No. 9 Michigan State nearly overcame Gary Harris’ rough afternoon


At this point in the season Michigan State sophomore guard Gary Harris is one of the players who has to be considered not only for Big Ten Player of the Year honors but a spot on All-America teams as well. Averaging 18.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game (before Sunday), Harris is one of the key cogs in the attack for a Spartan squad that has battled the injury bug all season long.

To expect Michigan State to win in spite of a 3-for-20 afternoon from Harris with all members of their rotation available would be a stretch. To do so with Keith Appling (wrist) and Branden Dawson (hand) out of the lineup and Adreian Payne (foot) playing just his second game in the last month? Near impossible. Yet there were the Spartans, hanging around at Wisconsin with Payne and Travis Trice making key plays down the stretch. Ultimately Michigan State would fall, as Traevon Jackson hit a jumper from the left wing with 2.1 seconds remaining to give Wisconsin the 60-58 victory.

The issue for Harris, first and foremost, was the defense applied by Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser. One of the Big Ten’s best defenders Gasser made life difficult for Harris for much of the afternoon, and when the sophomore was able to get shots up few of those looks went unchallenged. That resulted in some forced attempts, hardly the recipe for a player looking to get untracked offensively, and when Harris did shake free of Gasser he found another Badger (or more) waiting.

Harris did manage to get two dunks early in the second half, but those plays didn’t provide the spark needed to get him going offensively. Add to this the fact that Harris didn’t attempt a single free throw, and the end result is a six-point afternoon for one of the nation’s best two-guards. Harris did account for seven rebounds and three steals, as he didn’t allow his shot to affect the level of effort given in other areas of the game.

However as noted above the Spartans remained in contact with Wisconsin throughout thanks to the play of Payne, who scored 24 points and tied the game at 58 with a three-pointer with 12.2 seconds remaining. Payne was assertive offensively, and defensively he spent time on both Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky. After shaking off some rust in a comfortable win over Penn State on Thursday night, Payne had the look of the player he was before injuring his foot.

And with an eye towards March and the need for players other than your stars to step forward on occasion, Travis Trice’s 13 points should not be ignored. Trice hit a key three with 1:45 remaining to pull Michigan State to within three, and his pass to Payne resulted in the game-tying basket. And after scoring a total of five points on 1-for-11 shooting in Michigan State’s last two games, maybe this outing will be the confidence boost Trice needs moving forward.

And just as important as the scoring is the fact that Trice went a second consecutive game without committing a turnover. When healthy (knock on wood, Spartan fans) Michigan State won’t need Trice to be a double-digit scorer but they do need him to be productive when on the floor. That happened against Wisconsin, and Michigan State nearly left Madison with the win as a result.

Gary Harris had the worst shooting day of his young career on Sunday, with Michigan State also missing two starters, and Tom Izzo’s squad nearly overcame it. The Spartans will be fine, because it’s a safe bet that Harris doesn’t shoot that poorly again.

Syracuse upsets No. 18 UConn as Tyler Lydon stars again

St Bonaventure Syracuse Basketball
AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth
Leave a comment

Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney combined for 34 points as Syracuse overcame an early 10-point deficit to knock off No. 18 UConn in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, 79-76.

The talking point at the end of this game is probably going to end up being UConn’s decision not to foul Syracuse with 36 seconds left on the clock. Trevor Cooney dribbled out the clock and, with six seconds left, missed a 35-foot prayer, the offensive rebound getting corralled by Tyler Roberson, sealing the win.

But that’s not the real story here.

That would be Tyler Lydon, who suddenly looks like he may end up being the difference maker for this Syracuse team.

If you don’t know the name, I don’t blame you. Lydon was a low-end top 100 recruit that had been committed to the Orange for a long time. He’s not exactly a game-changing prospect, but he’s a perfect fit for Syracuse. At 6-foot-9, Lydon has the length to be a shot-blocker in the middle of the 2-3 zone — he entered Thursday averaging 3.3 blocks — but his biggest skill is his ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. When he plays the middle of that zone, when he is essentially the five for the Orange, they become incredibly difficult to matchup with defensively.

The question is whether or not he can consistently be that guy on the defensive end of the floor. Against UConn, Lydon had 16 points and 12 boards. Against Charlotte, he finished with 18 points, eight boards and six blocks. But neither the Huskies nor the 49ers have a big front line that crashes the offensive glass.

Lydon is great at using his length to make shots in the lane difficult, but at (a generous) 205 pounds, he may run into trouble against bigger, stronger front court players.

The perfect test?

Texas A&M, who the Orange will play in the title game on Friday.

USC holds on to beat No. 20 Wichita State

Andy Enfield
Associated Press
1 Comment

With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.

Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.

The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.

Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.

McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).

Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.

Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.