atkins

Eric Atkins comes up big in Notre Dame’s overtime victory over Canisius

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With the announcement that leading scorer Jerian Grant was done for the season for academic reasons, it was clear that Notre Dame needed to figure out how they would account for the 19.0 points and 6.2 assists per game that the senior provided. Given Grant’s impact on both ends of the floor, this is not a situation in which the Fighting Irish simply “replace” him with one of their young bench players.

But in their tough 87-81 overtime victory over Canisius on Sunday afternoon, the way in which Notre Dame will account for that personnel loss was crystal clear.

Eric Atkins, who entered the game shooting just 39.8% from the field, played every second and accounted for a career-high 30 points (10-for-15 FG) and seven assists to lead the way for Notre Dame. He was joined in double figures by forwards Garrick Sherman (17 points, ten rebounds) and Zach Auguste (12 points, eight rebounds), and Notre Dame also received some valuable contributions from their newcomers.

Demetrius Jackson, who will be a key figure moving forward alongside Atkins and Pat Connaughton on the perimeter, V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia all provided valuable minutes against Canisius, with Billy Baron and company giving Notre Dame all it wanted and then some. That freshman trio may have combined for “just” 15 points, but if Notre Dame is to have any shot of getting to the NCAA tournament without Grant they’ll need to chip in.

On Sunday afternoon they did that, and as a result Notre Dame avoided what would have been a third home loss of the season with a game against No. 9 Duke next on the horizon.

But the most important development for Notre Dame moving forward is the play of Atkins, who was aggressive offensively in the team’s first game without Grant. With Grant on the floor Atkins attempted just six shots in Notre Dame’s stunning loss to No. 3 Ohio State last weekend, and it’s obvious that Mike Brey will need his point guard to be even more aggressive now that Grant’s gone.

Notre Dame’s done this before under Brey, with suspensions (Kyle McAlarney) and injuries (Scott Martin, Luke Harangody and Tim Abromaitis) simply resulting in the formation of a “new” team that still found a way to be successful. With those prior successes in mind, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to rule out Notre Dame this season.

Auburn suspends leading scorer Canty indefinitely

Auburn guard Kareem Canty (1) screams in pain after being fouled during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Auburn, Ala. Auburn won 75-70.  (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
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Prior to Auburn’s game at Georgia Saturday evening, head coach Bruce Pearl announced that leading scorer and starting point guard Kareem Canty has been suspended indefinitely.

Canty’s currently averaging 18.3 points per game and his abilities as a scorer and distributor have been key for the Tigers offensively. When Canty returns to the court remains to be seen, with Pearl noting that Canty may be able to return before the end of the season.

“Kareem has had some strong moments for our team this season,” Pearl said. “He has demonstrated that at the highest level of competition, he can win his matchup.

“However, his effort and attitude have been extremely inconsistent, which led to actions and behavior that are unacceptable. He will step away from the team for a while and may return later in the season. He is suspended indefinitely.”

According to the release Cinmeon Bowers will move into the starting lineup for Auburn, which is now 9-13 overall and 3-7 in SEC play. Auburn’s lost five straight and eight of their last ten games after losing by ten at Georgia Saturday night.

Without him more minutes are available to freshman New Williams, who played 22 minutes against Georgia. Bryce Brown started and played 18 minutes, with Devin Waddell playing 12 minutes off the bench.

Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis go crazy, No. 20 Kentucky beats Florida by 19

Kentucky's Jamal Murray (23) shoots near Missouri's Ryan Rosburg during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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Jamal Murray scored a career-high 35 points and became the first Kentucky player to hit eight threes in a game since 2010.

Tyler Ulis had 18 points and 11 assists.

As a result, No. 20 Kentucky bounced back Tuesday’s loss to Tennessee — when the Wildcats blew a 21-point lead — as they blew out a good Florida team, 80-61. The final score doesn’t really do the beat down justice, either. Kentucky was up 24-5 seven minutes into the game. The Gators, who look like they may end up being seeded as high as the No. 6 line on Selection Sunday, never had a chance.

If Kentucky was trying to prove a point, they did. I’m not sure if Murray and Ulis make up the nation’s best back court in college basketball, but on Saturday, they looked like the best back court in the entire world. They were awesome.

So awesome, in fact, that they were responsible for 64 of Kentucky’s 80 points tonight.

And that’s where this win can be a bit concerning.

Look, the issue with Kentucky is that they don’t get near enough production out of their front court, and if the knee injury that kept Alex Poythress out of the lineup on Saturday ends up being at all serious, than UK’s most productive big will be out of commission. On Saturday, Kentucky’s front court — minus Derek Willis, who is more of a wing that’s been slotted at the four — finished with a grand total of 10 points, 15 boards and 12 fouls.

That issue isn’t going away just because Ulis and Murray played an unbelievable game against one of the nation’s top five defenses, according to KenPom.com. You don’t buy a house with termites just because you love the way that it’s furnished.

But what this performance shows you is what Kentucky’s ceiling is, what they are capable of on the night’s when their two stars play like stars.

If they get hot at the right time, they can beat anyone in March. Hell, this could be enough to carry them to the Elite 8, maybe further.

When those two can play that well in a season where there is no dominant team, you can’t really count anything out.

But it also means that Kentucky is capable of losing to anyone on any given night, and all it takes is one cold shooting night for Kentucky’s run in March to come to an early end.