Daniel Martin

Florida cheerleader

Late Night Snacks: No. 7 Florida, No. 8 Michigan State both make statements Tuesday

Leave a comment

Game of the Day: No. 8 Michigan State 75, No. 4 Michigan 52

In a crowded Big Ten race, Michigan State is starting to prove its worth. Granted, it caught Michigan at the end of a long stretch of tough conference games, but the Spartans were firing on all cylinders Tuesday. The inside game was working with Derrick Nix. The outside game was working with Gary Harris. The defense was disrupting Michigan’s array of offensive weapons.

Michigan State can win games in a number of ways, showing another unique way Tuesday night. I’m not saying Michigan is no longer an elite team, but Michigan State proved that the Wolverines need to improve that interior play before the NCAA tournament rolls around.

Important Outcomes

1. Florida 69, Kentucky 52

Florida was in cruise control for much of this one, though Kentucky looked like they had chances to make a comeback. The biggest story and really the only story considering both of these teams will likely be in the NCAA tournament, is the health of Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel. He left the game with what appeared to be a pretty serious knee injury. For the sake of the Wildcats and his NBA future, hopefully it is only minor.

2. Virginia 73, Virginia Tech 55

Virginia could not suffer a letdown win Tuesday and they avoided such a scenario. With road games at UNC and Miami coming up, this win over the Hokies scores another victory in a key category: winning games at home in which you are favored. The Cavaliers are now 8-3 in conference play.

3. Missouri State 67, Indiana State 65

The Missouri Valley race is a wild one. Wichita State lost three in a row before bouncing back against Indiana State. Creighton has lost two games in a row. Now, Indiana State, poised to have taken at least a share of the lead in the MVC race Tuesday, could not capitalize. Jake Odum did all he could with 21 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists, but it was not enough.

Starred

1. Gary Harris, Michigan State (17 points, 5-of-9 3pt FG, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals)

While still battling through back spasms, Harris was a key engine for Michigan State in its win over Michigan. The Spartans are looking like a serious contender not only in the Big Ten, but in March as we move forward.

2. Joe Harris, Virginia (26 points, 7-of-12 FG, 5-of-7 3pt FG)

Harris has hit the 20-point mark in four of the last five games and, fittingly enough, the Cavaliers are 4-1 when he reaches that scoring total. He was 5-of-7 from three-point range and helped Virginia keeps its NCAA tournament hopes alive. At 8-3 in the ACC, the Cavaliers are now solidly in third place in the ACC.

3. Patric Young, Florida (12 points, 5-of-7 FG, 11 rebounds)

Without Will Yeguete in the lineup due to injury, Young had to step up on the interior and did so with a big double-double in a blowout win. He will only become more important as we come down the home stretch of conference play.

Struggled

1. Tim Hardaway, Jr., Michigan (2 points, 1-of-11 FG, 0-of-5 3pt FG)

The Michigan offense was stagnant against an active Michigan State defensive attack and Hardaway, Jr. fell victim to it as well. He never found his groove from the field and, alongside Glenn Robinson III, who also struggled.

2. Ryan Harrow, Kentucky (0 points, 0-of-3 FG, 2 TOs)

One key element that has been missing from the Kentucky offense this season is reliable point guard play. Part of the reason the Wildcats slumped against Florida Tuesday was because Harrow struggled and was unable to spark much on the offensive end.

3. Derek Needham, Fairfield (5 points, 1-of-10 FG, 6 TOs)

Fairfield trailed by 21 points at halftime and a lack of production from the team’s leading scorer did not help matters.

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

No. 8 Michigan State claims sole possession of Big Ten with blowout win over No. 4 Michigan

Derrick Nix
7 Comments

In a single word, No. 8 Michigan State’s performance against No. 4 Michigan Tuesday night in East Lansing was dominant.

Four Spartans scored in double figures, on their way to a 75-52 win at the Breslin Center and the right to claim sole possession of first place in the Big Ten.

Behind 16 points and five rebounds from senior Derrick Nix, Michigan State used a multifaceted approach to hand Michigan its worst loss of the season. Before tonight, the Wolverines’ largest margin of defeat was an eight point loss to No. 3 Indiana.

But Tuesday’s game says more about Michigan State, which will likely gain its share of bandwagoners after this performance.

For as much as Michigan has been praised for its number of offensive weapons, Michigan State has a similarly loaded arsenal, though with one key difference: interior depth. Whereas Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan can’t be counted on for consistent offensive production on a nightly basis, Nix and Adreian Payne are assets just waiting to be utilized.

Payne had four points Tuesday, but forward Branden Dawson helped to fill in the gaps with 10 points. If two of those three are active on any given night, in concert with the backcourt of Keith Appling and Gary Harris, the Spartans are tough to beat.

With Tuesday night as an example, the interior and transition approaches are the sparks for Michigan State. Once Nix got involved against a thin Michigan interior, the perimeter opened up as well. Harris finished with 17 points and Appling overcame a slow first half to finish with 11.

Against other Big Ten teams and into the NCAA tournament, the ability to play at different paces and still win is crucial. Having a range of offensive weapons helps accomplish that. The Spartans have shown the ability to do so, having won 49-47 over Wisconsin and 59-56 over Ohio State, but also showcasing the offensive power to hit the 75-point mark in five Big Ten victories.

But the true test will come in a grueling stretch from Feb. 19-March 7 for the Spartans. It is in that window that Michigan State meets No. 1 Indiana, followed by road games against No. 13 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan, before returning home to meet No. 20 Wisconsin.

Tough schedule or not, it has typically been unwise to bet against a Tom Izzo Michigan State team, come March. This year might be another example.

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

VIDEO: Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel injures knee vs. Florida

Nerlens Noel
3 Comments

The nation’s leading shot blocker, Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel, left Tuesday’s 69-52 loss to No. 7 Florida with what appeared to be a knee injury and had to be carried to the locker room by teammates and team personnel.

With 8:03 to play in the second half and his team trailing by 12 points, 57-45, Noel chased down Florida senior Mike Rosario in transition and blocked his shot. As he came down, he appeared to land awkwardly and went down in pain while grabbing his left knee.

Television cameras picked up audio of Noel yelling in pain as he clutched the knee and he remained on the ground in pain for a time while team doctors evaluated him. Guards Archie Goodwin and Julius Mays helped Noel to the tunnel as he was surrounded by teammates. Noel was unable to put weight on the knee.

(WARNING: This video isn’t the easiest to watch if you hate hearing kids screaming in pain):

Here’s a picture of the injury from Kentucky.com.

Prior to the injury against Florida, Noel had tallied eight points, six rebounds, and three blocks. If tests ultimately show that Noel will be forced out of the Kentucky lineup with this injury, it would change the overall complexion of the Wildcats’ defense. His ability to block and alter shots has been central to Kentucky’s resurgence in SEC play.

Noel leads the country with 4.7 blocks per game and is projected to be a Top 3 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

At the press conference after the game, Coach Cal said that he didn’t see the injury, but heard it was bad, according to his website’s twitter feed. “I’m physically sick right now for him,” Cal said. “What I’m hoping for is it’s not the extreme.” Noel’s been taken to the hospital to have tests done, and Cal said he hopes Noel will go home with the team tonight.

Patric Young had an even grimmer outlook. “His leg was wobbly,” he told Jason Lieser, the Florida beat writer for the Palm Beach Post, “knee looked dislocated. It was gruesome. I don’t want to think about it.”

More updates will be added as they become available.

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

Maryland to honor ex-coach Lefty Driesell this month

Lefty Driesell
1 Comment

Maryland will honor former coach Lefty Driesell at the Terrapins’ home game against Clemson on Feb. 23 and will unveil a bronze bas-relief to commemorate his time at the school later this year, the school announced Tuesday.

“Lefty is a legendary coach and we are happy to recognize him on this special day,” Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson said in a statement. “It will be exciting for our longtime fans to celebrate Lefty’s return to the university and we look forward to the dedication of his Bas-relief in April.”

Driesell coached the Terrapins for 17 seasons, beginning in 1969, and amassed an overall record of 348-159 during his time in College Park. During his tenure, Maryland won one ACC title and appeared in the NCAA tournament eight times.

He held the position until 1986, when the death of his former star player, Len Bias, and the ensuing fallout from the investigation brought an end to his time as the school’s head coach. Following his time at Maryland, he went on to coach at Georgia State and James Madison. He won 786 games in his coaching career and an NIT championship in 1972.

“Lefty did a great job establishing a tradition for Maryland basketball,” said men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon. “I know our alumni, former players, and our team is excited to have Lefty back on campus. It will be a great day for everyone involved with Maryland basketball.”

For more from CSNBaltimore.com, click here.

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

Joel James out for North Carolina’s game Wednesday vs. Duke

Joel James
Leave a comment

North Carolina freshman Joel James will not play Wednesday against No. 2 Duke after suffering a concussion last week in a win over Wake Forest, coach Roy Williams announced Tuesday.

The 6-10 native of Florida was struck on the head at an unknown point during the game against Wake Forest, but did not notify team doctors about the headaches he was suffering from until Monday. During that window of time, North Carolina lost to No. 8 Miami, 87-61, a game in which James went scoreless in nine minutes of play.

As a result of the concussion, James did not participate in practice Monday or Tuesday.

On the year, James is averaging 2.7 points and 2.9 rebounds in just over 11 minutes per game. His best game of the year came Nov. 11 against Florida Atlantic when he scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

North Carolina tips off against No. 2 Duke on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.

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

Northwestern’s Jared Swopshire out for the year after knee surgery

Jared Swopshire
Leave a comment

Northwestern graduate student and Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and will miss the rest of the season, the school announced Tuesday.

Swopshire went down with an injury in the second half of Northwestern’s loss to Iowa on Saturday and did not return.

“We all feel badly for Jared that he won’t be able to play out the remainder of his final collegiate season,” Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said in a statement Tuesday. “He has been a terrific addition to the program, both on and off the court. He was enjoying a very productive year and was playing his most consistent basketball of the season when the injury occurred. There is every indication that he’ll experience a full recovery.”

Since coming to Northwestern, Swopshire’s minutes had nearly doubled and he responded with production. Before the injury, he had been averaging 9.7 points and was the team’s leading rebounder with 6.7 boards per game.

He has had to deal with season-ending injuries before during his college career, having missed the entire 2010-11 season with a groin injury. Without him, Northwestern will have an even more uphill battle in the tough Big Ten. The Wildcats return to the floor on Thursday against No. 13 Ohio State.

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