Michigan v Michigan State

Health issues finally catch up to No. 3 Michigan State in loss to No. 21 Michigan

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No. 3 Michigan State has been banged up all season long.

Gary Harris has missed time with an ankle injury. Matt Costello and Travis Trice have been sick enough that they had to sit out games. Keith Appling has dealt with nagging injuries that were painful enough to visually affect him during games but not bad enough to keep him out of the lineup.

That’s all in the past. Now? The Spartans are without Adreian Payne, who missed his fifth straight game on Saturday with a sprained right foot, and Branden Dawson, who missed his first game as he tries to get his broken hand healed.

That’s a lot to overcome when you’re going up against the hottest team in the country, and for the first time since November, those injuries finally cost the Spartans. No. 21 Michigan went into the Breslin Center and picked up their ninth straight win, beating Michigan State 80-75 on the strength of a combined 55 points and 11 assists from Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton.

It was the third straight game that the Wolverines have beaten a top ten opponent. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time that happened was in 1987.

Think about that for a second.

For all the injuries and illnesses that the Spartans have had to deal with this season, this was the first time since November that it has actually cost them. And for that to happen, the Spartans had to face a team putting together a win streak the likes of which we haven’t seen in 27 years while they’re down two starters.

Michigan has taken over the top spot in the Big Ten standings, and deservedly so.

But as long as the Spartans can get healthy, they have done nothing to convince us that they are anything other than a national title favorite.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.