College Hoops Week in Review: Jeff Withey, Wichita State and Cuse vs. OSU?

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Player of the Week: Jeff Withey, Kansas

Last Saturday, when Kansas lost to Missouri in Mizzou Arena, Jeff Withey was a no-show. He finished without a single point on just one field goal attempt, grabbing only four rebounds — and just one offensive — in 23 minutes. That’s about as sufficient as a no-show as a gets, and there is little doubt that the inability of Withey to help Kansas take advantage of their size on the interior played a role in their loss. If he has more of an impact, Kansas isn’t in a position where they are susceptible to the Marcus Denmon Show.

Well, that was the last time we saw that Jeff Withey. Since then, the new and improved Jeff Withey has looked like an all-american. He had a career-high 25 points to go along with five boards, three blocks and two steals in a dominating win over Baylor and followed that up with 18 points, 20 boards and seven blocks as the Jayhawks rolled over Oklahoma State. More impressive? He didn’t cut into Thomas Robinson’s production. He averaged 19.5 ppg and 12.5 rpg this week. That is a formidable front line.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team

G: Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga: The Zags have put themselves in a great position heading into the stretch run. They knocked off St. Mary’s in The Kennel and followed that up with a win over surprising Loyola Marymount. Gonzaga still needs St. Mary’s to slip up at the end of the conference season to have a chance to make up the one game deficit, but without these two wins, they wouldn’t have that chance. And Pangos was the biggest reason they got those wins. He had 27 points, including 5-6 shooting from three, in the win over St. Mary’s and followed that up with 21 points and nine assists, on 8-12 shooting and 5-7 from three, in the win over LMU. Oh, and he didn’t commit a single turnover in the two games.

G: Marquis Teague, Kentucky: Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are the two potential all-americans on the Kentucky roster. Terrence Jones is the enigmatic sophomore with the talent to be an all-american. Doron Lamb and Darius Miller are the unsung role players. The guy that never gets any credit? Marquis Teague, the point guard that hasn’t lived up to the hype of the “Calipari point guard”. Well, maybe it just took longer than we expected. Teague was terrific in two of Kentucky’s biggest wins of the season. In a 20 point win over Florida in Rupp and a 69-63 win at Vanderbilt, Teague had 25 points and 18 assists while turning the ball over just six times and shooting the ball just 10-18 from the field.

F: Ramone Moore, Temple: Temple has taken control of the Atlantic 10 race, but that was something we knew prior to their dominating, 85-72 win over Xavier in Philly on Saturday. Moore was the star, going for 30 points, on 9-16 shooting, which followed up a 25 point, four rebound, four assist performance in a win over George Washington. Perhaps more importantly, Michael Eric made his grand return this week, going for 11 points and 16 boards against Xavier.

F: Jamil Wilson, Marquette: Marquette is currently playing without Chris Otule and Davante Gardner, and for those unfamiliar with the Golden Eagle’s roster, that means that Buzz Williams is working with a limited front court rotation. That’s what makes Jamil Wilson’s play this week so important. He went for 16 points and four boards against Cincinnati on Saturday, which followed up a dominating performance against DePaul in which he had 18 points, 10 boards, two assists, two steals and two blocks. With Wilson teaming with Jae Crowder in the Marquette front court, the Golden Eagles become a dangerous up-tempo team.

C: Jack Cooley, Notre Dame: As good as Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant have been, the biggest reason for Notre Dame’s surge this season is because the guy that looks like a mini-Luke Harangody has been playing like a mini-Luke Harangody. Jack Cooley has played like an all-conference player over the last month, and that didn’t change this week. He averaged 21.5 ppg, 13.0 rpg and 2.5 bpg while shooting 17-21 from the floor in wins at West Virginia and against DePaul.

Team of the Week: Wichita State Shockers

There have been rumblings for a while that Wichita State, and not Creighton, is the best team in the Missouri Valley. It was a difficult argument to make when Creighton owned a win in the only head-to-head battle and also held a better league record. That argument got a bit easier when the Bluejays lost two in a row to fall a game behind the Shockers. But after this week, there really is no question anymore.

Not only did Wichita State beat Northern Iowa by 25 points, but they also went into Omaha and knocked off the Bluejays 89-68. Dominating doesn’t begin to describe the performance. Creighton took a punch, then took another and took another. And by the time the dust cleared and the Bluejays were able to answer, they had been run out of their own gym. Most impressive? They did it while Garrett Stutz, who has been the best player on the roster over the last three weeks, managed just eight points and a single rebound in 13 minutes.

Teams deserving of a shoutout

Michigan State Spartans: Maybe its time we start talking about Michigan State as a serious Final Four contender. On paper, they aren’t as sexy as a North Carolina or a Baylor or a Missouri, but they are a gritty, defensive-minded team that attacks the glass as well as any hard in the country. We know about Draymond Green and Keith Appling and company, but the guy that stood out this weekend? How about Adreian Payne. He averaged 13.5 ppg and 4.5 rpg, including 15 points and 6-6 shooting from the field as Michigan State ended their road struggles with a 58-48 win at Ohio State.

Duke Blue Devils: All it took was a 10 point comeback in the final two and a half minutes in the Dean Dome, capped by a memorable and iconic three from Austin Rivers, for the Blue Devils to go from the brink of being two games back in the ACC to a three-way tie for first place. They followed that up with an 18 point win against Maryland. Think about this: against UNC, Rivers went for 29 points, and against Maryland, the Plumlees combined for 29 points and 32 boards. What happens when they all end up playing well at the same time?

Louisville Cardinals: Did anyone think that, after the Cardinals lost to Providence by 31 points, Louisville could be sitting at 8-4 in the Big East? They’ve won six games in a row, including a 21 point win against UConn on Monday night and a come-from-behind, three point win against West Virginia. Finally, for what feels like the first time all season, the Cards are hitting threes. On a similar note, Louisville finally has a healthy Wayne Blackshear in their mix. He went for 13 points in the win over West Virginia. I guess that shoulder is feeling pretty good.

Missouri Tigers: I gotta be honest: I’m getting kind of sick of writing about Missouri. Its the same thing every time. This team beats more talented teams and they do it playing an entertaining style of team basketball. This week, it was a 72-57 win over Baylor, one where Mizzou’s four-headed back court attack went for 63 points and 17 assists on 20-38 shooting, 14-28 of which came from beyond the arc.

Vermont Catamounts: Since their loss to Stony Brook to kick off America East play, UVM has won 11 of their last 12 games, including the 19 point win they had against those very Seawolves on Sunday afternoon. Four McGlynn had 24 points in the win, which pulled the Catamounts within a half-game of first place.

Five Thoughts:

Syracuse, not Ohio State, Kentucky’s biggest contender?: Kentucky is the best team in the country. No one in their right mind is going to argue that fact. If I were a betting man, I would put my money on the Wildcats to win the national title. But they certainly aren’t an overwhelming favorite by any stretch. There are flaws to this team. They can be pushed around in the paint, they lack depth if foul trouble strikes and Marquis Teague, while playing much better of late, is still Marquis Teague. Kentucky is not unbeatable.

And if anyone is going to take them down, I believe its going to be Syracuse, not Ohio State. I think that its safe to say those are the two teams that everyone in the country believes are Kentucky’s biggest competition, and rightfully so. They both have the kind of physical interior presence needed to try and take advantage of the fact Terrence Jones is soft and Anthony Davis is slender. They both can buckle down and defend. They both re loaded with talent on the offensive end of the floor.

Here’s my thing about Syracuse over Ohio State, however. The knock on Syracuse is that they don’t have a go-to player. I disagree with that sentiment. I think they have three go-to players in Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters, and I think those three are ok with sharing the spotlight. I think they get the fact that they are going to be their best as a team and win the most games when they are all playing together, allowing the guy with the hot hand to shoot the ball in the big moments. It was Joseph against Georgetown, and it was Jardine against UConn.

I think Ohio State is the team with an issue with go-to scorers. As we saw against Michigan State, Jared Sullinger is not exactly adept at going 1-on-2 or 1-on3 every possession in the post. But that is precisely what he is going to have to do when William Buford and Deshaun Thomas aren’t scoring the ball. Buford has not been the same player that he was last year, and Thomas is a bit of a streaky scorer. If those two can’t iron out their kinks, the Buckeyes have a lower ceiling than the Orange.

Tony Mitchell of North Texas is the country’s least-discussed stud: Mitchell was supposed to be enrolled at Missouri before he ran into some academic issues, which is why he had to sit out half of this season with the Mean Green before finally getting on the court. But it was worth the wait, as Mitchell has been sensational. Earlier in the year, Mitchell was a bit up and down, mixing in the 34 points and 16 boards he had against South Alabama or the 30 points 17 boards he had against Denver with six point performances against the likes of Troy and Arkansas-Little Rock. The last four games have ben a different story, however. Mitchell has averaged 19.0 ppg, 14.5 rpg and 5.3 bpg while shooting 57.1% from the field.

Who is the second-best team in the SEC?: As we’ve established, Kentucky is not only the best team in the conference, they are the best team in the country. So who is the second-best? Its clearly not Alabama, whose struggles were compounded by Anthony Grant’s decision to suspended four of his starters for a violation of team rules (love the decision, by the way). And its not Mississippi State, who can’t handle Georgia at home. Florida not only lost to Kentucky by 20 on Tuesday, they got beaten up by Tennessee in Gainesville. Could it be that Vanderbilt, the team that everyone in the country spent the first two months of the season bashing, is actually the second best team in this league?

Is the best story in the country UNC-Greensboro?: On December 13th, Wes Miller took over as UNCG’s head coach after Mike Dement was fired. The name should sound familiar to you. Miller was a guard on UNC’s 2005 national title team. He turns 29 this month. And he was forced to take over a team that had gone just 2-8 before he took over the role. As you might expect, the start of his tenure was a bit rough. Miller lost his first six games at the helm of the Spartans, dropping their record this season to 2-14.

But on January 12th, Miller’s team got their first win, winning at the College of Charleston. Since that win, they’ve only looked back once, a 93-85 defeat at the hands of Furman. The Spartans have won nine out of their last ten games. Three of them have been by a single point, and another was by two points. Two more of those wins came in overtime, meaning that Miller, whose players probably remember him from his time in Chapel Hill, is coaching as well as anyone in the country in crunch time. UNCG is currently in first place in the Northern Division of the SoCon. If there is any team you are going to root for making the NCAA Tournament, it should be the Spartans.

The MAAC race is going to be a lot of fun: Either that or a mess. One of the two. After Fairfield’s 68-51 win over Loyola (MD) erased the Greyhounds one game lead over Iona in the standings, we now have four teams within one game of first place. Fairfield, one of the most talented teams in the conference, struggled early, but they are now playing their best basketball of the season.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

Saul Young/News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior center Tamari Key will miss the rest of this season because of blood clots in her lungs, coach Kellie Harper said.

Doctors found the issue during testing. Key is expected to make a full recovery after treatment from University of Tennessee doctors, Harper said, adding that her sole concern is Key getting the medical care she needs to heal and return to full strength.

Key missed the first game of her career in a win Tuesday night over Chattanooga after playing her first 99.

“This is much bigger than basketball. We are so grateful that this medical condition was caught,” Harper said in a statement. “Our entire program will be right beside Tamari during this process and welcomes prayers and positive thoughts from Lady Vol Nation and beyond.”

The Lady Vols opened the season ranked fifth but currently are 5-5.

The 6-foot-6 Key from Cary, North Carolina, currently is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer averaging 8.4 points a game and averaged 4.2 rebounds per game. She started all 34 games as the Lady Vols reached their first Sweet 16 since 2016 last season and set the school record with 119 blocked shots.

Key had 18 blocks this season and 295 for her career, five away from becoming the eighth woman to reach that mark in Southeastern Conference history.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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Saul Young/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan State snaps 2-game skid

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Matthew OHaren/USA TODAY Sports
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats Boston College 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.