Hoosiers' Balance Too Much for Michigan State: Tuesday's Quick Hitters
In other action on Tuesday night both Connecticut and Xavier fell on the road, and it's now beyond danger time for both teams.
1. Draymond Green played well, but Indiana's many contributors proved to be too much for Michigan State.
With the chance to clinch the outright Big Ten title #5 Michigan State hit the road to take on #18 Indiana in Bloomington. But while Green further strengthened his Big Ten Player of the Year candidacy with 29 points and eight rebounds his teammates struggled mightily, with no other Spartan scoring more than eight points (Austin Thornton). Indiana defended well (the other Spartans shot a combined 10-for-34 from the field) and they executed offensively, shooting 47.9% from the field and finishing with an efficiency of 120.7 in their 70-55 win. Michigan State wasn't bad offensively in the first half, shooting 40.7%, but on the other end of the floor they were unable to keep Victor Oladipo and the other Hoosiers from the foul line.
The aggressive Oladipo scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half, with seven of those points coming from the charity stripe, and as a team the Hoosiers shot 16-for-18 as they built a 41-27 lead. Cody Zeller finished the night as Indiana's leading scorer with 18 points while Verdell Jones III scored 12 off the bench and starters Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford (14 rebounds) scored ten apiece. Indiana has now won 23 games this season and at this rate Tom Crean's squad could earn a "protected" seed in the NCAA tournament given their resume that features three wins over Top 5 teams (Kentucky and Ohio State the others). Michigan State can still win the outright Big Ten crown with a win over Ohio State on Sunday, but in order to do so they're going to need more from Keith Appling and the rest of Draymond Green's supporting cast.
2. All four home teams hold serve in the first round of the Horizon League tournament.
There wasn't much suspense in the first round of the Horizon League tournament on Tuesday night as all four home teams advanced to the quarterfinals. Butler shot 53.7% from the field and Andrew Smith put up 25 points and seven rebounds in the Bulldogs' 70-52 win over Wright State. The Raiders have had issues offensively for much of the season, but it was their defense that let them down at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler will take on Milwaukee, who led UIC 35-14 at the half in a game the Panthers would win 68-55. Milwaukee shot 11-for-25 from beyond the arc, making up for their poor free throw shooting (13-for-24) and 19 turnovers. Butler and Milwaukee played a pair of low-scoring contests in the regular season, splitting the two games with the home team winning both games.
The other quarterfinal will match Detroit and Youngstown State, and those two split their regular season series with the visiting team winning both meetings. Detroit forced 23 Loyola (IL) turnovers in their 80-71 win over the Ramblers, and offensively Eli Holman (20 points, six rebounds) and Chase Simon (19 points, four steals) led five Titans in double figures. Youngstown State also won the turnover battle in their first round matchup, forcing 17 Green Bay turnovers while also knocking down ten three-pointers in their 77-60 win. YSU scored 45 points in the first half thanks in large part to making eight three-pointers out of twelve attempts, and with all five starters scoring in double figures the Penguins did enough in the first half to retain control of the game.
3. Montana controls play at home to beat Weber State and win the Big Sky regular season title.
The battle between the Grizzlies and Wildcats was arguably the most important regular season game on the schedule Tuesday night when considering what was at stake. The winner would not only win the regular season title but also host the semifinals and title game of the conference tournament, an honor that Montana earned with their 66-51 victory. Wayne Tinkle's team got the job done on the defensive end of the floor, limiting Weber State to 30.2% shooting and a frigid 3-for-26 from three. Weber State did manage to grab 16 offensive rebounds but due to their shooting woes the Wildcats were unable to take advantage.
Montana was led by guard Will Cherry, who was outstanding in scoring 23 points and dishing out four assists. Combining with Kareem Jamar (17 points, seven rebounds) on the perimeter, Montana's backcourt outplayed Weber State's Damian Lillard and Scott Bamforth. Lillard did manage to score 19 points but he needed 19 shots to do so, making just seven, while Bamforth scored nine points on 4-for-13 shooting. These two split the regular season series with the home team taking control in the latter stages of the first half in both meetings, which may add to the importance of having home court in a possible title game rubber match. And given how much better Montana and Weber State were than the rest of the Big Sky, it's expected that these two would meet for a third time this season.
1. For all the talk about Arkansas' struggles on the road, one would expect the Razorbacks to take care of business at home down the stretch. That wasn't the case on Tuesday as the Hogs allowed 51 second half points in a 77-75 loss to Ole Miss, and that's the last thing Mike Anderson's team needed given their at-large prospects. Arkansas will most likely need to win the SEC tournament to go dancing.
2. How's this for an impressive stat: according to Wisconsin Assistant Director of Athletic Communications Patrick Herb, the Badgers clinched a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament for the 12th consecutive season with their 52-45 win over Minnesota. Wisconsin scored 36 of their points in the second half, quite the reversal from their 19% shooting in the first half.
3. Texas A&M may have shot 51% from the field but they still didn't have enough offensively to prevent Kansas State from leaving College Station with a 76-70 victory. K-State shot 12-for-17 from beyond the arc with Rodney McGruder going 5-for-7 (26 points) from deep, and Jamar Samuels added 17 and 11 rebounds.
4. Vanderbilt kept alive their hopes of finishing second in the SEC with 77-67 win over Florida in Nashville. John Jenkins made six of his nine shots from beyond the arc in scoring 22 points and Jeffery Taylor added 18 on what was an emotional night for the Commodores' senior class.5. Led by Will Barton (18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots), not only did Memphis move one step closer to an outright Conference USA title but they also may have ended UCF's at-large hopes in the 84-55 beating. Memphis shot 63.3% from the field in the second half, and while they anxiously await a definitive diagnosis of Antonio Barton's foot injury Josh Pastner's bunch has played some good basketball of late.