Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis stand out in No. 6 Kansas’ win over Iowa State

Leave a comment

Andrew Wiggins’ performance on Saturday night against TCU was seen as a step forward and rightfully so, despite the fact that the Horned Frogs have yet to win a game in Big 12 play. In scoring his then-career high 27 points Wiggins played with the assertiveness that many have been clamoring for, refusing to simply settle for what was being given to him by the defense and attacking in his quest to score points and put his teammates in position to be successful as well.

However as noted, that was TCU. The next test was to see what Wiggins would be able to do for an encore, and with No. 16 Iowa State visiting Lawrence the Cyclones represented a far more formidable opponent. And Wiggins rose to the occasion, establishing a new career-high by scoring 29 points on 10-for-16 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds to lead the 6th-ranked Jayhawks to the 92-81 victory.

The field goal percentage may be the biggest thing to take out of these last two games when it comes to Wiggins’ progression, as he’s shot 62.1% from the field in Kansas’ last two games after shooting just 39.3% in the three games prior. Not only has Wiggins been more aggressive but he’s also performed well when it comes to where he’s getting his shot attempts, and with that being the case things have opened up for some of his teammates as well.

On Wednesday night one of those teammates was Perry Ellis, who scored 20 points and grabbed six rebounds with 15 of those points coming in the first half. With the amount of attention teams will devote to Wiggins and Joel Embiid there will be opportunities for others to step up provided they’re ready to take advantage. Ellis was aggressive in the first half, and his play was a key reason as to why the Jayhawks led at the intermission in spite of the Cyclones shooting 53.3% from the field.

By the end of the night all five starters scored in double figures, with Embiid also accounting for 11 rebounds and Naadir Tharpe dishing out 12 assists with just one turnover (which was a traveling violation). The Jayhawks have now won seven straight games, and their willingness to share the ball (20 assists on 32 made field goals against Iowa State) has resulted in improved offensive execution.

Up two games in the loss column over Oklahoma (who they’ve already beaten) and Texas, Kansas can further strengthen their grip on the Big 12 with a win at Texas on Saturday. Given the way Wiggins and his teammates have been playing not only are the Jayhawks shaping up to be the class of the conference, but they’re also developing into one of the favorites to win the national title.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
Leave a comment

Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.