Michigan State Spartans

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Cassius Winston leads No. 8 Michigan St to 74-58 win over Minnesota

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Cassius Winston scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half while Xavier Tillman finished with 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, leading No. 8 Michigan State to a 74-58 win over Minnesota on Thursday night.

The Spartans (13-3, 5-0 Big Ten) led by just four points at halftime before pulling away for their eighth straight victory, staying atop the Big Ten standings as the only team without a conference loss.

The Golden Gophers (8-7, 2-3) were very competitive in the first half, which had five lead changes and five ties, but couldn’t slow down Winston after halftime.

Minnesota’s Daniel Oturu had 22 points on 9-of-19 shooting, 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Marcus Carr scored 11 points and Alihan Demir added 10 points for the Gophers.

BIG PICTURE

Minnesota: Oturu needs more help. The Gophers have four players who average in double figures, but didn’t have anyone get there other than Oturu until Demir made a 3-pointer with 1:31 remaining.

Michigan State: After taking full advantage of a home-heavy schedule, the Spartans will play three of their next four games on the road.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Spartans are the highest-ranked team with three losses, making it difficult for them to move up in the poll.

UP NEXT

Minnesota: Hosts No. 19 Michigan on Sunday and No. 20 Penn State on Wednesday night, facing a third ranked opponent in a week.

Michigan State: At Purdue on Sunday.

Winston, No. 15 Michigan State top Northwestern 77-72

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EVANSTON, Ill. — Cassius Winston scored 21 points and Xavier Tillman had 15 points and 10 rebounds, helping No. 15 Michigan State beat Northwestern 77-72 on Wednesday night.

Winston went 8 for 16 from the field in the Spartans’ 11th consecutive victory against the Wildcats. He also moved into 12th on the school’s career scoring list with 1,601 points, passing Morris Peterson (1,588) and Raymar Morgan (1,597).

The senior guard bounced back nicely after he had just nine points on 3-for-13 shooting during Saturday’s 72-49 victory over Oakland.

Boo Buie scored a career-high 26 points for Northwestern (5-5, 0-2 Big Ten), and Pete Nance finished with 14 in his return from a one-game suspension for “failure to adhere to program standards.”

Michigan State (8-3, 2-0) led by as many as 16 after Winston hittwo foul shots to make it 47-31 with 14:56 left. But the Wildcats responded with a 13-2 run.

Buie’s 3-pointer got Northwestern within five with 12:47 remaining. The freshman guard scored 11 points during the rally.

Michigan State eventually regained control with a 7-0 spurt, and then held off the Wildcats down the stretch. Foster Loyer made four foul shots for the Spartans in the final 33 seconds.

Gabe Brown added 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Loyer finished with seven points.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: The Spartans went 9 for 21 from 3-point range after they went 7 for 33 from the deep in the victory over the Golden Grizzlies. The 3-point shooting will be something to watch for coach Tom Izzo’s team as it heads into the heart of its Big Ten schedule.

Northwestern: Buie’s performance in his first game against a ranked opponent is a positive sign for the Wildcats. He went 5 for 7 from beyond the arc.

UP NEXT

Michigan State hosts Eastern Michigan on Saturday night. The Spartans don’t play another road game until Jan. 12 at Purdue.

Northwestern visits DePaul on Saturday night.

Vernon Carey Jr., Tre Jones dominate as No. 10 Duke earns blowout road win at No. 11 Michigan State

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Duke avenged last season’s Elite Eight exit by taking down No. 11 Michigan State, 87-75, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for an impressive non-conference road win.

A week after losing at home to Stephen F. Austin, one of college basketball’s biggest upsets of the last two decades, the No. 10 Blue Devils (8-1) clamped down on defense in the first half while establishing dominant performances from freshman big man Vernon Carey Jr. and sophomore point guard Tre Jones.

Posting his seventh consecutive double-double, Carey finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds and three blocks looking completely dominant against an overmatched Spartans interior defense. Michigan State made the decision not to double Carey on post touches and the freshman made the Spartans pay. Finishing through contact and making quick-and-decisive moves in the post, Carey simply could not be stopped — particularly when Michigan State big man Xavier Tillman wasn’t defending him.

Defensively, Carey continues to make strides while looking worlds better than he did during high school. Uncommitted to that end of the floor at times in his prep career, this version of Carey has established himself as a solid back-line defender who can erase some shots and even draw charges. Carey’s improved defense was a big reason why Duke established its early double-digit cushion and never let off the gas.

The overall performance and general consistency of Carey means he’s not only establishing himself as Duke’s go-to player, but he’s also putting his name firmly in the mix for All-American honors and potentially more. Carey still has to make strides on ball-screen defense and improve on the 57 percent free-throw shooting. It’s also nearly impossible to complain about what he just did to one of the better defensive teams in the country. Had it not been for what appeared to be second-half leg cramps (he returned to the game by the end) then Carey might have easily gone for 30.

Jones, relatively quiet in last season’s NCAA tournament matchup between the two teams, elevated his play to a new level on Tuesday as well. The sophomore finished with 20 points, 12 assists and three steals. Defensively solid as usual, particularly on Michigan State senior Cassius Winston, Jones looked like one of the nation’s best two-way point guards with the way he played in the Breslin Center. When Duke built its comfortable cushion by halftime, Jones deftly alternated between caretaker and catalyst depending on what the situation called for (that bounce pass in traffic to Vernon Carey was nasty).

This is the type of Jones game Duke fans were hoping for before this season. Scoring wasn’t necessary from Jones last season when Duke had so much offensive firepower from the trio of Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish. Now that Duke isn’t getting consistent early play from Matthew Hurt (10 points), and Cassius Stanley is out with a minor injury, Jones needed to step up his offensive role for Duke to beat elite teams on the road.

If Carey and Jones can play near this level every night then it makes Duke the preseason title contender everyone believed they would be before the Stephen F. Austin loss. It’s still a long season and ACC conference play has barely started. Duke getting this type of game from its stars in a bounceback road win is huge.

Playing without Stanley, who is missing time after suffering an injury in Friday’s Duke win over Winthrop, the Blue Devils have to feel much better about the performance of role players once Carey established his dominance and Jones manned the ship.

Senior Javin DeLaurier played with flashes of confidence like his former self with 10 points and six rebounds off the bench. DeLaurier and forward Jack White both gave great effort on the interior defensively by consistently falling up and making Michigan State’s guards finish over length. Sophomore Joey Baker added 11 points. On the wing, Baker has been a pleasant surprise scorer for the Blue Devils with Stanley missing from the rotation the past two games.

It was easy to get down on Duke a week ago with the loss to Stephen F. Austin. We also need to remember that Duke has already earned neutral-court wins over Kansas and Georgetown while impressively dismantling Michigan State in their building. Don’t count out Duke if Carey and Jones are rolling.

Michigan State (5-3) clearly has work to do as their brutal early-season schedule continues to make life difficult. The Spartans have now lost to Kentucky at the Champions Classic, Virginia Tech at Maui and this uninspiring effort at home against Duke.

Winston (12 points, seven assists, 4-for-14 shooting) was sluggish on Tuesday as he was harassed by Jones and thwarted by a much-improved Duke interior defense. Xavier Tillman paced Michigan State with 20 points and eight rebounds as he looked like the only consistent offensive option.

Aaron Henry was virtually a non-factor. The Spartans also struggled to 4-for-16 three-point shooting. Even if this loss was jarring, and three losses by this point in the season is unexpected for the preseason No. 1 team, there is still so much time left to play this season.

Michigan State has to address its interior defense and get more consistent help for Winston. It’s likely the Spartans will be able to pile up Big Ten wins but they haven’t shown an ability to beat top-flight opponents except for a win at Seton Hall. There’s still plenty of chances for Michigan State to earn wins over top teams. This loss just shows how far they are from a potential peak.

Three Things to Know: Stephen F. Austin stuns Duke at buzzer; Michigan State outlasts Anthony Edwards

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A full day of college basketball continued on Tuesday night with the Maui Invitational and Legends Classic among the marquee attractions.

But it was a massive upset in dramatic fashion that had the sports world talking as No. 1 Duke was stunned with its first home loss to a non-conference team since 2000.

1. Stephen F. Austin stuns No. 1 Duke on buzzer-beating layup

The play, the upset, the loss we’ll all be talking about for quite some time. The Lumberjacks stunned the No. 1 Blue Devils with an overtime win on Tuesday night as Nathan Bain raced down Cameron Indoor Stadium and released his uncontested layup just before time expired.

This is the third time the No. 1 team has lost this season — the second time that No. 1 has fallen to an unranked mid-major at home. More on this one here as Bain’s moment and Stephen F. Austin’s win is one of the biggest upsets in college basketball in the past 20 years.

2. No. 3 Michigan State outlasts Anthony Edwards, Georgia

Afternoon consolation hoops at the Maui Invitational saw No. 3 Michigan State build a 28 point lead before Anthony Edwards nearly single-handedly brought Georgia back with his second-half performance. Edwards scored 33 of his 37 points in the second half, putting on one of the more memorable stretches of play at the Maui Invitational.

Despite all of that, the Spartans held on for the win as Cassius Winston had another outstanding game. I have more on this game, with some of Edwards’ ridiculous highlights.

3. No. 4 Kansas, Dayton advance to Maui Invitational finals with wins

The championship of the Maui Invitational is set for Wednesday night as No. 4 Kansas and Dayton both won in the semifinals to set up the unexpected clash.

Continuing their impressive national showcase, the Flyers ousted Virginia Tech with an impressive 89-62 win. Sophomore forward Obi Toppin paced Dayton with 24 points as he continues to draw national attention.

Toppin and the Flyers get a major test in the No. 4 Jayhawks after they took down BYU. Kansas and Dayton is the unlikely Maui final that could deliver some interesting subplots.

Toppin is drawing considerable NBA buzz this week. Seeing him battle the Jayhawks’ massive frontline of Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack should be a lot of fun.

No. 3 Michigan State withstands Georgia despite monster Anthony Edwards second half

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Following a disappointing first-round exit from Maui to Virginia Tech the night before, No. 3 Michigan State withstood a ridiculous second-half performance from Georgia’s Anthony Edwards to claim a 93-85 consolation win at Maui.

The Spartans bounced back from the upset to the Hokies with a dominating first-half effort — putting together a 21-point halftime lead as senior point guard Cassius Winston did whatever he wanted.

Then, following a slow first half, Edwards showed why many consider him the potential No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

The freshman shooting guard pumped in 33 points in the second half — finishing with 37 overall. Edwards put up deep three-pointers, tough fadeaway jumpers (which made Bill Walton compare Edwards to Mitch Richmond on the broadcast) and generally looked like a 10-year NBA all-star for 20 blistering minutes. The Spartans lead also went from 28 down to two.

 

It looked like Maui could turn into a potential disaster for the former preseason No. 1 team.

But Michigan State deserves credit for showing resilience and taking the very best punch from perhaps the best pure scorer in college basketball and turning things around to win. Winston poured in 28 points and added eight assists while only turning the ball over twice. And although Edwards’ run was a frightening thing to deal with if you support the Spartans, Michigan State had enough responses to avoid the dreaded “1-2 — W over Chaminade” finish at Maui.

In all likelihood, Michigan State will see UCLA in the consolation title tomorrow with a chance to finish the event 2-1. Although the competition won’t be what the Spartans were hoping for, they have enough brutal games on the schedule where it’s not like they need additional Q1 games. They just need to improve closing out games if they want to remain Big Ten champions as a hunted top-five team.

Georgia’s comeback was fun. Edwards now firmly feels like the most compelling individual player to watch from a casual fan perspective in college hoops this season. But there’s still a glaring lack of consistent play from a team featuring 10 new players and relying on many younger guys.

Edwards had a hot/cold game in which he was virtually non-existent in the first half. At one point, Walton even mentioned Markelle Fultz’s name in a sentence speaking about Edwards — implying that the No. 1 hype wasn’t warranted. Then Edwards had one of the greatest stretches in the history of a storied tournament. The highs and lows within even one game need to slow down if the Bulldogs want to be a factor in the SEC.

A high-scoring game with a top player in college hoops single-handedly trying to take down a top-five team is about as good as you can ask for when it comes to afternoon consolation college hoops.

College basketball’s best frontcourts

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As the NBA game gets smaller and quicker and more spread out, the college game can still be beaten with big guys.

Just two years ago, in between Villanova’s two national titles, was a championship game played between a Gonzaga team built around their big guys and a North Carolina team built around their big guys.

Hell, I think you can make the argument that Kansas center Udoka Azubuike is one of the five most valuable players in college basketball, even if his potential as a pro is limited.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the best frontcourts in college hoops.



1. KANSAS (Udoka Azubuike, Mitch Lightfoot, Silvio De Sousa, David McCormack, Jalen Wilson, Tristan Enaruna)

The Jayhawks have perhaps the best traditional big men in college hoops in Udoka Azubuike, who shot 77 percent from the floor in his last (and only) healthy season, but it’s unclear just exactly how this frontcourt will work as a whole. Silvio De Sousa is probably the most talented of this group with David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot the most experienced. None of those three, though, have shown the ability to step out on the perimeter to help create the space that will be critical for Azubuike to operate. Lightfoot is actually largely expected to redshirt. That leaves freshmen Jalen Wilson and Tristan Enaruna, a couple of four-star recruits.

What Bill Self does with this situation could very well determine Kansas’ ceiling. Frankly, it won’t be at all surprising if we see Self try doses of Marcus Garrett, Isaiah Moss and Ochai Agbaji at the four to alleviate the spacing concerns.

2. DUKE (Vernon Carey, Matthew Hurt, Javin DeLaurier, Jack White)

Coach K’s use of his frontcourt last year was one of the more scrutinized tactical decisions, with Zion Williamson, a singular force in the sport, splitting his time between power forward and center, when more time at the five probably would have unlocked a little more firepower for the Blue Devils. That won’t be the case this year with Duke’s roster flipping over, but how its frontcourt performs will go a long way in determining if it can get where last year’s team didn’t – the Final Four.

Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt are both five-star recruits and potential one-and-done lottery picks as top-15 prospects. The pair should, well, pair well with Carey at the five and Hurt stretching the floor at the four. Javin DeLaurier got a lot of run for the Blue Devils last year, and will help provide experience and depth up front.

3. MEMPHIS (James Wiseman, Precious Achiuwa, Isaiah Maurice, DJ Jeffries, Malcolm Dandridge)

Just how good Penny Hardaway’s frontcourt is will go a long way in determining if the Tigers are as good as their recruiting class. 

It starts with James Wiseman, the 7-foot-1 top-rated freshman and potential top-NBA draft pick come June. If he’s All-American good, then that sets Memphis up for success more than anything else. There’s that pesky ankle injury that’s kept him sidelined in the preseason, which is concerning but not cause for a full panic now.

It’s not the only thing, though. Precious Achiuwa was the other five-star Hardaway collected in his No. 1 recruiting class, which also included Isaiah Maurice, D.J. Jeffries and Malcolm Dandridge.

4. GONZAGA (Killian Tillie, Filip Petrusev, Drew Timme, Pavel Zakharov)

Killian Tillie is one of the more intriguing forwards in the country. People have been raving about his talent for years, but he’s been stuck behind great college players and future pros while also dealing with injuries. He even had knee surgery this offseason that has his immediate availability currently in question. If he’s healthy, the deck has been cleared in Spokane for him to be featured.

Six-foot-11 Filip Petrusev played in 32 games last year for the ‘Zags but wasn’t a huge piece of the rotation. He did have a big summer playing for Serbia at the FIBA U19s, putting up nearly 20 points a game and shooting 66 percent from the floor. He and Tillie could make for a dynamic duo.

Coach Mark Few also has some highly-rated freshmen he can mix in with Drew Timme and Pavel Zakharov, but they did get dinged when Oumar Ballo was forced to redshirt..

5. WASHINGTON (Jaden McDaniels, Isaiah Stewart, Naz Carter, Hamier Wright, Sam Timmins)

Memphis’ recruiting deservedly got a lot of love this summer, but Mike Hopkins got the job done, too. Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels are both top-10 recruits that will immediately make the Huskies’ frontcourt formidable. Both are 6-foot-9, but Stewart weighs in at 245 pounds and McDaniels 185. Nahziah Carter averaged 8.1 points and 2.4 rebounds while Hameir right played nearly 18 minutes per game. Sam Timmins played sparingly, but shot 62 percent.

6. LOUISVILLE (Jordan Nwora, Steve Enoch, Malik Wiliams, Aidan Igiehon, Jaelyn Withers)

The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Nwora blossomed into an All-American candidate last year, averaging 17 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while shooting 37.4 percent from the floor. He’s an ACC player of the year frontrunner, and the cornerstone to both the Cardinals’ frontcourt and their Final Four aspirations.

Steve Enoch was effective both inside and out last season while Malik Williams is a top-level shotblocker. Aidan Igiehon is a four-star, top-75 recruit while Jaelyn Withers is a top-150 prospect from 2019.

(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

7.  MISSISSIPPI STATE (Reggie Perry, Abdul Ado, Elias King, Robert Woodard II, Prince Oduro, KeyShawn Feazell, E.J. Datcher, Quinten Post)

Reggie Perry is a first-team all-SEC pick after he averaged 9.7 points and 7.2 rebounds last season while Abdul Ado is back after shooting 61.4 percent from the floor and blocking 1.8 shots per game last season. Robert Woodard played 17 minutes per game last year while Prince Oduro is eligible after a promising freshman season for Siena.

8. MARYLAND (Jalen Smith, Ricky Lindo, Chol Marial, Makhi and Makhel Mitchell)

Bruno Fernando is gone, but Jalen Smith was nearly as productive as him last season as a freshman. The 6-foot-10 Smith blocked 12.5 percent of opponent shots while on the floor while shooting 56.2 percent from 2-point range. He shot just 26.8 percent from distance, but hoisted 71 attempts, at least an indication he could potentially be a floor-spacer. The Terps are also adding twins Makhi and Makhel Mitchell, the former a top-75 recruit and the later a three-star prospect. Chol Marial is a 7-foot-2 freshman that could contribute if he gets healthy.

9. BAYLOR (Tristan Clark, Mark Vital, Freddie Gillispie, Flo Thamba)

Tristan Clark was on his way to first-team all-Big 12 honors last year before his knee injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season in January. He’s back this year, and he’ll anchor one of the best frontcourts in the country. Mark Vital, Freddie Gillispie and Flo Thamba all were contributors last season, and should be more effective with Clark by their side this season.

10. MICHIGAN STATE (Xavier Tillman, Marcus Bingham, Thomas Kithier, Malik Hall, Joey Hauser*)

Nick Ward and Kenny Goins are gone, but Xavier Tillman returns after a productive sophomore campaign that has him blossom on both ends of the floor, albeit not his 3-point shooting. Marcus Bingham and Thomas Kithier will be in line for more minutes after being seldomly used as freshmen while Malik Hall is a top-75 recruit.

The wildcard here is Joey Hauser. The Marquette transfer has already seen his request for an immediate-eligibility waiver denied by the NCAA, but Michigan State has appealed. If the NCAA reverses course, the Spartans’ frontcourt will suddenly look much more formidable.

11. FLORIDA (Kerry Blackshear, Keyontae Johnson, Gorjok Gak)

The Florida frontcourt got a massive boost when the 6-foot-10 Kerry Blackshear decided to grad-transfer over this past offseason. Blackshear averaged 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Hokies last season while also shooting 50.8 percent from the field. He’ll join Keyontae Johnson, who put up 8 and 6 last year, and Gorjok Gak, a 6-foot-11 center who missed last season with injury.

12. VIRGINIA (Jay Huff, Mamadi Diakite, Braxton Key)

The national champs lost a lot from last year’s team, but their frontcourt remains somewhat intact, although De’Andre Hunter is a major loss, no doubt. Getting Mamdi Diakite, Braxton Key and Jay Huff all to return is a help, though.

Diakite averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 22 minutes per game while blocking more than 10 percent of opponent shots while he was on the floor. Braxton Key and Jay Huff were smaller contributors last year, but still important ones. They’ll help Tony Bennett bridge the gap to the post-title era.

13. NORTH CAROLINA (Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks, Justin Pierce, Sterling Manley, Brandon Huffman)

Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson are both gone, but Garrison Brooks is back from his junior season and five-star center Armando Bacot comes into the fold. So, too, is William & Mary graduate transfer Justin Pierce, a third-team all-CAA honoree who averaged 14.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game last season as a junior.

14. UTAH STATE (Neemias Queta, Justin Bean, Diogo Brito, Kuba Karwowski, Roche Grootfaam)

Neemias Queta, a 7-foot sophomore, averaged 11.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in his rookie campaign while shooting 61.4 percent, putting him among the country’s most productive centers. Justin Bean saw more time late in the season and was productive against MWC competition. Diogo Brito is a floor-spacer when he’s at the four. Kuba Karnowski and Roche Grootfaam are a pair of junior college transfers that could contribute.

15. PURDUE (Matt Haarms, Trevion Williams, Aaron Wheeler, Evan Boudreaux)

Matt Painter and the Boilermakers have made a habit of having one of the nation’s best frontcourts, and that won’t be any different this year. Matt Haarms will anchor the group after the 7-foot-3 center averaged 9.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game while shooting 63.2 percent from the floor. Two freshmen that saw time last year – 6-foot-9 forwards Aaron Wheeler and Trevion Williams – will step into bigger roles up front, too.