THREE TAKEAWAYS from Kansas knocking off Oklahoma

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
2 Comments

There was a lot to dive into after Kansas knocked off Oklahoma 109-106 in triple overtime on Monday night. We talked about the game itself and the controversial call at the end already. Here are the three things that we can take away from the game moving forward:

1. Buddy Hield may very well be the National Player of the Year favorite after his performance: I mean, the guy entered the night averaging 24.7 points and shooting 49.2 percent from three for a team that was ranked No. 1 in the country in the Coaches Poll and was undefeated in January. He already was deservedly in the conversation, which is why we had him ranked third in our Player of the Year Power Rankings for a couple weeks now. But after this? He went into Phog Allen Fieldhouse and torched the Jayhawks for 46 points, eight boards and seven assists on 13-for-23 shooting from the floor and 8-for-15 from beyond the arc on a night where the consensus (rightfully) was that Kansas played him well defensively. To put it another way, Brice Johnson had 39 points, 23 boards, three steals and three blocks at Florida State tonight and I’d argue that Hield’s performance was far more impressive.

In fact, when you factor in the locale, the opponent, the defense that was being played and the moment that it came in, I’m not sure I can remember the last time that I’ve seen a more impressive individual performance than this. Bill Self has led Kansas to 11 straight Big 12 regular season titles and he’s lost nine times in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Scott Drew, who has built a good basketball program at Baylor out of the rubble that was left by Dave Bliss, has lost nine times at Phog Allen in his 12-year tenure with the Bears. Oklahoma hasn’t won in Phog Allen in Hield’s lifetime.

And yet, if Khadeem Lattin makes a free throw at the end of regulation, Oklahoma would have won this game.

That’s how well Hield played.

While I’m not yet convinced that Hield is now the Player of the Year frontrunner just yet — my POY Power Rankings come out tomorrow — I wouldn’t necessarily argue with anyone that put him there.

Not right now.

2. We can’t doubt Oklahoma as a contender anymore: What was the knock on this Oklahoma team this season? They didn’t really have a four-man that they could trust? I’m not sure that story line is really a thing anymore, not after the way Lattin played. I know he missed that free throw at the end of regulation, but he finished the night with 10 points, 14 boards, six blocks and a pair of assists in 39 minutes. He was terrific, and played like a guy Oklahoma can rely on as Ryan Spangler’s front court counterpart.

Spangler isn’t a guy I would define as a ‘Land Warrior’, but his game isn’t built on explosiveness or athleticism. He’s strong and he’s physical, but offensively, what he’s most effective at is spacing the floor. He can set brutal ball-screens and his ability to knock down threes makes him a nightmare in pick-and-pop actions. He’s currently shooting better than 45 percent from beyond the arc this season. I say all that to say this: With the talent Lon Kruger has in his back court this season — Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard flanking Hield — Oklahoma can play four around one and not have to worry about having a low-post scorer all that much. Their guards are that good at playmaking. What Lattin provides — or at least provided on Monday night — was energy on the glass, a shot-blocking presence defensively and a guy that could finish off dump-offs and lobs at the rim.

I’m not expecting 10, 14 and six from him on a nightly basis, but that kind of effort level and production ceiling is a great sign for this group.

3. But the Big 12 still runs through Lawrence: That ain’t changing until someone makes it change, and Oklahoma came very close to doing in on Monday. The way to win a regular season conference title, particularly in a league with a double round-robin like the Big 12, is to defend your home court against everyone and to pick off enough opponents on the road that you finish atop the standings. As I wrote earlier, Kansas simply doesn’t lose games at home, and while they may end up losing four or five games on the road in a given season, they have a margin for error because … no one beats them in the Phog.

Oklahoma had the chance on Monday. They missed out on it, and now we’re looking at a situation where Kansas is, once against, in driver’s seat in the league title race.

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

Saul Young/News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK
2 Comments

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

tennessee basketball
Saul Young/USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

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

michigan state basketball
Matthew OHaren/USA TODAY Sports
3 Comments

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

virginia tech basketball
Erica Denhoff/Getty Images
2 Comments

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
0 Comments

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.