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Consistency will be key for No. 4 Michigan State moving forward

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After shooting nearly 60% from the field in the first half and taking a 45-33 lead into the half, East Region No. 4 Michigan State fell into a false sense of security. Instead of continuing to work hard on both ends of the floor the Spartans allowed themselves to be outworked by No. 12 Harvard, resulting in a 29-11 Crimson run.

Luckily for Michigan State they mustered up a quality response, regaining control with an 11-1 run and going on to win 80-73.

One game after Adreian Payne scored a career-high 41 points fellow forward Branden Dawson established a career high Saturday night, scoring 26 points to go along with nine rebounds. Michigan State was effective early because they ran on misses and shared the basketball, and they got in trouble by getting away from the basics that made them so successful.

During Harvard’s 29-11 run guard Brandyn Curry and forward Steve Moundou-Missi were the standouts, and when Laurent Rivard’s three-pointer with 7:11 remaining gave Tommy Amaker’s team a 62-60 lead it was clear that the Spartans were at an important point in their season. A trendy pick to reach the Final Four, Michigan State was in danger of heading home two games into the NCAA tournament.

However a Travis Trice three-pointer swung momentum back in favor of Michigan State, and he’s been a key contributor in both tournament wins. After scoring 19 points against Delaware on Thursday, Trice wasn’t as productive against Harvard but his lone three-pointer was of high importance. Both Trice and Keith Appling struggled against a backcourt led by Curry and Siyani Chambers, but the contributions of Dawson and Gary Harris (18 points) ensured that Michigan State would advance to the Sweet 16.

The lesson to be learned for Michigan State is one of consistency, which will be critical moving forward for Tom Izzo’s squad. When clicking this is one of the best teams remaining in the tournament, but they’re by no means invisible especially when not doing the things that make them successful.

Fortunately for the Spartans they’ll be able to apply those lessons with a game left to be played, against either No. 1 Virginia or No. 8 Memphis Friday at Madison Square Garden.

Auburn suspends leading scorer Canty indefinitely

Auburn guard Kareem Canty (1) screams in pain after being fouled during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Auburn, Ala. Auburn won 75-70.  (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
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Prior to Auburn’s game at Georgia Saturday evening, head coach Bruce Pearl announced that leading scorer and starting point guard Kareem Canty has been suspended indefinitely.

Canty’s currently averaging 18.3 points per game and his abilities as a scorer and distributor have been key for the Tigers offensively. When Canty returns to the court remains to be seen, with Pearl noting that Canty may be able to return before the end of the season.

“Kareem has had some strong moments for our team this season,” Pearl said. “He has demonstrated that at the highest level of competition, he can win his matchup.

“However, his effort and attitude have been extremely inconsistent, which led to actions and behavior that are unacceptable. He will step away from the team for a while and may return later in the season. He is suspended indefinitely.”

According to the release Cinmeon Bowers will move into the starting lineup for Auburn, which is now 9-13 overall and 3-7 in SEC play. Auburn’s lost five straight and eight of their last ten games after losing by ten at Georgia Saturday night.

Without him more minutes are available to freshman New Williams, who played 22 minutes against Georgia. Bryce Brown started and played 18 minutes, with Devin Waddell playing 12 minutes off the bench.

Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis go crazy, No. 20 Kentucky beats Florida by 19

Kentucky's Jamal Murray (23) shoots near Missouri's Ryan Rosburg during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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Jamal Murray scored a career-high 35 points and became the first Kentucky player to hit eight threes in a game since 2010.

Tyler Ulis had 18 points and 11 assists.

As a result, No. 20 Kentucky bounced back Tuesday’s loss to Tennessee — when the Wildcats blew a 21-point lead — as they blew out a good Florida team, 80-61. The final score doesn’t really do the beat down justice, either. Kentucky was up 24-5 seven minutes into the game. The Gators, who look like they may end up being seeded as high as the No. 6 line on Selection Sunday, never had a chance.

If Kentucky was trying to prove a point, they did. I’m not sure if Murray and Ulis make up the nation’s best back court in college basketball, but on Saturday, they looked like the best back court in the entire world. They were awesome.

So awesome, in fact, that they were responsible for 64 of Kentucky’s 80 points tonight.

And that’s where this win can be a bit concerning.

Look, the issue with Kentucky is that they don’t get near enough production out of their front court, and if the knee injury that kept Alex Poythress out of the lineup on Saturday ends up being at all serious, than UK’s most productive big will be out of commission. On Saturday, Kentucky’s front court — minus Derek Willis, who is more of a wing that’s been slotted at the four — finished with a grand total of 10 points, 15 boards and 12 fouls.

That issue isn’t going away just because Ulis and Murray played an unbelievable game against one of the nation’s top five defenses, according to KenPom.com. You don’t buy a house with termites just because you love the way that it’s furnished.

But what this performance shows you is what Kentucky’s ceiling is, what they are capable of on the night’s when their two stars play like stars.

If they get hot at the right time, they can beat anyone in March. Hell, this could be enough to carry them to the Elite 8, maybe further.

When those two can play that well in a season where there is no dominant team, you can’t really count anything out.

But it also means that Kentucky is capable of losing to anyone on any given night, and all it takes is one cold shooting night for Kentucky’s run in March to come to an early end.