Who Won The Week? Sean Kilpatrick and the Bearcats, Andrew Wiggins, and the Likely NPOYPosted by Kenny Ocker on January 31st, 2014
Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game. But he’s not biking anywhere with a sub-zero wind chill.
Maybe this should be “WINNER: Sean Kilpatrick.” But I don’t know if that’s fair to his teammates. Sure, offensively, the Bearcats were the Sean Kilpatrick Show this week, as they have been all season; the senior guard has led them in scoring in 19 of 22 games. But by more than just Kilpatrick’s accomplishments, Cincinnati has gotten to 20-2 this season, including back-to-back road wins against Temple and Louisville to go to 9-0 in the AAC. In Sunday’s 80-76 win against the Owls, Bearcats guard Troy Caupain had eight points and nine assists, and forward Shaquille Thomas had 15 points to complement Kilpatrick’s season-high 29 points and team-high eight rebounds. And in Thursday’s 69-66 win over the Cardinals, Thomas and fellow forward Justin Jackson both scored 11 points to complement Kilpatrick’s 28, which came with five rebounds. But what makes Cincinnati more than Kilpatrick and more than their secondary performances on offense, is its stingy defense. The Bearcats are in the top 10 nationally in steal rate, block rate and two-point field goal rate, and five players force steals on more than 2.5 percent of their possessions. The best ball thief is Jackson, who ranks in the top 50 nationally in steal rate, while also ranking in the top 50 in offensive rebounding rate and in the top 10 in block rate. Cincinnati’s only losses this season came on the road at New Mexico and to crosstown rival Xavier, and they’ve won 12 in a row, five of those on the road. Perhaps its time to treat them as a top-tier team nationally.
(Related winners: Kilpatrick; the American Athletic Conference, which has a surprisingly good number of teams that includes Cincinnati, Louisville, Connecticut, Memphis and Larry Brown’s SMU; Related losers: Louisville, which lost despite forcing 20 turnovers in a 65-possession game; Temple, which blew a 33-point performance from senior guard Dalton Pepper.)
It’s never a good sign when you get stuck with this label two weeks in a row. Last week, the Golden Bears went and lost to the Pac-12′s worst team, USC. This week, well, yeesh. Now the Bears are on a three-game losing streak. The following video sums things up neatly:
Justin Cobbs, all alone, is like Cal’s grip on second place in the conference. And a perfectly good opportunity – that layup, their conference performance – is just left hanging there, squandered, painfully unfulfilled. That clip comes from the Bears’ 89-78 overtime loss on the road to a hit-or-miss Arizona State squad on Wednesday. That loss followed a 76-64 loss at UCLA on Sunday. Cal gave up 45 percent or better shooting in both games, and a combined 14-of-28 three-pointers were made by its opponents. Never mind that Cobbs had 35 combined points in the two games, or that forward Richard Solomon had 27 total rebounds. If they can’t keep other teams from putting the ball in the basket repeatedly, the Bears are in trouble. And bad short-term news looms, too: Cal will host No. 1 Arizona tomorrow.
(Related winners: UCLA, which now stands alone in second in the Pac-12; Arizona State, perpetually confusing under Herb Sendek, which has won its last three games. Related losers: I’d have said Dayton, for losing one of its signature non-conference wins, but the Flyers have started Atlantic 10 play a cool 1-5, so I won’t.)
WINNER: Andrew Wiggins
The most hyped freshman since – oh, who am I kidding, he might not have even been the most hyped freshman in his class, he just committed to his school last – anyway, Andrew Wiggins played like the superstar he was billed as this week, setting a career high with 27 points against TCU, then following it with a career-high-er 29 points against Iowa State. In Saturday’s 91-69 thrashing of the Horned Frogs, Wiggins took only 13 field goal attempts to get his 27 points, hitting eight, while making 9-of-10 free throws, and he had five assists and five rebounds, too. And Wiggins’ 29 points in the Jayhawks’ 92-81 Wednesday night win over Iowa State came on 10-of-16 shooting and were accompanied by seven rebounds. Oh, by the way, Kansas is 7-0 in the Big 12 and has only lost once in the last month and a half.
(Related winners: Kansas; forward Perry Ellis, who had eight points and 14 rebounds against TCU and followed that with 20 points and six rebounds versus Iowa State; guard Naadir Tharpe, at the top of his game with 12 points, 12 assists and six rebounds against the Cyclones. Related losers: TCU, who may never beat Kansas again; Iowa State, who hasn’t beaten Kansas in seemingly forever, and whose role players – not DeAndre Kane, Georges Niang or Melvin Ejim – had just 17 points against the Jayhawks, lower than any of their three stars’ outputs).
LOSERS: Wisconsin and Ohio State
Wednesday was a banner day for bad losses in the Big Ten. Wisconsin, usually untouchable at at the Kohl Center, lost its second home game in a row, 65-56 to a Northwestern team with an offense as bad as winless-in-two-years Grambling State. Ohio State played at home against Penn State for its only game of the week and stunk up the joint in a 71-70 overtime loss. It’s hard to tell which one of those are more painful to teams that were already hitting the skids. Northwestern does have the country’s 10th-ranked per-possession defense, but its offense is just about as bad as its defense is good. And yet somehow the Badgers gave up 30 points in the final 12 minutes of the game, and let guard Drew Crawford score 30 points even though he hadn’t topped 20 in a game in more than a month. Penn State does have the fantastically talented point guard Tim Frazier, but he was held to eight points and six turnovers (alright, and 10 rebounds and seven assists) as the Buckeyes couldn’t make shots from the field, shooting 38 percent against the worst Big Ten defense by a significant margin. These were two brutal performances for teams that needed to pick up cheap wins against inferior opponents after stumbling early in conference play. Luckily for me, the two face off tomorrow in Madison, so we’ll see right away who rights their listing ship. Instant gratification!
(Related winners: Northwestern; Crawford, for making the most of his fifth year of eligibility after an injury ended his first senior campaign last year; Penn State; Frazier, for grabbing 10 rebounds as a point guard. Related losers: Any of you who have to watch the impending Ohio State-Wisconsin brickfest tomorrow. And just think, that game tips at 9:00 AM Pacific, so I’ll be getting brickfest for breakfast.)
WINNER: Doug McDermott
The Creighton senior is running away with the Naismith/Wooden/etc. Award, and there’s nothing any of us mere mortals can do to deny him of it. And with the performances he had last week, he’s certainly deserving. He led his Bluejays to a comfortable 76-63 win over Georgetown on Saturday despite shooting only 5-of-15 from the field, leading his team with 14 points and 10 rebounds. But his performance Tuesday against St. John’s was one of his best in his four years in Omaha. McDermott poured in 39 points on 15-of-26 shooting, and saved the game for his team after blowing a 19-point lead by hitting a heavily-guarded three-pointer with just seconds to go to seal the 64-61 home victory. The Red Storm dared McDermott to beat them alone, as the next-highest-scoring Bluejay had seven points, but he was up to the task, including at the biggest moment of all. Maybe that strategy wasn’t so sound.
(Related winners: Creighton. Related losers: Georgetown; St. Johns, who very well could have stolen the game had they shot better than 1-of-10 from the three-point line.)
LOSER: Basketball fans
The basketball world lost a legend this week with the passing of former La Salle legend Tom Gola, who died Sunday at age 81. The man dubbed “the greatest all-round basketball player” he’d ever seen (John Wooden) averaged 21 points and 19 rebounds in his varsity career, holding the NCAA record for rebounding and is one of two players in history with more than 2,000 career rebounds. He had an NCAA title, an NIT title and an NCAA runner-up finish, and was named Player of the Year in two different years and the Final Four’s most outstanding player in 1954. After an NBA career, he came back to coach his alma mater and led the Explorers to a 23-1 record and the No. 2 ranking in the nation. After one more season at the helm, he decided to retire, leaving the basketball world, formally, for good. For the full story of his legend, RTC’s Adam Stillman has you covered here.
(Related winners: Never. Related losers: Philadelphia, La Salle in particular.)