Best of the Best: Dec. 26-Jan. 1 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. 26-Jan.1, in this post. And get ready for the coming week of Big Ten action with our Big Ten scoreboard.

Player of the week: Michigan State’s Keith Appling – Appling was the catalyst behind Michigan State sending No. 15 Indiana to its first loss of the season Wednesday, exploding for a career-high 25 points and adding six rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block. He also helped limit Indiana’s Jordan Hulls, a 55 percent sharpshooter, to a season’s worst 2-of-10 effort from the field. In two games, both wins, Appling shot 55 percent and averaged 19.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and one block for the white-hot Spartans.

Team of the week: Michigan State – The Spartans handed No. 15 Indiana its first loss of the season in Wednesday’s 80-65 decision and beat Nebraska, 68-55, Saturday in Lincoln. The two wins extended Michigan State’s winning streak to 13 games, the program’s longest such run of success since taking 22 straight in 1998-99. This is a team that hasn’t lost since falling to Duke in the second game of the season, and it’s improving at a very fast rate.

Indiana's Victor Oladipo

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Highlights of the week: Ohio State’s Sam Thompson jumps out of the gym on an inbound pass that resulted in an alley-oop (watch the dunk!), Indiana’s Victor Oladipo picked up back-to-back steals and threw down a powerful jam on the second one (watch the sequence!) and Michigan State’s Keith Appling gets an acrobatic And-1 and an emphatic swat (watch the two plays!).

Impression of the week: We’ll have a Big Ten race after all. Many talking heads, myself included, thought Ohio State would run away with its third consecutive Big Ten title this season. That may not be the case anymore, what with No. 15 Indiana upsetting the second-ranked Buckeyes on Saturday and with the way Michigan State has played since its season-opening losses to North Carolina and Duke. Ohio State is still a terrific team, but it can no longer be considered the Big Ten’s clear favorite. Now, it’s a wide open race, and things are shaping up for a wild and entertaining conference season. I mean, who had Iowa beating Wisconsin at the Kohl Center?

Stat line of the week: Ohio State’s William Buford vs. Northwestern – 9-14 FGs, including 5-7 3-pointers, 28 points, nine rebounds, four assists and one block.

Stat of the week: With its win over No. 2 Ohio State, coupled with its victory over then-No. 1 Kentucky earlier this season, Indiana became just the second Big Ten team to ever beat an AP No. 1 and No. 2 team in the same season, joining the 1952-53 Minnesota Gophers.

Odd stat of the week: Wisconsin’s 3-point shooting in upset loss to Iowa. The Badgers, who entered Saturday’s game shooting 41 percent from distance, went 3 of 28 (11 percent) against a team that was allowing opponents to shoot 37 percent on 3s. Go figure.

Quote of the week: “You’ve got a hell of coach, because the guy did a lot better than I did today.” – Tom Izzo, on Doc Sadler following Michigan State’s 68-55 win at Nebraska.

Quote of the week II: “You walk off the floor, they hang an ‘L’ on you and your ears are ringing because the fans are so loud.” – Jared Sullinger, on the scene at Assembly Hall after Indiana upset No. 2 Ohio State.

Keep your eye on…: Iowa’s Bryce Cartwright – Cartwright has struggled with injury and inconsistency much of the season, but he’s averaged 12.5 points, 4.5 assists and one turnover in Iowa’s first two Big Ten games. Remember, this is a veteran who scored 11.2 points and dished out 6.8 assists during conference play last season, so perhaps he saves his best for the most important games. That’s what the Hawkeyes are hoping, because they can really use the Cartwright who surprised everyone last season. Another Big Ten point guard, Northwestern’s Drew Sobolewski, needs to start getting more fan far. The true freshman must have watched a lot of Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor the past couple of years, because he doesn’t turn the ball over. In 14 games, Sobolewski owns a Big Ten-leading 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, plus he’s posted seven games of zero turnovers. Even more, he scored a career-high 20 points in Sunday night’s win over Penn State.

Brent Yarina is a web editor and blogger for BTN.com. Find all of his work here and follow him on twitter at @BTNBrentYarina.

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