William Mary Wichita St Basketball

Slow-starting Shockers find a way to win again as they top Tennessee

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Wichita State has trailed at halftime during six of its 10 games this season and — once again — trailing Tennessee at halftime, the No. 12 Shockers never wavered in coming from behind for a 70-62 win at the Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita.

Wichita State improved to a school-record 10-0 on the season and although the Shockers seem to have a hard time getting off to a quick start, the only thing that should matter is the way they’re finishing games. Despite sophomore Ron Baker’s sprained ankle, the Shockers beat a tough Tennessee team by limiting them on the glass and on the interior.

Baker only had eight points, but he helped contribute to an overall Wichita State defensive and rebounding effort that held Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes to a combined 6-for-15 shooting for 17 points and 13 rebounds. Although senior Jordan McRae went for 26, Tennessee simply didn’t have scoring help around McRae, as Stokes and Maymon put up a combined stat-line that a single one of them could achieve in some games while Josh Richardson struggled to 2-for-8 shooting as the only other Vol to attempt more than four field goal tries.

With Baker — the Shockers’ leading scorer — only producing eight points, Tekele Cotton picked up the scoring slack, scoring all 19 of his points in the second half, and also made a few game-changing plays in the final 10 minutes.

After a Jarnell Stokes three-point play put Tennessee ahead 44-41 with under 10 minutes remaining, it looked liked Tennessee might get their junior interior force going and begin to pull away.

But following the Stokes three-point play, Cotton made two free throws, blocked a Jeronne Maymon shot off the glass on the ensuing Tennessee possession and followed that Wichita State rebound up with a three-point play through traffic as the Shockers quickly recovered the lead at 46-44 and never trailed again.

Cleanthony Early also didn’t play his best today, scoring 13 points, but only shooting 6-for-15 and 1-for-6 from the three-point line while grabbing two rebounds and showing some poor basketball IQ at times with rushed shot selection and reckless drives that nearly caused turnovers.

Wichita State should be pleased with the development of junior college transfer forward Darius Carter off-the-bench though, as the 6-foot-7 junior registered his first double-double of the season at 11 points and 14 rebounds.

The Shockers aren’t as deep as last season’s Final Four team, but they are getting key performances from different guys in different games and finding ways to win down the stretch as they appear to be plenty balanced this season as well.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.