O26 Weekly Awards: Saint Joseph’s, Tyler Haws, Eddie Payne and CCSUPosted by Tommy Lemoine on February 5th, 2014
Last week was incredibly entertaining all across the spectrum of college hoops, featuring numerous upsets and several finishes that made our jaws drop. Let’s pass out a few accolades to those O26 teams, players and coaches who got the job done amid all the craziness.
O26 Team of the Week
Saint Joseph’s. This current week might actually have larger implications for Saint Joseph’s, what with home games against Saint Louis and VCU, but the Hawks’ effort last week — winning on the road at Dayton and handling UMass in Hagan Area — still deserves significant recognition. Phil Martelli’s club seemed destined for a second straight loss last Wednesday against the Flyers, trailing at halftime and completely unable to get things going offensively (perhaps a carry-over from the previous game at Richmond). It would have made for devastating, potentially demoralizing, defeat, considering the upcoming slate. Then the second half began, and everything changed. The Hawks charged out of the locker room with a 27-7 run to go up 15 points with around 10 minutes to play, leaving the Dayton crowd stunned and silenced. The home team did eventually make a comeback, forcing a slew of turnovers and tying the game with 11 seconds on the clock, but Saint Joseph’s guard Langston Galloway would not allow this opportunity to slip by, not with a season potentially in the balance: The senior used a ball screen at the top of the key, found just enough space on the right wing and banked in a three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left, finishing off the Flyers and improving his club’s record to 4-2 in Atlantic 10 play.
Saturday’s game against UMass featured similar drama, but was far more redemptive for the Hawks. A month earlier, they had played well but blew a late lead against the Minutemen in Amherst, prompting the terrific Martelli line, “It’s a big-boy game, and we weren’t big enough.” His team was more than big enough this time aroun — at least for the first 38 minutes — as it outworked Derek Kellogg’s group on both ends of the floor and opened up a 16-point margin early in the second half. But just like three days before, Saint Joseph’s let a game seemingly well in hand nearly get away, as UMass point guard Chaz Williams spearheaded a late, furious charge to tie things up with 30 seconds remaining. The Hawks stepped up once again, draining five key free throws and forcing one huge turnover to put away the Minutemen and salvage hopes for an NCAA Tournament at-large berth. It was the perfect culmination to a pivotal week for the Hawks, both a testament to their fortitude and proof of their staying power in the Atlantic 10.
Honorable Mentions: Lehigh (2-0: vs. Bucknell; @Boston University); Davidson (2-0: vs. Chattanooga; vs. The Citadel); Ohio (2-0: vs. Central Michigan; vs. Toledo)
O26 Player of the Week
Tyler Haws – BYU. Already on a scoring tear, Haws took his offensive game to another level last week and helped his team win a pair of crucial, season-preserving games heading into the February stretch run. The 6’5’’ junior entered last Thursday’s contest against Pacific having combined for 71 points over his previous two outings, including an incredible 48-point performance in a triple-overtime thriller at Portland. The Cougars, however, lost both of those games (each on the road) and could sense their at-large hopes dwindling with only a handful of opportunities left on the schedule. Or at least Haws could sense it, because he responded by exploding for 24 points in the first half against the Tigers, going 8-of-9 from the field to start the game and smoothly drilling every kind of shot you can imagine. He finished the night with 38 points in all, a career-high at the Marriott Center and enough to pass Brandon Davies for 10th on the school’s all-time scoring list. More importantly, BYU picked up a confidence-building victory ahead of Saturday’s critical match-up with Saint Mary’s, another squad desperate for a quality win. So how did Haws follow up Thursday’s offensive barrage, this time against a better team in on a bigger stage? By again posting huge scoring numbers, using a big second half — 22 points in the period — to help his club beat the Gaels, 84-71, and move to 15-9 overall. “I just find my rhythm,” Haws said after the game. And, boy, what a rhythm: Haws’ 33 points capped a two-game stretch in which he averaged 35.5 PPG, turned the ball over just twice, boasted a 67.5% effective field goal rate and went a remarkable 21-of-23 from the free throw line. Those numbers will win you Player of the Week more often than not.
Honorable Mentions: Alan Williams – UC Santa Barbara (26 points, 10 rebounds vs. UC Irvine… 27 points, 20 rebounds vs. UC Davis); Maurice N’dour – Ohio (21 points, 11 rebounds vs. Central Michigan… 28 points, 12 rebounds vs. Toledo); D.J. Balentine – Evansville (43 points @Northern Iowa… 26 points @Wichita State)
O26 Coach of the Week
Eddie Payne – USC Upstate. Payne had lost 10 in a row to Mercer prior to last weekend, a stretch that spanned more than three full seasons and included five defeats by over 10 points. With one of his most talented and experienced teams to date, though, the seventh-year coach likely tabbed Sunday’s home tilt against the Bears as one of his better shots yet to get off the schneid. Then, an unexpected wrench was thrown into the mix: The Spartans’ game against Kennesaw State on Thursday was postponed in wake of the massive winter storm that crippled much of the South, moving the contest to the following night. As a result, Upstate — which handled the lowly Owls by 18 — would have just one day to rest before facing the Atlantic Sun’s top team. Fortunately (for basketball purposes, at least), the tumultuous weather also pushed the East Tennessee State vs. Mercer game back to Friday, thereby evening the playing field ahead of Sunday’s clash. It probably wouldn’t have mattered either way. Payne had his team focused and ready to roll, indicated by the 80-61 walloping they put on the Bears. Versatile forward Torrey Craig dropped in 25 points and the Spartans forced 16 turnovers to help their head coach defeat Mercer for the first time since 2009, a victory that cements Upstate as a legitimate contender in the league tournament next month. Payne gets the nod for Coach of the Week as a result.
Honorable Mentions: Brett Reed – Lehigh; Barry Hinson – Southern Illinois; Jim Baron – Canisius
O26 Upset of the Week
Central Connecticut State over Robert Morris, 74-73. This outcome is truly mind-boggling. Robert Morris entered the contest 7-0 in conference play, having lost just one home game all season and having beaten fellow-NEC contender Bryant just two days earlier. Central Connecticut State, meanwhile, came in with a 5-15 overall record, ranked 325th in KenPom and still without their best player, Kyle Vinales, who was sidelined with a broken finger in early January. There was no reason to think this game would even be close. And while the Colonials’ 92.5 percent win probability entering the night makes the ultimate outcome shocking enough, consider the following: Andy Toole’s club led by a whopping 18 points with under eight minutes to play, boosting their winning chances to well over 99 percent and making a comeback a near-impossibility. A near-impossibility. Countless CCSU made-baskets later, the Blue Devils had defied the odds and pulled off one of the more remarkable upsets you will see all year.
Honorable Mentions: Southern Illinois over Indiana State (79-60); Valparaiso over Green Bay (75-60)