Cincinnati v Louisville

No. 12 Louisville blows golden chance for season-changing win

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It sounds weird saying this about the No. 12 team in the country, but I actually liked what I saw from Louisville on Thursday night.

Their press looked as good as it has all season long, forcing 20 Bearcat turnovers. Montrezl Harrell played really well in the low post, finishing with 18 points on 9-for-13 shooting. Luke Hancock played what might have been his best game of the season. Louisville stormed back from a 17-point deficit in the span of about three minutes.

Here’s the problem: all that good was packed into about a 12 minute stretch during the second half. The Cardinals were completely out of sync offensively in the first half, mustering a meager 20 points thanks to a 7-0 run in the final 2:27. They allowed Cincinnati to hit six of their first seven shots to start the second half, digging themselves that 44-27 hole.

The worst part? After Russ Smith hit a deep three to give the Cardinals a 64-61 lead with 5:03 left, Louisville wouldn’t score again until Terry Rozier hit two free throws after being fouled intentionally with less than 10 seconds remaining. They would lose 69-66, a tip-in from Justin Jackson being the eventual game-winning basket.

The Cardinals did everything they could to erase a huge deficit and beat a very good — and, at No. 13 in the country, still underrated — Cincinnati team, they just couldn’t close out the win. There was Smith settling for a second 28-foot three. There were the missed box-outs, most notably on Jackson when he gave Cincinnati a 65-64 lead. There was Smith trying to finish over Jackson, the AAC’s best shotblocker. There was Harrell getting stripped by Jackson with 40 seconds left.

For anyone, that kind of a loss will hurt.

But for the Cardinals, it gets magnified.

This team still is in a position where they are without a marquee win on their resume. They’ve won at UConn, which is good but not something to hang a tournament resume on. They’ve beat Southern Miss in Louisville, which, again, isn’t all that great.

And they will really only have two more chances at getting a big win: at Cincinnati and at Memphis. Both of those teams have won in the Yum! Center this season.

Louisville’s tempo-free profile is strong, and what we’ve seen over the last three weeks can back that up.

But the Cardinals are now in the same spot as Iowa: as good as they look on paper, they haven’t done anything this season to prove that they are a team that can make a run.

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

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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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.
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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.