O26 Weekly Awards: SFA, John Brown, Marvin Menzies & NJIT…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 9th, 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

Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks’ season began (in earnest) with a home loss to Northern Iowa – the team’s first defeat in its own building since February 15, 2012 – and a pair of road losses to Xavier and Baylor. All respectable games to drop, sure, but the latter two weren’t even close, as SFA was bludgeoned by margins of 18 and 16 points, respectively. They certainly weren’t the types of outcomes people expected after last season’s 32-3, Round of 32 campaign – especially with Southland Player of the Year Jacob Parker back in the fold. But after a pair of easy victories in the Las Vegas Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend, the Southland favorite had a chance to get its swagger back – and climb above .500 – with two tough-but-winnable games last week at Memphis and home against Long Beach State.

The result? Swagger has been restored.

Stephen F. Austin is our O26 Team of the Week. (Getty Images)

Stephen F. Austin is our O26 Team of the Week. (Getty Images)

Not only did the Lumberjacks beat Memphis on Tuesday, they held the Tigers to their lowest point total in FedEx Forum since the 2009 Conference USA Tournament. Not that SFA was necessarily scorching the nets either, but midway through the second half its ball movement picked up dramatically and the perimeter shots started falling, prompting a 23-6 run over the game’s final 10 minutes. It was as if Underwood’s group found another gear – one that it has yet to shift down from. Following Memphis, SFA returned home on Friday to face a Long Beach State unit coming off wins over Xavier (who beat the Lumberjacks, if you remember) and Nevada in its previous two contests. KenPom predicted a single-digit outcome; the Lumberjacks had other plans, beating the 49ers down by 29 points in a wire-to-wire victory, a performance made even more impressive by the fact that Parker scored only four of those. They crushed LBSU on the offensive glass, took away the three-point line and forced a bunch of turnovers, all key ingredients in the recipe for a blowout. Now, SFA (which also popped Ouachita Baptist by 24 on Sunday) is looking almost as good as it did last year. And without another difficult non-conference test remaining on the schedule, could it achieve similar success, too… another 29-game winning streak, anyone?

Honorable Mentions: Harvard (3-0: vs. Northeastern, at Vermont, vs. Boston U.); Yale (2-1: at Bryant, at Connecticut, at Florida); New Mexico (vs. New Mexico State, at Valparaiso); Idaho (2-0: at Washington State, vs. UC-Davis); Fairfield (vs. Manhattan, at Quinnipiac)

O26 Player of the Week

High Point's John Brown had an excellent week. (Brian Westerholt/Sports On Film)

High Point’s John Brown had an excellent week. (Brian Westerholt/Sports On Film)

John Brown – High Point. We were going to go with Tyler Haws here, but let’s be honest, a pair of 30-plus point outings is just another week for him (and we’re banking on the senior having some 40-plus point nights before the season is over). So how about Brown? Sometimes lost in his freakish athletic ability and highlight-reel dunk routine is the fact that the Big South Player of the Year is also an excellent all-around basketball player, and a proven winner. He showed as much this past week, scoring 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting (and 10-of-12 from the line) in a win at UNC-Greensboro on Monday, then pouring in 21 points, securing nine rebounds and logging five blocks in a hard-fought victory over William & Mary – a top CAA contender – on Saturday. All told, the 6’8’’ junior shot better than 50 percent from the field, 83 percent from the free throw line (well above his career average), and helped improve High Point’s record to 6-2. Next up for Brown? Ohio State on Wednesday. If he has a huge game there, expect to hear the forward’s name again in this space next week.

Honorable Mentions: Tyler Haws – BYU (35 point at Utah State… 30 points vs. Hawaii); Kyle Collinsworth – BYU (20 points, 10 rebounds at Utah State… 19 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists vs. Hawaii); Damon Lynn – NJIT (24 points at UMass-Lowell… 20 points at Michigan… combined 12-for-23 3FG); Bobby Hain – Youngstown State (24 points, 14 rebounds at Robert Morris… 16 points, 12 rebounds at South Dakota… 15 points, five rebounds vs. Thiel), Quincy Taylor – Longwood (34 points vs. Dartmouth… 26 points vs. UT-Martin)

O26 Coach of the Week

Despite a slew of injuries, Marvin Menzies coached his team to victory against UTEP. (ESPN.com)

Despite a slew of injuries, Marvin Menzies coached his team to victory against UTEP. (ESPN.com)

Marvin Menzies – New Mexico State. The Aggies were pounded by New Mexico last Wednesday; Menzies then announced that big men Tanveer Bhullar and Tshilidzi Nephawe would be out four and six weeks, respectively, on Friday; and on Saturday, reigning WAC Player of the Year Daniel Mullings was ruled out eight weeks with a broken finger. So without several of its most important players and seemingly in freefall, how did New Mexico State respond? By overcoming a nine-point deficit against UTEP – one of the best teams in Conference USA – and beating the Miners by seven. “Really excited about their growth [Saturday] night,” Menzies said of his young players after the game, several of whom had big performances in wake of the injuries. And while the players themselves certainly deserve great credit, it’s the eighth-year coach who earns our Coach of the Week nod for putting them in position to win despite everything pointing towards a different outcome.

Honorable Mentions: King Rice – Monmouth; Don Verlin – Idaho; Sydney Johnson – Fairfield; Anthony Latina – Sacred Heart; Craig Neal – New Mexico

O26 Upset of the Week

NJIT pulled the stunner of the season in Ann Arbor on Saturday. (Duane Burleson | Getty Images)

NJIT pulled the stunner of the season in Ann Arbor on Saturday. (Duane Burleson | Getty Images)

NJIT over Michigan, 72-70. Independent vs. Big Ten. 24.5-point underdog vs. once-National Champion. A program playing a Top 25 opponent for the first time in its history vs. a team that beat Ohio State and Michigan State twice apiece last season, and took care of Syracuse earlier in the week. You get the point. NJIT – the only Division I basketball team without a conference to call home – pulled off one of the most improbable and least expected upsets in recent memory on Saturday, using lights-out three-point shooting (11-of-17) to dump the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. “We’re trying to get into the America East or the Northeast [Conference], but I want to get in the Big Ten now. Open up a spot for us,” Highlanders’ head coach Jim Engles joked after the game – a light-hearted quip that doesn’t even touch the magnitude and gravity of the upset. This one was an all-timer.

Honorable Mentions: North Florida over Purdue, 73-70; USC-Upstate over Georgia Tech, 69-54; Green Bay over Miami, 68-55; Yale over Connecticut, 45-44.

O26 Finish of the Week

Yale over Connecticut, 45-44. Yale trailed the national champions by two with 3.5 seconds left, with the ball under the basket and a chance to tie or win. The inbounds pass went to Jack Montague in the far corner, he rose and fired, and the rest was history – a signature moment for Harvard’s biggest threat in the Ivy League.

Honorable Mentions: Weber State over Oral Roberts, 62-61; Longwood over Dartmouth, 74-73.

O26 Bizarre Occurrence of the Week


Harvard beats Vermont twice, 64-52. There weren’t many great O26 dunks this week, but there were a few incredibly bizarre occurrences – not the least of which took place on Saturday night in Burlington. Vermont was credited with a phantom point midway through the second half (the scorekeeper credited three points on a two-point field goal) and neither Harvard nor the scorekeeper noticed – which turned out to be a problem, considering the game went to overtime. The blunder prompted a confused discussion at the end of regulation over whether the Crimson had already won the game (they played on) and set off several minutes of utter exacerbation on Twitter.

Honorable Mentions: Idaho forgets to paint the charge circle, receives administrative technical foul; Major power outage in Tulsa postpones Oral Roberts-Missouri State game

Tommy Lemoine (250 Posts)

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