In spirit of ESPYS, here are some 2015-16 Big Ten award winners

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In spirit of ESPYS, here are some 2015-16 Big Ten award winners

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!


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.

Sean Merriman, web editor web editor Sean Merriman covers football and men's basketball and provides original content for You can follow him on Twitter @BTNSean.