Big Ten Tournament: Defense carries No. 22 Michigan State to title


One day after shooting better than 50% from both the field and from beyond the arc in a win over No. 12 Wisconsin, No. 22 Michigan State got the job done defensively in their 69-55 win over No. 8 Michigan to grab the Big Ten tournament title. Michigan, which led the Big Ten in both field goal and three-point percentage, shot 31% from the field  and 6-for-23 from beyond the arc.

Michigan State did a very good job of taking away the ball screen and dribble handoff situations in which Michigan can be so lethal when allowed to get going. Nik Stauskas scored 17 points but he was made to work awfully hard for those points, doing so on 4-for-15 shooting. And with Derrick Walton Jr. being the only other Michigan player to score in double figures, this proved to be too much for the Wolverines to overcome against a balanced Michigan State offense.

RELATED: CBT’s Final Bracketology before the official bracket is announced

Adreian Payne (nine rebounds) scored 18 points and Branden Dawson and Gary Harris adding 15 apiece for Michigan State, which made up for a poor afternoon from beyond the arc (2-for-17) by making 67.6% of its two-point attempts. Michigan State is second in the Big Ten in three-point percentage, making 39.8% of its attempts, so Sunday’s outing isn’t a typical one for this group. And if the Spartans can continue to work the ball inside as they did against Michigan, they’ll be fine offensively.

Injuries have been an issue all season long for Michigan State, but with Dawson and Payne at full strength (and Keith Appling closer to it) this weekend  the Spartans were able to put together three quality performances. There will still be skeptics who make the claim that the “when the Spartans are full strength” cries are nothing more than excuses; that all teams have to navigate health issues throughout the course of a season.

But to make that statement is to ignore the obvious in regards to Michigan State, that this is a different group than the one we saw for much of Big Ten play. And with that being the case, Tom Izzo has himself a complete team capable of playing deep into the NCAA tournament.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
Leave a comment

While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
Leave a comment

With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.