College Hoops Tuesday Recap: Spartans Grab Important Victory

January 12th, 2011
Down nine after a pair of Jordan Taylor free throws with 2:37 remaining, Michigan State was in danger of picking up their second ACC loss of the young campaign is someone didn't step up and make some plays. You look to your seniors for leadership and that's exactly what Kalin Lucas and Draymond Green provided down the stretch, and a Korie Lucious three with 48 seconds remaining capped a 9-0 run that got the game into overtime. Green (26 points, nine rebounds) scored Michigan State's first eight points and the Spartans tallied five second-chance points in the extra session as they won 64-61 to remain a game in the loss column behind Ohio State and Purdue. Lucas shot just 4-for-17 from the field in scoring 17 points but he got to the line often (9-12 FT) and had six assists to just three turnovers. When your shot isn't falling you find other ways in which to contribute and that's exactly what Kalin did, and other players stepped in to make up for the cold shooting of both Lucas and Durrell Summers (1-6, three points).

"I have never seen a bunch of guys get knocked down more times than they got knocked down," remarked head coach Tom Izzo after the game. "In every huddle, they still thought they could win. We haven't solved all of our problems, too and we are not ready take on the world, but we did take a big step in kind of learning something about ourselves. I watch our huddles in our locker room right now and it was amazing how many guys had a feel for another guy, and that was probably the most enjoyable part of the night for me."

Jordan Taylor led three Badgers in double figures with 21, but Michigan State was able to limit Jon Leuer to 10 points on 3-for-9 shooting from the field. Keaton Nankivil added 17 but with Wisconsin shooting 38% from the field and being out-rebounded 39-30, Michigan State still had an opportunity to get back into the game and ultimately win. And the Spartans did just that, but does the victory mean that they're ready to turn the corner? It isn't as if they were playing lights out basketball before the run to push the game into an extra session, and Michigan State can't get used to surviving off nights from both Lucas and Summers. But it helps that the Spartans have a player as versatile as Green who can hurt the opposition in a variety of ways. If anything more was to be learned from last night it could be that Draymond's play will go a long way in determining just how good the Spartans can eventually be.

"If you can go inside, outside, and your tough covering the glass, that means you are going to get some pretty good numbers," said Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan when asked about Green. Sounds like a good summary of his skill set, one that Michigan State will need to tap often if they're to wind up atop the Big Ten standings. (quotes courtesy of Michigan State Athletics)

Other Notable Happenings

1. Florida outlasts Tennessee in Knoxville, and the home team could be in trouble.
After losing at Arkansas on Saturday in their SEC opener, Tennessee needed last night's home opener against Florida to avoid falling behind by two games in the loss column before the SEC East race gets into full swing. And after scoring the last four points of regulation to send the game into overtime they looked like a solid pick to do just that. But in what's been a theme for the Volunteers this season they were unable to sustain the momentum, making just two of six shots from the field as the Gators made the big plays in overtime to win 81-75. All five Gator starters reached double figures with Alex Tyus' 18 leading the way, while just three Vols (Cameron Tatum, Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris) did the majority of the scoring for the home team. The convenient reason for why Tennessee has been unable to sustain good moment would be that head coach Bruce Pearl is serving his eight-game suspension. But this is an experienced team that should have the maturity to deal with many of the on-court issues they'll encounter. Do they have the ability to figure things out before it's too late? We can only wait and see if they do.

2. Feel free to thank Al Skinner for finding Reggie Jackson if you're a BC fan.
Jackson's been outstanding this season for first-year head coach Steve Donahue, and as a result of his 29 points, six assists and five rebounds the Eagles remain undefeated in the ACC (3-0) after a 75-66 win over NC State. The Wolfpack have their own issues to sort out right now, but in regards to Boston College they could eventually become the answer to that pesky "who's the second-best team in the ACC" question. Biko Paris added 12 points and five assists while Corey Raji supplied 14 and eight rebounds off the bench, and you have to imagine that the nights where Joe Trapani (nine points) doesn't reach double figures will be rare (although this is the 2nd consecutive game that's happened). But they've got a difference-maker in Jackson that few teams locked in the middle of the ACC can claim right now (Maryland's Jordan Williams and Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney instantly come to mind), and with wins at Maryland and over State already in their possession Boston College has the early edge on one of those three other first round byes in the ACC Tournament.

3. Penn State does it again. It's OK to stop rushing the court now.
For the first time since 1954 the Nittany Lions have beaten ranked teams in consecutive games, knocking off #16 Illinois last night on an Andrew Jones follow dunk with one second remaining. Ed DeChellis' team, thanks to 26 points from Talor Battle, is now 3-2 in Big Ten play and a run towards a postseason berth of some kind isn't out of the realm of possibility provided they pick up a couple wins on the road. Jones added 12 and while Jeff Brooks didn't shoot well from the field (2-7, 7 points) he did manage to grab 10 rebounds as the Lions out-rebounded Illinois 33-27. Mike Tisdale showed up for the Illini with 16 points and 14 rebounds, but with Demetri McCamey (3-8, 10 points, five turnovers) and D.J. Richardson struggling on the perimeter the visitors paid dearly. A pair of very good wins for the Penn State program to say the least, but their next two games will say an awful lot about this group: at Ohio State and at Purdue. But for now it may be time to call a moratorium on storming the court after wins over ranked teams: Penn State isn't a bad basketball team right now.

BONUS: Two from Monday

1. Marquette whips Notre Dame to pick up a resume-building victory.
It seems to almost be tradition for Buzz Williams' teams to drop some close calls early in the season, only to figure things out and take care of business once Big East play rolls around. Could their 79-57 win over Notre Dame be an early sign of the Golden Eagles being ready to turn that corner? The team that claims close losses to Duke, Gonzaga, Wisconsin and Marquette needed little drama in dispatching of the Fighting Irish in Milwaukee thanks to 21 points from Dwight Buycks and 18 (to go along with seven rebounds) from Jae Crowder. Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom also reached double figures on a night when Marquette was scalding hot (12-for-17) from behind the arc. By comparison Notre Dame, who shot just 39.6% from the floor, made three of eighteen from distance in losing their second conference road game of the season. Eric Atkins led the visitors with 15 points but when Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis combine to score 19 they're going to have a tough time winning games when an opponent goes off like Marquette did. With just one Big East loss the Golden Eagles remain in the conversation atop the standings, and while they may lack a true standout big man (Crowder has been outstanding in his role) in regards to size this is a group that will battle for every possession. That characteristic will be good enough to keep them in just about any game the rest of the season, and if the trend holds they're a safe bet to win more than their share of close contests as a result.

2. Belmont has no desire to share first place in the A-Sun, blows out Jacksonville.
This one would have to go down as the surprise of the night and that's because of the margin opposed to the fact that Rick Byrd's Bruins won. Jacksonville, just two days after winning at Lipscomb, shot 29.8% from the field in failing to complete the Nashville sweep by a final score of 81-50. Belmont forced 22 Dolphin turnovers while shooting 43.6%, leading 42-21 at the half and not letting up in the final 20 minutes until the outcome was no longer in doubt. Kerron Johnson (15 points), Scott Saunders (13) and Mick Hedgepeth (11) led the way for the now 5-0 Bruins, who had 11 players score on the night. Russell Powell led the Dolphins with 16 but was one of just two visitors (Glenn Powell-11) to reach double figures. Jacksonville isn't the best shooting team around on the average (43.4%), but for Belmont to render them ineffective in both shooting and taking care of the basketball says something about the Bruins' defense. And despite averaging about the same number of possessions per game to date Belmont has been far more resourceful with theirs, something that can make a world of difference come March. While this was a big win for Belmont in regards to setting the tone for the A-Sun race there's still a lot of basketball to be played, and teams such as Lipscomb will also enter the conversation down the line. But they looked very good in making that statement on Monday.

Top Three Games

1. Michigan State 64, Wisconsin 61 (OT)

2. Penn State 57, Illinois 55

3. Florida 81, Tennessee 75 (OT)

Three Notable Performances

1. G Jimmer Fredette (BYU) 47 points and six assists in the Cougars' 104-79 beating of rival Utah.

2. F Terrence Jones (Kentucky) 35 points and eight rebounds in the Wildcats' 78-54 win over Auburn.

3. G Tyrone Conley (New Hampshire) 33 points (10-16 FG) in the Wildcats' 57-54 win over Hartford.

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