Tag: Will Sheehey

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College Hoops Week in Review: Marcus Smart, Arizona back to being awesome

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

Marcus Smart is back.

After playing about as poorly as he possibly could for 30 minutes on Saturday night, Marcus Smart turned in as dominating of a performance as you will see to close out Oklahoma State’s season-changing win over No. 5 Kansas. Smart scored 12 of his 21 points in those final 10 minutes, hitting all four of his field goals, making the only three he shot and handing out three assists without a turnover. That’s before you factor in the plays he made that won’t show up in the stat-sheet, including drawing an offensive foul on Perry Ellis and grabbing an offensive rebound between two Jayhawks as he was flying out of bounds, saving the ball to a teammate.

Therein lies the key to success for both Smart and Oklahoma State. He’s still doing all of the little things that made him so special, but in those final 10 minutes, Smart finally — finally! — played like a guy that accepted the fact that he hurts his team when he fires away from three and makes headlong drives into the paint.

If he plays the way he did in those final ten minutes — distributing, picking his spots to attack, strictly shooting open, rhythm jumpers — the Pokes are going to be a nightmare for whichever No. 1 or No. 2 seed draws them in the Round of 32.

They were good, too:

  • Will Sheehey, Indiana: Sheehey averaged 24.5 points in Indiana’s wins over Iowa and Ohio State this week. All of a sudden, Indiana is back in the bubble conversation. Beat Nebraska and Michigan next week, and things get real.
  • Delon Wright, Utah: Wright won you your college hoops fantasy league this season. In wins over Colorado and Arizona State, Wright is averaging 21.5 points, 7.0 boards, 5.0 assists, 3.0 blocks and 2.5 steals while shooting 14-for-16 from the floor.
  • Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida: Finney-Smith averaged 17.5 points and 5.5 boards in two wins last week, shooting 11-for-21 from the floor and 7-for-14 from three. When he’s hitting threes, Florida becomes a different team.
  • Glenn Robinson III, Michigan: Robinson had 17 points and the game-winning bucket in overtime at Purdue, following that up with 12 points in a win over Minnesota. He’s averaging 14.7 points and 5.7 boards in his last three games.
  • Marcus Paige, North Carolina: Paige scored 31 of his 35 points in the second half and overtime of UNC’s win at N.C. State. He’s been the best player in the ACC the last month and a half.
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TEAM OF THE WEEK: Arizona Wildcats

Arizona blew out Cal by 28 points. Then they took a 25 point second half lead on Stanford. This came after beating Colorado by 27 points in Boulder. Arizona’s back, baby.

What’s changed is that Sean Miller has opened up the floor. The Wildcats are running more. They are taking advantage of the myriad of athletes Sean Miller has at his disposal — Nick Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon — and allowing them to make plays on both ends of the floor instead of playing grind-it-out half court games where his group struggles to find any kind of consistency on the offensive end in the half court.

Is Arizona the favorite to win the national title right now? That’s hard to say. What isn’t hard to say, however, is that Arizona is playing better than anyone else in the country right now.

They were good, too:

  • Oregon: The Ducks swept their LA road trip, beating UCLA in Pauley Pavilion in double-overtime. Mike Moser led the way, averaging 16.0 points, 16.0 boards and 4.5 assists in the two wins.
  • Wichita State: 31-0. That’s all you need to know.
  • UConn: After slogging their way through a win at South Florida, UConn knocked off Cincinnati at home. They’re still a game out of all-important third place in the American.
  • VCU: The Rams bounced back from three losses in four games, picking off Fordham on the road and following that up with a win over Saint Louis in Richmond. Shaka Smart’s crew is still two games out of first place in the Atlantic 10.
  • Arizona State: The Sun Devils cemented a spot in the NCAA tournament by sweeping Cal and Stanford at home. Win at Oregon and Oregon State next week, and Herb Sendek will have steered his team into third-place in the Pac-12.

No. 20 Iowa’s defensive issues continue in loss at Indiana

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Fran McCaffery has arguably the deepest team in the Big Ten, with his Iowa Hawkeyes able to go two-deep at essentially any position on the floor. But that depth doesn’t do a team much good when they have a tough time defending, and that was once again the case for the 20th-ranked Hawkeyes in their 93-86 loss at Indiana.

Both teams shot the ball very well in the first half, with Iowa taking greater advantage of the shoddy defense being played and leading 52-49 at the intermission. Both teams clearly needed to flip a switch defensively and it was Tom Crean’s team that did, limiting the Hawkeyes to 36.7% shooting from the field and 1-for-8 from three in the final 20 minutes. And after allowing Iowa to score 36 points in the paint in the first half, Indiana “limited” the Hawkeyes to 16 such points in the second half.

Iowa needed to match Indiana’s improved defensive effort and they couldn’t, as Indiana shot 48.1% and attempted 25 free throws in the second half. Thursday marked the third consecutive game, all losses, in which Iowa’s allowed at least 79 points. And in those three games the opposition shot 52.6% from the field, with Indiana making 50.8% of its attempts. After doing a solid job defensively in wins over Michigan and Penn State, Iowa’s struggled mightily as a group defensively.

Also of note in the second half on Thursday night was how Indiana’s reserves thoroughly outplayed an Iowa bench that’s both deeper and more experienced. Will Sheehey’s career night (30 points) certainly deserves attention, but the 27-4 edge in bench points had as much of an impact in the second half. And much of the damage was done by Evan Gordon and Stanford Robinson, who combined to score 29 points on the night. Their play allowed Indiana to succeed in spite of quiet nights from Yogi Ferrell (eight points, four assists) and Noah Vonleh (four points, five rebounds).

Indiana’s in the position where they’re looking to improve their standing for a possible NIT berth, barring their going on a four-game run at the Big Ten tournament. As for Iowa, these games represent opportunities to improve their standing both within the Big Ten and in the eyes of the selection committee. But if they continue to defend as they have the last three games, the Hawkeyes’ chances of enjoying success in March are slim.

Gary Harris leads Michigan State to win over Indiana

Gary Harris

For the first 30 minutes or so over the game, Indiana played like a team who was hungrier and wanted to win more than Michigan State. Playing shorthanded without Will Sheehey and coming off of a loss to Northwestern over the weekend, the Hoosiers figured to stand little chance against the No. 3 team in the country — even with the Spartans playing without Adreian Payne for the fourth straight game — yet, they eventually succumbed, 71-66.

For the first half, it was your typical Big Ten game that many are so used to watching — reminiscent more of a boxing match between two heavyweights than a track meet. Without Payne in the middle, Indiana delivered more blows with freshman Noah Vonleh dropping in nine points and six rebounds in the opening half.

The game was an eyesore, but the Hoosiers couldn’t care less about that. They led 28-27 in a game they really had to have.

They seemed to be outplaying Michigan State: getting to more loose balls, closing out on the defensive end better, and were simply tougher — something very difficult to do against a Tom Izzo team. This carried over to the second half, but then the bucket closed up and the Spartans took advantage.

After a Troy Williams layup made it 46-41 Indiana, Michigan State scored 11 points in an 81 second span to take a 52-48 lead; they wouldn’t trail the rest of the way.

Vonleh was terrific tonight, but Indiana didn’t feature him nearly as much as they should have. He had a double-double (13 and 13), but only took eight shots. The Hoosiers let the game get away from them midway through the second half when they didn’t get settled on offense, rushed shots, and didn’t go inside to Vonleh.

Indiana’s failures during this stretch aside, Gary Harris was tremendous. He¬†stepped up in a big way in Payne’s absence. The sophomore had 24 points, 20 of which came in the second half.

On the broadcast, ESPN’s Mike Tirico asked his partner, Dan Dakich, whether Michigan State had an “igniter” — a player who could be depended on each and every night to light a fire under his teammates. Do the Spartans have a player of this sort? More importantly, do they need one?

Tonight, Harris was that player. To go along with this scoring output, he was a menace on the defensive end with five steals.

In all, there were 32 turnovers between the teams, 18 of which were committed by the Hoosiers. Taking care of the basketball has been an issue for Indiana all season, and they weren’t about to upset Michigan State tonight with 18 turnovers.

Michigan State’s next game comes at home against their rival Michigan on Saturday — a game that is shaping up to be the weekend’s best.