UConn’s perimeter defense proved to be too much for Harrison twins

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ARLINGTON, Texas — After struggling to find the consistency expected of them when they arrived on campus in August, Kentucky freshman guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison hit their stride in postseason play. With Aaron becoming the team’s key shot taker (and maker) and Andrew doing a better job as the primary distributor, the Wildcats won seven of eight games ahead of Monday’s national title game.

But against a “hungry” pack of Huskies that run of stellar play came to an end, with both struggling in the Wildcats’ 60-54 loss.

Aaron scored seven points, shooting 3-for-7 from the field and Andrew made just three of his nine field goal attempts. Just as big of an issue for the tandem was ball control against UConn’s smaller guards, with Andrew accounting for five assists and four turnovers and Aaron committing three turnovers without an assist.

RELATED: UConn wins fourth national title in 15 years


After having success shaking off opposing guards throughout the tournament, Kentucky’s 6-foot-6 backcourt duo didn’t enjoy the same amount of success on the game’s biggest stage. And part of the issue was the fact that neither was as aggressive in attacking the defense as they were in earlier tournament games.

“One of our things was sprint it up the court so you attack [Boatright] and he’s not attacking you. We jogged,” Calipari said in regards to his strategy for dealing with Boatright’s perimeter defense. “Let somebody else bring it up and when you catch it, come to a triple-threat [position] because now your size matters. He can’t come up into you now. If you’re dribbling, he can.”

Without the room needed to operate neither was as effective as they would have hoped for on the offensive end, and they also struggled defensively. UConn was able to use its perimeter speed to build up a 15-point first half lead, and as a result Calipari made the decision with just under six minutes remaining in the first half to go zone.

The foul trouble incurred by Boatright and DeAndre Daniels certainly impacted Kentucky’s decision to make the strategic move, but there were also issues for the Wildcats in defending man-to-man that needed to be addressed before the game got out of hand. Calipari made the move and it was an effective one, pulling Kentucky to within four points at the intermission.

“We had to play zone,” Calipari said. “Tried to get [UConn’s] sweat to dry a little bit, make them less aggressive and it worked and these guys performed. They came back, ‘let’s play zone, coach.'”

They’d call on the defense at various points in the second half, but UConn was able to do a better job of finding and making the timely shots needed to hang on for the win. Unfortunately for Kentucky, they weren’t able to do the same when faced with critical offensive possessions down the stretch.

James Young was highly productive as the third guard, scoring 20 points and grabbing seven rebounds to lead the Kentucky scoring effort. However at a certain point Kentucky needed the two guards who had been such an instrumental factor in their run to the national title game, but thanks to UConn’s perimeter defense the Harrisons were unable to get untracked.

UConn took away the ball screens that so often led to finishes at the basket throughout Kentucky’s tournament run, either for themselves or their teammates, and that proved to be too much to overcome.

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

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
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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.