Minnesota v Michigan State

No. 5 Michigan State, without Adreian Payne, survives in overtime

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Health and Michigan State just haven’t belonged in the same sentence this season.

The Spartans have been banged up all year long, with the latest injury issue being the sprained foot on top of plantar fasciitis that All-American caliber center Adreian Payne has been dealing with this week.

Payne didn’t play as Minnesota came to visit on Saturday, and Michigan State sure could’ve used him, especially early on. The Gophers were on fire early, hitting seven first half threes and building a lead that reached double-figures in the final minutes of the period.

But Michigan State woke up late, riding the coattails of Gary Harris and Keith Appling — who combined for 43 points and six assists — to an 86-75 win in overtime. Kenny Kaminski provided a huge spark off the bench in Payne’s absence, hitting five threes and scoring 15 points. Minnesota always plays Michigan State tough, and winning any game in conference play when you’re short-handed is a good win.

It’s tough to argue here if you’re Tom Izzo or Michigan State.

But I will say this: this is the second straight game that the Spartans were unable to put away down the stretch, both of which came at home. They blew a 17-point lead to Ohio State in the final seven minutes on Tuesday night, a game where they turned the ball over nine times during that stretch. Against Minnesota, the Spartans were up six with 2:41 left in regulation. They were still up five with 22 seconds left and likely would have avoided overtime had Gary Harris not gone 0-for-2 from the foul line with 12 seconds left.

I still think that Michigan State is the best team in the country not named Arizona, but that doesn’t mean that this is a comforting trend.

Bill Self on Cheick Diallo: ‘It may be a couple of more weeks’

2015 McDonald's All American Game
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Cheick Diallo is currently practicing with Kansas, but his eligibility still remains in question.

On Monday, Kansas head coach Bill Self appeared on “The Border Patrol” on WHB-AM 810 and was asked to update the status of his freshman big man.

“He’s been cleared to practice,” Self told hosts Steven St. John and Nate Bukaty. “(His status) is depending on what they find throughout from the information we submit to them whenever we get it all together.

“A lot of people think, ‘Well, why wouldn’t it all be together?’ Well there’s a lot of reasons why. It’s because they told us recently some things that they just wanted. Instead of just throwing it to them piece by piece, they requested we to just submit it all together, so it may be a couple of more weeks before we’re able to submit everything when you’re talking about getting information from schools in Mali and everything like that.

“But we hope in two weeks, maybe three weeks, before we have a definite answer. But right now, Cheick is like everybody else. He’s practicing.”

Diallo, a 6-foot-9 forward from Mali is allowed to practice with the Jayhawks, but has been waiting to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center despite enrolling in classes over the summer and earning six credits. Self anticipated this would be a long process, but has remained confident Diallo, the top-5 recruit in Class of 2015, will eventually be cleared to play this season.

For three years, Diallo attended Our Savior New American School in Centereach, New York, which is currently under NCAA review. In September, Pitt freshman Damon Wilson, Diallo’s teammate at OSNA, was cleared to play.

Kansas opens the season on Nov. 13 against Northern Colorado.

Albany’s Peter Hooley accepts Inspiration Award

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Last week, Albany senior Peter Hooley accepted the Inspiration Award at the Coaches vs Cancer Basket Ball in Troy, New York. The Albany athletic department uploaded his entire speech on Monday afternoon.

Hooley had one of the most uplifting moments of March after months and months of heartache.

The junior guard missed three weeks of the season to travel back home to Australia to be with his mother, who was battling colon cancer. She passed away in January. Hooley returned to the team in February and the following month, the Great Danes had a shot at an NCAA tournament berth. In the America East Tournament championship, Hooley sunk a game-winning shot with 1.6 seconds to go.

Hooley, who graduated in May, was selected to give the commencement speech.