Best of the Best: Dec. 5-11 Hoops Honors
Every Sunday night during the hoops season, BTN.com web editor Brent Yarina recaps the week that was on the men’s hardwood and hands out his weekly honors. See Brent’s latest installment, for action from Dec. 5-11, in this post. Also, watch Christian Watford’s last-second 3-pointer to stun No. 1 Kentucky and the resulting celebration Saturday at Assembly Hall. And get ready for the coming week of Big Ten action with our Big Ten scoreboard.
Player of the week: Draymond Green, Michigan State – Green scored a career-high 34 points and added three assists and three steals in a big road win at No. 22 Gonzaga on Saturday night. The senior captain averaged 24 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in a pair of wins to move Michigan State’s winning streak to eight games.
Team of the week: Indiana – The Hoosiers only played one game this past week, but what a game it was. Indiana, which entered the week with two wins over ranked teams in the last three-plus seasons, stunned top-ranked Kentucky at the buzzer Saturday to card the season’s biggest upset. Not only did the win move Indiana to 9-0 and make its hot start even more legit, it will result in the program being ranked for the first time since 2008 come Monday. One of two Big Ten teams without a loss, the Hoosiers have a realistic shot of entering Big Ten play undefeated, with a neutral court game vs. Notre Dame and home games against Howard and UMBC left.
Highlights of the week: Purdue freshman Anthony Johnson got up and emphatically put back a missed Robbie Hummel 3-pointer against Eastern Michigan (watch the play!), Indiana sophomore Victor Oladipo posterized No. 1 Kentucky (watch the play!) and Indiana junior Christian Watford sent the Wildcats packing with the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer (watch the play!).
Impression of the week: Indiana is for real. The 8-0 record entering the week was great, however people wanted to see how the Hoosiers handled superior competition before buying in. If the win at North Carolina State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge wasn’t enough to convince all parties, Saturday’s victory over top-ranked Kentucky certainly was. The Hoosiers didn’t look overmatched against the nation’s top team and top defense at any point in the game. They led for most of the second half, and when they trailed, they always regrouped and avoided giving the game away – a welcome change from the past three seasons. Best of all, Indiana scored 73 points, the most of any Kentucky opponent this season and 16 more than the Wildcats were surrendering on average prior to Saturday.
Impression of the week II: Michigan State can win a big game away from the Breslin Center. Losing to perennial ACC powers North Carolina and Duke on a neutral court – err aircraft carrier for the former – gives little reason to worry. That said, Michigan State’s win at talented and ranked Gonzaga on Saturday night proves Tom Izzo’s new-look Spartans can beat good teams away from East Lansing. In fact, the win marked Michigan State’s first true road win against a ranked nonconference opponent since beating Kentucky on Dec. 14, 2002. This is a win that could go a long way come Selection Sunday.
Stat line of the week: Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor vs. Green Bay – 5-12, 15 points, four rebounds, 10 assists and zero turnovers. The performance marked Taylor’s second career double-double, the first with points and assists.
Odd stat of the week: Penn State’s Tim Frazier vs. Lafayette – In 34 minutes, Frazier, the Big Ten’s leading scorer entering the contest, went 0-for-12 from the field, but dished out nine assists.
Keep your eye on…: Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger – Sullinger missed his second consecutive game Saturday, this one at No. 13 Kansas, due to back spasms. The Buckeyes suffered their first loss of the season in Lawrence, Kan., but that’s not the issue here. Back spasms are troubling, not to mention frustrating. It’s not an injury that you can cure or fully prevent from flaring up again, so it will be interesting to see how Sullinger recovers and how Thad Matta, a back sufferer, handles his sophomore star. It goes without saying that Ohio State needs its best player if it wants to accomplish its goals this season.
Keep your eye on II…: Illinois and Meyers Leonard – The Illini moved to a Big Ten-best 10-0 Sunday night, thanks to another strong effort from Leonard. The improved sophomore went for 18 points and 11 rebounds against Coppin State en route to posting his second career double-double. Of all the different faces contributing for Bruce Weber and the Illini this season, Leonard has been the most important and most impressive.