In spirit of ESPYS, here are some 2015-16 Big Ten award winners
B1G HIGHLIGHT - Michigan botches the snap on a late punt, and Michigan State returns it for the walk-off touchdown.
The 2016 ESPY Awards took place Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
The annual awards ceremony was filled with memorable moments, including a touching speech from TNT analyst Craig Sager, who was honored with this year’s Jimmy V award.
In honor of the ESPY Awards, I went ahead and made up a Big Ten-themed award list of my own, honoring the top performances of the past academic sports year in Big Ten athletics.
Here is what I got.
Did I miss one? Tweet me your thoughts, @BTNSean. All opinions welcomed!
BIG TEN AWARD WINNERS
Best Male Athlete: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State men’s basketball. Valentine averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game as a senior en route to winning six national player of the year awards, and being named Big Ten men’s basketball player of the year.
Best Female Athlete: Taylor Cummings, Maryland women’s lacrosse. A four-time first team All-American at Maryland, Cummings set the Maryland single-season record in draw controls (114) and caused turnovers (52) in her senior season. She ranks in the Top 3 in program history in goals scored (229), points (323) and draw controls (509). Her four-year career finished with an 88-4 record, just one loss each season.
Best record-breaking performance: Rachel Banham, Minnesota women’s basketball. Banham scored 60 points against Northwestern to tie the NCAA single-game record and set the Big Ten career scoring record with 3,093 points, good enough for sixth all-time in NCAA Division I. Those 60 points were the second most in one game in Big Ten history by a man or women, right behind Rick Mount’s 61 points in 1970 at Purdue.
Best Breakthrough Athlete: Kyle Connor, Michigan hockey. The recipient of the 2016 Tim Taylor Award, bestowed annually upon the best first-year player in NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey, Connor led the country with 35 goals and 71 points. He had 19 multi-point performances and seven game-winning goals.
Play of the Year: Michigan State punt block touchdown vs. Michigan. Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson picked up Michigan punter Blake O’Neill’s fumble and returned it 38 yards as time ran out to lift Michigan State to an unforgettable 27-23 victory over in-state rival Michigan.
Best upset: Minnesota over No. 6 Maryland, Big Ten men’s basketball. The Minnesota Gophers, who were 0-13 in Big Ten play, stunned then-No. 6 Maryland, 68-63, putting an end to the program’s longest losing streak in 30 years.
Best team: Penn State women’s soccer. The Penn State women’s soccer team finished 22-3-2 in 2015 and defeated Duke, 1-0, in the NCAA Women’s Soccer National Championship Game, en route to its first-ever national title.
Best championship performance: LJ Scott, Michigan State football. The Spartans freshman running back capped off one of the best drives (22 plays, 9 minutes) in Big Ten football history with a powerful and memorable one-yard game-winning touchdown with 27 seconds remaining in the 2015 Big Ten Football Championship Game.
Best game: Michigan State vs. Michigan, Big Ten football. Jalen Watts-Jackson’s 38-yard fumble return for a touchdown on the final play capped what will go down as one of the best games and finishes in college football history.
Best coach: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa football. In his 17th season at Iowa, Ferentz led the Hawkeyes to a school-record 12 victories in 2015, guiding the program to its first Big Ten divisional title and to its first Rose Bowl since the 1990 seasons.