No. 13 Michigan State catches fire from deep in win at Purdue

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On Sunday afternoon No. 13 Michigan State put forth its worst performance of the season, falling by nine points to a Nebraska team that’s making a hard charge towards an NCAA tournament berth. In that game the Spartans shot 34% from the field and 24 of their 50 attempts were three-pointers, with only five of those shots being made.

Michigan State didn’t shoot well and they didn’t do a good enough job of finding quality looks, two things that had to change against Purdue on Thursday night. It’s safe to say that Tom Izzo’s team made those improvements.

The Spartans set a new school record with 17 made three-pointers, shooting 13-for-19 in the first half, and they shot 57% from the field in their 94-79 win over the Boilermakers. Gary Harris snapped out of his four-game slump, hitting six three-pointers and scoring a game-high 25 points on 7-for-11 shooting to lead four Spartans in double figures.

The big question for Michigan State moving forward is the health of point guard Keith Appling, who didn’t start but played 26 minutes without any tape on his right wrist. Appling scored just one point but he finished the game with nine assists and four turnovers.

On this night Michigan State didn’t need Appling to do much shooting, with Harris, Adreian Payne (23 points) and Travis Trice (14) ¬†doing most of the work from beyond the arc and Denzel Valentine adding 16 points. But that wrist and how Appling deals with the injury will factor into how deep into March Michigan State goes.

Michigan State is unlikely to shoot as well from deep as they did against Purdue as the games get tougher. But if they can build on the ball movement and spacing exhibited in West Lafayette, the Spartans will be a difficult team to defend based upon their scoring options. And with Branden Dawson expected to return to the lineup soon, Michigan State may be approaching full strength (knock on wood).

Kennesaw State blows eight-point lead in 16 seconds, loses to Elon

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Kennesaw State entered Monday night at 1-6 on the season, but with 19 seconds left, it looked like the Owls have their second of the season locked up. Kendrick Ray made a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to put KSU up 89-81, and all they had to do was avoid a complete meltdown to get out with a win.

They couldn’t.

A Luke Eddy layup with 16 seconds left cut the lead to six, and after KSU’s Nigel Pruitt missed two free throws, Dainan Swoope his a three with seven seconds left to make the score 89-86.

On the ensuing inbounds, Kennesaw State threw the ball away … and then proceeded to foul Eddy when he was shooting a three. This is what that disaster looked like:

Eddy would hit all three threes before, shockingly, KSU turned the ball over again. Elon could not capitalize this time, sending the game to overtime, where the Phoenix outscored the Owls 14-4.

Elon won 104-94.

Here’s what the comeback looked like on the play-by-play:

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Rick Pitino: Louisville ‘just ignored’ in top 25 due of scandal

Rick Pitino
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Louisville beatdown Saint Louis at the Barclays Center on Sunday night, a 77-57 win that was much closer at halftime than the final score might indicate.

The win moved the Cardinals to 5-0 on the season, and that, in turn, got Louisville into the back end of both top 25 polls.

They’re 24th in the AP Poll and 22nd in the Coaches Poll, but that happened on Monday morning. On Sunday night, Pitino made sure to get a rant in about how this team is viewed and why pundits and voters should overlook the scandal currently plaguing his program.

“I think people are looking at that and they’re not really studying the team,” he said, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, adding that he thinks the team is “just ignored” because of the accusations leveled by self-described madam Katina Powell in the book she published back in October.

And here’s the thing: he is 100 percent correct. Louisville was overlooked in the preseason because the scandal, when combined with the fact that the Cardinals are integrating so many new pieces into their rotation, made it tough to see how they would be able to compete at a level that we’ve come to expect out of Louisville teams.

I know that because it’s why my colleagues at NBCSports.com, against my wishes, refused to allow me to rank Louisville in the preseason top 25. In other words, I’ve had first-hand interactions with the haters. But if we’re going to be honest here, scandal or no scandal, Louisville probably wasn’t going to find their way into the preseason top 25, not when they had to replace Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell.

And scandal or no scandal, no team from outside the top 25 is going to play their way into the top 25 by beating the likes of North Florida and St. Francis (NY) without some shenanigans — like Fred VanVleet getting hurt, like Indiana collapsing, like Arizona and Cal and Notre Dame playing their way out of the top 20 — happening around the country.

So Pitino is right: the scandal probably did have an impact on how his team was viewed in the preseason.

But Pitino the scandal isn’t what kept them out of the top 25 until Monday.

That weak non-conference schedule and roster turnover was why.

And if we’re going to be honest here, it probably should have kept them out for another week.