O26 Weekly Awards: Northern Iowa, Craig Bradshaw, Pat Duquette & Eastern Washington

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 1st, 2014

Throughout the season, the Other 26 microsite will run down our weekly superlatives, including team, player, coach and whatever else strikes our fancy in that week’s edition. 

O26 Team of the Week

Northern Iowa began the week in Cancun and ended it with a home victory over Richmond. (unipanthers.com)

Northern Iowa began the week in Cancun and ended it with a home victory over Richmond. (unipanthers.com)

Northern Iowa. With all of the marquee tournaments and showdowns taking place over the holiday weekend, it’s understandable if Northern Iowa’s trip to Mexico for the ‘Cancun Challenge’ was lost in the shuffle to some extent, especially considering the fellow competition: Virginia Tech, Northwestern and Miami (OH). If you did miss it, here’s a quick synopsis: after hammering Virginia Tech by 19 points, the Panthers held Northwestern to a paltry 0.76 points per possession and pounded the Wildcats by 21 to claim the championship. But although a tournament title is certainly a nice preseason prize, it’s not even the hardware that made Northern Iowa’s week so impressive. No, the reason Ben Jacobson’s club is our Team of the Week is because after delivering those back-to-back drubbings against high-major (if subpar) opponents, thousands of miles away from Cedar Falls, the Panthers flew back to the United States and kept the train rolling against an even better Richmond team. All signs pointed to a post-Thanksgiving, post-showcase letdown, especially against a tough, well-rounded Spiders unit ranked 54th in KenPom and boasting one of the Atlantic 10’s best guards in Kendall Anthony. But instead of coming out emotionally lethargic or physically fatigued or preoccupied with thoughts of warm resort towns, Northern Iowa took control of the game – just as it had in Cancun – and completely outclassed Richmond from start-to-finish, never once relinquishing the lead and defeating the Spiders, 55-50. In all, the Panthers maintained a lead for roughly 110 of 120 minutes this week against Virginia Tech, Northwestern and Richmond combined, a trio of dominant victories that has both propelled Jacobson’s unit to an impressive 7-0 start and further improved its at-large prospects.

Honorable Mentions: Gonzaga (2-0: N-Georgia, N-St. John’s); Green Bay (3-0: N-East Carolina, N-Evansville, N-Florida Gulf Coast); Colorado State (3-0: N-Missouri State, N-Pacific, N-UC Santa Barbara); Valparaiso (3-0: N-Drake, N-Murray State, N-Portland).

O26 Player of the Week

Belmont guard Craig Bradshaw is our O26 Player of the Week. (Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Belmont guard Craig Bradshaw is our O26 Player of the Week. (Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Craig Bradshaw – Belmont. Bradshaw opened the week with 29 points against Lipscomb – his second 20-plus point effort against the Bisons already this season – before notching 28 more in a win over Denver two days later. And if those two outings alone weren’t enough to put the 6’3’’ guard in discussion for Player of the Week, Saturday’s performance against Ohio most certainly was. On the road in Athens, Bradshaw shot 8-for-12 from behind the arc, 6-for-6 from the free throw line and set Belmont’s Division-I school record with 42 points, including a game-winning floater with 0.2 seconds remaining to beat the Bobcats by a bucket. His point total marks the highest to date this season in college hoops, an eye-popping figure that rounds out an eye-popping week for the junior: over the three games, Bradshaw averaged 33 points, 5.3 rebounds and nailed a ridiculous 17 of 29 three-point attempts. Needless to say, the Bruins have themselves a legitimate OVC Player of the Year candidate in 2014-15.

Honorable Mentions: Alan Williams – UC Santa Barbara (12 points, 12 rebounds vs. Washington State… 22 points, 20 rebounds, 6 blocks vs. Mercer… 22 points, 12 rebounds vs. Colorado State); Wesley Saunders – Harvard (24 points, 10 rebounds vs. Houston… 27 points vs. Massachusetts); Andrew Rowsey – UNC Asheville (30 points at South Carolina… 27 points vs. Charlotte); Tyler Haws – Brigham Young (26 points vs. San Diego State… 19 points vs. Chaminade… 32 points vs. Purdue… 26 points vs. Eastern Kentucky).

Coach of the Week

Pat Duquette has done a great job with upstart UMass-Lowell (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Pat Duquette has done a great job with upstart UMass-Lowell (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Pat Duquette – UMass Lowell. Two years ago, the idea of UMass Lowell beating established programs like Boston University at all, much less by double-figures on the road, would have seemed almost unfathomable – and even now it’s pretty amazing, when you think about it. The River Hawks, not even one month into their second season at the Division I level, feature by far the shortest roster in America (no regular contributor stands taller than 6’5’’) and had yet to record a non-conference road victory before 2014-15 began. Yet, there they were on Sunday – a week after notching three straight wins away from home – holding the Terriers to well under a point per possession and taking down the former America East powerhouse in its own gym. Last year’s 8-8 conference record was an impressive feat unto itself, considering the circumstances, and coach Pat Duquette deserves even more praise for his team’s continued, marked improvement this year. After a 5-2 November, there’s no reason to think the River Hawks won’t continue turning heads in the coming months.

Honorable Mentions: Chris Jans – Bowling Green; Jeff Jones – Old Dominion; Bryce Drew – Valparaiso.

O26 Upset of the Week

Eastern Washington pulled off a shocker in Bloomington. (Photo: Mike Fender / The Star)

Eastern Washington pulled off a shocker in Bloomington. (Photo: Mike Fender / The Star)

Eastern Washington over Indiana, 88-86. KenPom gave Eastern Washington a mere 12.2 percent chance of winning, but let’s forget about statistical odds altogether for a moment; this is Bloomington we’re talking about. Assembly Hall. One of the most hallowed home courts in college basketball, an historically difficult place to play, and a place where Tom Crean’s Hoosiers had beaten 43 straight non-conference opponents entering Monday. None of that mattered a lick to the Eagles, though, who overcame a six-point halftime deficit and uncharacteristically-average three-point shooting to pull off one of the more notable upsets of the young season. After gashing Indiana offensively for much of the second half, it was a big defensive play – big man Venky Jois’s denial of a Troy Williams baseline dunk attempt – that swung momentum in the final two minutes for Eastern Washington and enabled Drew Brandon (27 points) and Parker Kelly to hit go-ahead and game-clinching buckets on the other end. “We just never stopped believing,” EWU coach Jim Hatford noted afterwards, an appropriate, if clichéd, explanation for his team’s steely resolve down the stretch.

Honorable Mentions: Delaware State over Wake Forest, 72-65; Old Dominion over VCU 73-67.

O26 Finish of the Week

George Mason over Manhattan, 64-63. I mean, really, what else even came close to topping this crazy finish? It may only be December 1st, but it’s a pretty good bet that this heave will wind up as the most miraculous buzzer-beater all season long. Enjoy the magic.

Honorable Mentions: Southern Utah over UT-San Antonio, 92-90; Dartmouth over IPFW, 68-67; Charlotte over UNC-Asheville, 66-63.

O26 Dunk of the Week

Jason McManamen – Wyoming. Between McManamen’s monstrous posterization against Florida A&M and Larry Nance Jr.’s high-flying throw-down last week, perhaps we should start calling Laramie, Wyoming ‘Dunk City West’.

Honorable Mentions: Marquel Willis – Morehead State; Jameel Warney – Stony Brook.

Tommy Lemoine (250 Posts)

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