Daniel Martin

Shane Larkin

Shane Larkin’s poise helps No. 2 Miami outlast Virginia, remain undefeated in ACC


It was one sequence that separated No. 2 Miami from Virginia on Tuesday night.

With under 10 seconds remaining and the game tied at 50, Miami sophomore guard Shane Larkin was trapped in a double team on the right win, but used his eyes to draw a defender to the top of the key, only to find Reggie Johnson wide open under the basket for the go-ahead score, 52-50.

Guard Durand Scott stole the ensuing in-bounds pass and was fouled, sinking both free throws on the way to a 54-50 win in Coral Gables, Fla.

It was not pretty for Miami, a team that we have seen beat quality teams by 20+ points, but it’s beginning to prove a point. Coach Jim Larranaga and the Hurricanes are showing that they can win the up-tempo games when they get hot from the floor, or they can grind it out and find ways to win down the stretch.

Kenny Kadji hit a three with under a minute to play to beat Clemson Sunday, and now Larkin showed the poise to find Johnson for the win Tuesday.

The Hurricanes have other close wins in ACC play over Maryland, Boston College, and NC State. There will be nights when shots from the floor are not falling. Tonight was one of those nights. But Miami’s ability to win close games at different paces bodes well for them in the NCAA tournament.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Keith Appling’s struggles hurt No. 4 Michigan State in loss to No. 1 Indiana

Keith Appling

There is a reason Keith Appling is a captain on this Michigan State basketball team. In a 72-68 loss to No. 1 Indiana Tuesday night, though, Appling struggled from the floor for the third straight game, raising legitimate questions about what sort of road the junior guard and his Spartan teammates are paving on their way to March.

In the loss to Indiana, Appling finished just 1-of-8 from the floor, including 0-of-4 from three-point range, and committed four turnovers to go along with two assists. That means in the current three-game stretch, Appling is 8-of-33 from the floor (24 percent). Following his poor performance earlier in the year against the Hoosiers, that makes him 2-of-12 with two assists and eight turnovers against the nation’s top team.

Granted, sometimes the Spartans can make it work. He deserves credit for his seven assists in a win over Michigan and getting to the free throw line in a victory over Nebraska. But against the nation’s No. 1 team and as we look forward to March, Michigan State needs Appling to, simply put, be better.

“Having Keith out [with foul trouble in MSU’s first meeting vs. Indiana] hurts that, too, because he is the more aggressive guy in penetrating, gets to the free-throw line and he puts people in position to get to the free-throw line,” coach Tom Izzo said prior to the game. “Maybe they did hold us, maybe we self-checked ourselves, maybe a combination of both.”

Part of the problem can be attributed to the absence of backup Travis Trice, who had missed the last four games due to a concussion and played just six minutes Tuesday against Indiana. Appling has continually logged 35+ minutes per game and that could be a cause of his shooting woes from the floor.

“It puts a lot of pressure on Keith, and Keith was a warrior [versus Nebraska], but I think maybe it hurts some of his shooting,” Izzo said.

The key has been for Appling to get to the free throw line to help heal the struggles from the floor, or to excel distributing the basketball. Neither were the case Tuesday. That caused a ripple effect, forcing freshman Gary Harris to shoulder more of the offensive weight with 19 points and Adreian Payne with 17.

Appling has the chance to get back on the right track and Trice being back and fully healthy will help some in that regard, but Michigan State will need him if they want to be an elite team come tourney time.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Travis Trice reportedly cleared to play Tuesday vs. Indiana, but is ’emergency use only’

Travis Trice
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Michigan State guard Travis Trice has been cleared to play Tuesday against No. 1 Indiana, but it is unclear whether he will see time on the floor against the Hoosiers, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo announced this evening.

“We did get clearance to use him,” Tom Izzo said on his pre-game show on the Spartan Sports Network, as transcribed by the Detroit Free Press, “but I’m sure it’ll be emergency use only.”

Trice has missed the past four games due to a concussion after being struck in the face Jan. 31 in a game against Illinois. As the back-up to team captain Keith Appling, Trice has averaged 5.5 points and 1.9 assists in just over 20 minutes per game. In his absence, Michigan State has won all four games.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Syracuse to have record Carrier Dome crowd at Carmelo Anthony jersey retirement Saturday

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The Syracuse athletic department announced Tuesday that tickets are sold out for Saturday’s men’s basketball game against Georgetown and that a record crowd of 35,012 people are expected to be in attendance at the Carrier Dome.

It is only the second time that Syracuse has announced a sellout in advance. The other came prior to the Orange’s  Feb. 27, 2010 game against Villanova, which holds the current attendance record of 34,616.

Former star Carmelo Anthony will have his jersey retired Saturday as well, and the school made accommodations to add extra seats and break the previous attendance record.

Anthony won a national championship with Syracuse in 2003 and was named Big East Rookie of the Year and the Most Outstanding Player of the 2003 NCAA Tournament.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Former Duke captain Phil Henderson has died

Phil Henderson
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Former Duke leading scorer Phil Henderson has passed away at the age of 44, the school announced Monday.

“On behalf of the entire Duke Basketball family, we are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Phil Henderson,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to his mom and family. Phil was a talented player and a good man with a gentle soul. We will miss him dearly.”

Henderson led Duke in scoring during the 1989-90 season and was a senior captain on that team, which reached the Final Four. He averaged 18.5 points per game as a senior and dunked on Georgetown great Alonzo Mourning in a regional win over the Hoyas.

After his career with the Blue Devils concluded, he entered the 1990 NBA Draft and was selected by the Dallas Mavericks. He went on to play internationally.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Iowa creeps onto NCAA tournament bubble after win over Minnesota

Iowa Minnesota

In the nation’s toughest conference, Iowa has lost a handful of disappointing games in the final minutes, games that, had they been wins, would have made for an impressive league record.

That includes being within one point in the final six minutes against No. 1 Indiana. It includes a strong first half against No. 4 Michigan before the wheels fell off. It includes having a chance to tie No. 8 Michigan State with 30 seconds to play. It even includes being within four points with under two minutes left against No. 13 Ohio State.

But that has become the nature of the Big Ten. It is the nation’s deepest conference top to bottom, but after a dominating 72-51 win at home over Minnesota Sunday, Iowa is creeping into the conversation for the NCAA tournament.

Part of that has to do with how the conference schedule has fallen, which is ultimately something outside of Iowa’s control. Instead of getting crunched at the end of the season with a string of high-quality opponents late, Iowa had to endure that storm early in the year. Take a look at this stat from Scott Dochterman of The Gazette:

Iowa’s first 10 league opponents have a combined 63-47 Big Ten record. The Hawkeyes’ final eight league opponents are 33-55. Only No. 1 Indiana (9-2) boasts a winning league record.

Because they’ve already worked through the top part of the conference earlier in the season, it is not inconceivable that the Hawkeyes could finish 3-2 or even 4-1 in their final five games. A pivotal game in that stretch would likely be against Illinois on March 5. The Hawkeyes have the benefit of being at home and a victory would not only give them a quality win, but get them closer to the magic 20-win number.

That, plus the Big Ten tournament, could push Iowa into a position for an at-large bid. With a SOS of 36 and RPI of 86, they could find themselves in the conversation for the NCAA tournament on Selection Sunday.

This win Sunday over Minnesota is the first step on that long path.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_