Craft was typical Aaron Craft, finishing with 10 points and 10 assists to go along with seven rebounds.

All told, Scott, Thompson and Craft finished with 38 points and 14 assists while shooting 15-for-31 from the field. It’s not overwhelming offensive production, but it’s good enough given Ohio State’s ability on the defensive end of the floor. It becomes all the more impressive when you consider that: A) Marquette is traditionally a tough, physical defensive teams; B) the games was played at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee; and C) it came in a game where LaQuinton Ross, the guy that was supposed to be the replacement for Deshaun Thomas offensively, went scoreless on six shots from the floor.

There is no part of me that doubts the fact that Buzz Williams will get his team turned around. I don’t question the fact that the Golden Eagles will be a top 20 team by the end of the season, even if they are a ways away from that level right now.

But regardless of that fact, it’s inarguable that Ohio State looked every bit the part of a legitimate Big Ten title contender on Saturday.

WEEKLY AWARDS: Denzel Valentine’s big week, Kansas makes a statement

Denzel Valentine
(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

In the title game of the Wooden Legacy, a game that was billed as a matchup between the two best players in college basketball — Valentine and Kris Dunn — Valentine was downright bad …

… by his standards. He finished with “just” 17 points, six assists and five boards. I say “just” because, in the previous two games of the tournament, the Spartan superstar averaged 30.5 points, 10.0 boards and 8.0 assists. He’s been, hands down, the best player in college basketball this season, and that didn’t change this week.


  • Ben Bentil, Providence: Kris Dunn is the guy that is going to get all the national praise, but it was Bentil’s emergence that was critical for the Friars. He averaged 21.7 points and 6.0 boards in three games in the Wooden Legacy, carrying PC when Dunn was battling foul issues.
  • Wayne Selden, Kansas: The highlight of Selden’s week was scoring 25 points on 8-for-11 shooting in the Maui title game win over No. 19 Vanderbilt. For the week, he averaged 19.3 points and shot 12-for-17 from three.
  • Justin Robinson, Monmouth: Robinson averaged 25.7 points in three games for Monmouth at the Advocare Invitational. The Hawks beat No. 17 Notre Dame and USC in the process, only losing to Dayton by three.
  • Justin Jackson, North Carolina: Remember when Justin Jackson was struggling? He averaged 21.5 points, 9.0 boards and 5.0 assists in wins over Northwestern and Kansas State. That came on the heels of a 25-point performance in the loss at Northern Iowa.
  • Henry Ellenson, Marquette: Ellenson notched three straight double-doubles for the Golden Eagles this week, which included 16 points and 11 boards in a win over Ben Simmons and LSU.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas headed out to Maui as a team that many weren’t really sure what to make of. They looked good against Michigan State for 30 minutes, then they blew that game as Denzel Valentine went bananas. They had as much depth as anyone in the country, but Brannen Greene was suspended, Cheick Diallo was ineligible and Wayne Selden was the most notable of a handful of talented players that had been somewhere between inconsistent and ineffective this year.

That all changed in Maui — well, other than Greene’s suspension — as Kansas rolled over Chaminade, UCLA and Vanderbilt to bring home the tournament title. Blowing out Chaminade was to be expected. But beating down a talented UCLA team? Dominating a very good Vanderbilt squad? That’s the Kansas we’ve been hoping to see show up for a few years now. The question is whether or not it’s sustainable, and at least on paper, it appears to be. Selden’s shooting percentages will come back to earth, but his raw numbers are less important than his confidence and aggressiveness. Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham are going to continue to take pressure off of each other in the back court. Perry Ellis isn’t going anywhere.

I questioned whether or not Kansas was truly one of the nation’s elite when the season started. I think they answered that question for me.


  • Xavier: The Musketeers not only won the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, they blew out in-state — and former Atlantic 10 — rival Dayton in the finals.
  • Syracuse: The Orange are going to be a factor in the ACC this season. How much? I don’t know. But after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis by knocking off No. 18 UConn and No. 25 Texas A&M, it’s clear they’re going to be involved all season.
  • Northeastern: The Huskies picked up a road win against No. 15 Miami on this buzzer-beating jumper.
  • Arkansas-Little Rock: The Trojans picked up their second huge road win of the year, going into Tulsa and knocking off the Golden Hurricane. They’re now 5-0 on the season, having also won at SDSU.
  • Tournament winners: West Virginia knocked off Richmond and San Diego State to bring home the Las Vegas Invitational title, No. 24 Cincinnati beat Nebraska and George Washington in the Barclays Center Classic and Marquette knocked off LSU and Arizona State to win the Legends Classic.


Tuesday: No. 2 Maryland at No. 9 North Carolina, 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday: Butler at No. 24 Cincinnati, 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday: Louisville at No. 3 Michigan State, 7:15 p.m.
Wednesday: No. 13 Indiana at No. 6 Duke, 9:15 p.m.
Saturday: No. 11 Arizona at No. 10 Gonzaga, 3:15 p.m.

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.