By Steve Silverman
Spartans go tumbling down
So much for Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans holding onto the No. 1 spot in college basketball.
The Spartans went down with a thud when they lost last Sunday at Ohio State, as the Buckeyes just took them apart by an 80-64 margin.
That was Michigan State’s second defeat of the season, and when the Spartans returned to action Wednesday night at home against Rutgers, the malaise continued.
Michigan State won the game 76-72 over the Scarlet Knights, but they needed a late free throw by Miles Bridges to send the game into overtime, and then it was a bit of a struggle in the extra session until they put Rutgers away.
Izzo is clearly not happy with his team after the loss to Ohio State and the poor showing against Rutgers, but he is still quite confident about his team.
“We’ve played two games where we haven’t played as well. You know, that’s one of the problems with playing good,” Izzo said. “Maybe everybody got a little fat and sassy, as far as they think it’s going to be that way.”
“Fat and sassy” are code words for Izzo. Those words mean that his players are going to be pushed extra hard in practice going forward because Izzo is not going to put up with anything less than his team’s best effort.
Villanova exercises its defensive muscle in blowout of Xavier
While Michigan State suffered a fall, hard-charging Villanova re-emerged as the No. 1 team in the nation and supported that position with an 89-65 blowout of Xavier Wednesday night.
The key to the victory was Villanova’s strong defensive showing. The Wildcats have been a high-scoring team this year, and they had scored 90 points or more in their previous four games before hosting the Musketeers.
Head coach Jay Wright made the point that the Wildcats needed to pick up their defensive level, so he went to team leaders Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Phil Booth and Eric Paschall to set an example for the rest of the team.
The emphasis on defense was exemplified by the play of Bridges, who locked down Xavier star Trevon Bluiett and limited to five points.
In addition to Bridges’ sensational effort, Xavier was held to 41.4 percent shooting from the field and turned the ball over 15 times. The super quick Wildcats registered 10 steals.
In addition to the sharp defensive play, Brunson had a sharp game with 17 points and five assists, and he got the attention of Xavier head coach Chris Mack. “They’re led by the best point guard in college basketball,” Mack said.
With a star like Brunson averaging 19.4 points, 5.2 assists and shooting 59.0 percent from the field, and a new commitment on the team to defensive play, the Wildcats are playing their best basketball of the season and they are on the road to a memorable year.
Longhorns suffer huge blow, respond with win over TCU
Sophomore guard Andrew Jones is leading the Texas Longhorns in scoring, but he was knocked out of action this week when the school announced that he had been diagnosed with leukemia.
Jones had been out with an unidentified illness, and that came after he suffered a wrist injury. Head coach Shaka Smart took on a fully supportive tone for the team’s star.
“Speaking for our entire team and staff, we love Andrew and will do everything we can to support his family and help him get back to health,” Longhorns coach Shaka Smart said. “I want to thank everyone for being respectful of the privacy that the Jones family needs at this time.
“Andrew’s the best fighter on our team. He’s got a fight ahead of him. I know he’s really gonna fight. ”
Shortly after the announcement was made, the Longhorns played one of their best games of the season in beating TCU 99-98.
TCU’s Jaylen Fisher had an opportunity to win the game with a late layup, but his shot rolled off the rim and gave the Longhorns the narrow victory.
Texas left an open seat on the bench for with Jones’ jersey on it, and the Longhorns clearly want to win for him.
“It didn’t matter how long it would take. We wanted to get the win,” forward Dylan Osetkowski said. “Everybody left everything on the line tonight.”
The Longhorns came up with an emotional victory, but at a certain point, their emotional tank will be put to the test.
This and that
West Virginia has risen to the No. 2 spot in the rankings. That’s rare air for the Mountaineers, who have a 15-1 record and have won 15 games in a row. If you think that’s rare air for West Virginia, you’re right. The last time West Virginia was ranked as high as the No. 2 team in the nation was in 1959 when Jerry West was the star of the team. “The logo” was one of the greatest college basketball players of all-time, as he averaged 24.8 points per game and connected on 50.8 percent of his shot from the field during his three-year college career that ended in 1959-60. … Ohio State is one of the nation’s top surprises, as first-year coach Chris Holtmann has led his team to a 13-4 record, and a 4-0 start in the Big Ten. … Oklahoma freshman Trae Young remains the nation’s leading scorer, averaging 29.2 points per game. Kendrick Nunn of Oakland is second with 25.7 ppg, and Justin Wright-Foreman of Hofstra is third with 25.4 ppg.