O26 Weekly Awards: Boise State, Mikh McKinney, Jay Spoonhour & Appalachian State

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on January 21st, 2015

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

Boise State. When senior leader and preseason all-conference guard Anthony Drmic was ruled out for the season in late December, it looked as if the wheels might come off at Boise State. The Broncos, which were picked fourth in the preseason in the Mountain West, lost four straight games to begin the New Year – including its first three conference contests – and only once managed to score over a point per possession without their 6’6’’ wing. “The margin for error is really slim without Anthony,” head coach Leon Rice said before his team welcomed UNLV to town on Tuesday. With the talented Runnin’ Rebels on deck before a tricky road trip to The Pit on Saturday, it looked as if things might get worse for Rice’s club before they get better. Luckily, Derrick Marks and James Webb III had other plans.

Star guard Derrick Marks helped lead Boise State to a stellar week. (Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports)

Star guard Derrick Marks helped lead Boise State to a stellar week. (Brian Losness/USA TODAY Sports)

In a game broadcast remotely by ESPN, Marks gave Boise State offensive life against UNLV, scoring 28 points (on a whopping 26 attempts) and responding to any would-be Rebels’ runs with big shots of his own. After the visitors grabbed a late two-point lead, the senior calmly attacked the lane, stopped on a dime and hit a turnaround jumper with 13 seconds left to send the game into overtime. In the extra period, the Broncos – which had dropped their last three contests that were decided by six points or less – came up with enough winning plays, including a flurry of steals at around the two-minute mark, to eke out an 82-73 victory. “That monkey has been flipped off our backs and thrown to the ground, no question,” Rice said of his teams relieving victory. Webb, an athletic forward whose minutes have picked up dramatically in Drmic’s absence, added 12 points and 15 rebounds in the win, including a high-flying breakaway dunk in overtime.

If that win was cathartic, a monkey off the back, then Boise State’s 69-59 victory at New Mexico on Saturday was something close to revelatory, the discovery of something new. Like he and Drmic had done so often before, Marks and Webb proved unstoppable on the offensive end, combining for 54 points on 18-of-25 shooting – including Webb’s ridiculous 7-of-7 outpouring from behind the arc – and hitting big shots (and free throws) in the final two minutes to seal the game. Not only was it the Broncos’ first ever win at The Pit – perhaps the most difficult Mountain West venue from which to leave victorious – but they may have found another dynamic duo in the process. “Many teams crumble in this atmosphere, but our guys enjoyed the moment,” Rice said. With San Jose State and Air Force up this week, an above-.500 conference record is suddenly within reach for Boise State – something even Rice himself might not have expected a mere seven days ago.

Honorable Mentions: Eastern Illinois (2-0: at Eastern Kentucky, at Morehead State); Akron (2-0: vs. Bowling Green, vs. Central Michigan); Sacramento State (2-0: vs. Idaho, vs. Eastern Washington), Saint Mary’s (2-0: vs. San Diego, vs. BYU), St. Francis – Brooklyn (2-0: at Robert Morris, at Saint Francis (PA)); San Diego State (2-0: at Wyoming, vs. UNLV); Cal State Northridge (2-0: at UC Santa Barbara, vs. Cal Poly)

O26 Player of the Week

Sacramento State's Mikh McKinney is our O26 Player of the Week. (Hornetsports.com)

Sacramento State’s Mikh McKinney is our O26 Player of the Week. (Hornetsports.com)

Mikh McKinney – Sacramento State. The Hornets welcomed two of the Big Sky’s best teams to Sacramento last week and beat both, including previously-undefeated (in conference play) Eastern Washington. A major reason for that success? In both games, McKinney was simply excellent. The 6’1’’ point guard went to work offensively against Idaho on Thursday, tying his career high with 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting, nailing five threes and adding five assists in a 79-76 victory. On Saturday, when points were harder to come by, the senior got the job done via distribution and top-notch defense, dishing out 12 assists and recording six steals to go along with his 14 points. His passing ability helped the Hornets take full advantage of Venky Jois’ absence in the paint for Eastern Washington, evidenced by the team’s 67 percent shooting from inside the arc. “Eastern Washington’s plan was not to allow Mikh to get penetration, so Mikh says, ‘OK, I’ll have 12 assists,” head coach Brian Katz said after the 90-77 win. McKinney now ranks among the top 100 nationally in percentage of minutes played, assist rate and steal rate – the latter of which (5.3%) is good for eighth overall in college hoops. With its stud point guard leading the way, there’s no reason that Sacramento State can’t make a run at the Big Sky title.

Honorable Mentions: Derrick Marks – Boise State (28 points vs. UNLV… 30 points at New Mexico); David Brown – Western Michigan (35 points at Ball State… 20 points at Toledo); Addison Spruill – UNC Wilmington (33 points, eight rebounds at William & Mary… 23 points at Hofstra); Jerome Hill – Gardner-Webb (20 points, 16 rebounds vs. High Point… 31 points, 10 rebounds at Coastal Carolina); Brad Waldow – Saint Mary’s (25 points vs. San Diego… 24 points, 14 rebounds vs. BYU); Alex Hamilton – Louisiana Tech (20 points vs. UAB… 30 points vs. MTSU)

O26 Coach of the Week

Jay Spoonhour is doing a fantastic job at Eastern Illinois. (ovcball.net)

Jay Spoonhour is doing a fantastic job at Eastern Illinois. (ovcball.net)

Jay Spoonhour – Eastern Illinois. If Spoonhour wasn’t already the frontrunner for OVC Coach of the Year, he certainly is now. Following its win over Belmont the previous Saturday – an eye-opening result in its own right – Eastern Illinois ripped off two huge road victories in the state of Kentucky last week to stay undefeated (6-0) in conference play. On Thursday, the Panthers used hot three-point shooting (11-of-19 3FG) and stellar defense to beat Eastern Kentucky on the road for the first time since 2001, not only overcoming heavy odds (KenPom gave EIU less than a 12 percent chance of winning), but prompting EKU coach Jeff Neubauer to call Spoonhour’s bunch “the best defense we’ve faced since playing Kentucky.” Two days and 67 miles later, Eastern Illinois held Morehead State to less than one point per possession and beat the Eagles in Johnson Arena for the first time since 2011. Spoonhour, in just his third year at the helm, has transformed his program from an 11-win bottom-feeder into a legitimate OVC contender, winners of nine straight and perfect in conference play. And while the head coach’s deep, balanced lineup and heavy emphasis on defense has enabled an already-remarkable turnaround, the story might get even better if the Panthers can beat fellow-undefeated Murray State on Thursday.

Honorable Mentions: Leon Rice – Boise State; Jim Baron – Canisius; Matt Brady – James Madison; Reggie Theus – Cal State Northridge; Keith Dambrot – Akron

O26 Upset of the Week

Not many saw Appalachian State's upset of Georgia State coming. (Courtesy: DCMayo (Appalachian, '83))

Not many saw Appalachian State’s upset of Georgia State coming. (Courtesy: DCMayo (Appalachian, ’83))

Appalachian State over Georgia State, 74-69. Though Georgia State hasn’t quite been the team we thought it could become this season, Saturday’s five-point loss at Appalachian State was nonetheless shocking. The Panthers – preseason favorites to win the Sun Belt – led the Mountaineers (picked dead last) by 10 points at the break and by eight with 10 minutes to play, seemingly well on their way to an easy victory. But that’s when Jim Fox’s club stepped up defensively and went to work on the boards, holding Georgia State’s top scorers R.J. Hunter (20.1 PPG) and Ryan Harrow (20.4 PPG) – who totaled 37 points on the night – to just six points in final 10 minutes, and pounding the offensive glass (17 offensive rebounds; 41.5% OReb). Those second-chance opportunities, combined with 12-of-29 three-point shooting over the zone (including eight triples from junior guard Frank Eaves), enabled Appalachian State to climb back in the game and pull off a stunner. “They showed toughness for all 10 rounds today,” Fox said of his team. “They battled back and they deserved this.” The Mountaineers may still finish in the cellar of the Sun Belt, but this was the type of marquee victory Fox can build on.

Honorable Mentions: The Citadel over Wofford, 69-66; Gardner-Webb over Coastal Carolina, 82-6; Abilene Christian over Northwestern State, 95-81

O26 Dunk of the Week

JoJo McGlaston – Utah State. This might not have been the Dunk of the Week, but its combination of monstrous throw-down and monstrous fall-down make for some spectacular visuals. Don’t worry – McGlaston was (somehow) okay.

Honorable Mentions: Perrion Callandret – Idaho; Larry Nance – Wyoming

O26 Press Conference of the Week

Jimmy Patsos – Siena. Well yeah, of course it’s Patsos. Here, the Siena coach talks about Rick James, the Beatles, his affinity for Buffalo and pretty much whatever else he wants. The guy is truly one of a kind.

O26 Ridiculously Clutch Player of the Week (and Maybe the Year)

Pee Wee Gardner – American. The 5’9’’ point guard beat Mount St. Mary’s with a game-winner in December. Then he did it to Lehigh on Wednesday with Cal Ripken Jr. looking on. Not enough clutch for ya? The senior hit another last-second bucket on Saturday, this time to beat Lafayette. If I’m an opposing Patriot League coach, I wouldn’t let Gardner touch the ball inside of 30 seconds – at any and all costs – for the rest of the season.

Tommy Lemoine (250 Posts)

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