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No. 21 Michigan uses late surge to beat No. 3 Michigan State

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During the last few days much had been made about the omission of Michigan guard Nik Stauskas from both the Wooden and Robertson award lists. Having raised his scoring average by some seven-plus points per game from last season, Stauskas has been the answer to who will grab the reins for the Wolverines offensively. That became even more important once Michigan lost Mitch McGary indefinitely due to a back injury, with Michigan needing to adjust to not having its’ most talented big man.

Since their two-point loss to current No. 1 Arizona the Wolverines haven’t lost, and on Saturday the picked up their ninth consecutive win in the form of a 80-75 victory at No. 3 Michigan State. Stauskas was his consistent self against the Spartans, scoring 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting despite some tough defense from Gary Harris for much of the night.

Stauskas, who’s averaged 18.7 points per game since Michigan lost McGary, has continued to be the leader for this group with options such as Caris LeVert also showing signs of improvement. But if any player’s performance against Michigan State is to be seen as a major step forward, it may be that of freshman guard Derrick Walton Jr.

Walton didn’t play much against Iowa due to a case of the flu but he played well in East Lansing, finishing the game with 19 points (4-for-6 FG, 9-for-10 FT), five rebounds, four assists and just one turnover. Prior to a quiet night in Michigan’s win over Wisconsin last Saturday Walton strung together three consecutive double-digit scoring games, and if he can build on his 19-point outing against Michigan State the Wolverines will be an even tougher team to slow down.

Saturday’s game was a matchup of team that have needed to make adjustments on the fly as they look to win the Big Ten and possibly a national title as well. Michigan’s made the needed adjustments, with Stauskas being the primary scoring option, LeVert stepping forward and veteran bigs Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan filling in for McGary.

But in order for Michigan to complete a journey that fell one win short last season they’re going to need Walton as well. Saturday night he was productive, proving to be one of the reasons why Michigan was able to pick up a big win on the road.

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.