O26 Weekly Awards: Albany, Saah Nimley, Ben Jacobson & Dartmouth…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on January 27th, 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

Albany. Last Monday, Albany learned it would be without leading scorer Peter Hooley indefinitely following the junior’s decision to return home to Australia to be with his ill mother. While the move was understandable and even encouraged by head coach Will Brown, it left the Great Danes – in the thick of an America East title race – without one of their most important players… just in time for a road trip to Stony Brook. With the preseason conference favorites on deck before games at Hartford and against UMBC, the week suddenly spelled ‘gut-check’ for Brown’s group. And boy, did they respond.

Without its top scorer, Albany grabbed control of the America East. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Without its top scorer, Albany grabbed control of the America East. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Not only did the Danes beat Stony Brook in the face of long odds (KenPom gave the home team an 82.3% win probability), they did so convincingly, jumping out to an early 10-point lead and never looking back. The team’s other top Australian, forward Sam Rowley, stepped up with 16 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and three blocks – outworking America East Player of the Year Jameel Warney underneath – and Albany scored 19 of its 64 points at the free throw line. Defensively, Brown’s 2-3 zone baffled Stony Brook all night long, holding the Seawolves to a season-low 0.77 points per possession. The final margin: a whopping 17 points. “I thought it was a gutsy effort tonight,” Brown said after the dominant victory.

But the week (and the winning) was far from over for the Danes. Next up was a trip to Hartford on Thursday to battle a talented-if-underachieving Hawks team also vying for a top-four seed. That game, tabbed as a coin-flip, played out much the same for Albany; Rowley was excellent (22 points, eight rebounds) and the team rolled, 62-53. The cherry on top for Brown’s short-handed unit came on Sunday, at home against UMBC, when four players scored in double-figures and the Danes again won big, topping the Retrievers by 14. A week that began with difficult news and could have gone in the opposite direction – again, Hooley leads the team in scoring – ended with Albany standing alone and undefeated atop the standings, in prime position to grab the America East Tournament’s top seed – a spot that means more than ever in 2014-15.

Honorable Mentions: Stephen F. Austin (2-0: vs. New Orleans, at Sam Houston State); Davidson (2-0: vs. Dayton, at George Mason); Central Michigan (2-0: vs. Buffalo, vs. Eastern Michigan); Robert Morris (2-0: at Mount St. Mary’s, at St. Francis-Brooklyn); North Florida (2-0: at Northern Kentucky, at Lipscomb); Charleston Southern (2-0: vs. UNC-Asheville, vs. Gardner-Webb)

O26 Player of the Week

Charleston Southern's diminutive point guard put up enormous numbers last week. (csusports.com)

Charleston Southern’s diminutive point guard put up enormous numbers last week. (csusports.com)

Saah Nimley – Charleston Southern. Last week, Nimley scored a career-high 30 points against Liberty, then tied that career-high against Presbyterian three nights later. This week? The 5’8’’ point guard one-upped himself twice over, setting a new career high with 31 points against UNC-Asheville on Monday, then breaking that career high on Saturday by scoring 37 points on 7-of-12 three-point shooting in a victory over Gardner-Webb. Despite never scoring more than 27 points in his previous three-plus seasons at the school, Nimley has now dropped 30 points or more in four straight games, overtaken the position as the Big South’s leading scorer (19.7 PPG), and helped lead the Buccaneers into a tie atop the conference standings. High Point’s John Brown may end up as league Player of the Year, but Nimley – if he continues posting these numbers – certainly won’t make it easy.

Honorable Mentions: Hassan Martin – Rhode Island (14 points, nine rebounds, nine blocks vs. La Salle… 10 points, 11 rebounds, seven blocks vs. St. Bonaventure); Frank Eaves – Appalachian State (29 points at Troy… 15 points vs. South Alabama… 31 points, eight rebounds at Texas State); Maurice Ndour – Ohio (17 points, eight rebounds at Ball State… 31 points v. Buffalo); Tyler Harvey – Eastern Washington (35 points vs. Northern Colorado… 26 points vs. North Dakota); DeAndre Bembry – Saint Joseph’s (25 points, eight rebounds, seven assists vs. UMass… 25 points vs. Penn)

O26 Coach of the Week

Northern Iowa's Ben Jacobson made a savvy coaching move on Sunday. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)

Northern Iowa’s Ben Jacobson made a savvy coaching move on Sunday. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)

Ben Jacobson – Northern Iowa. With his team down nine points on Sunday midway through the second half at Illinois State, victim of a 9-0 Redbirds run, Jacobson did something a lesser coach wouldn’t have the stones to do: He called off his usual man-to-man defense and switched to a rare, 3-2 zone (also known as a 1-2-2). The move paid immediate dividends. Illinois State didn’t merely have ‘trouble’ scoring against the zone; it went almost seven full minutes without scoring a single point, enabling Northern Iowa to respond with an 11-0 run, climb back into the game and eventually win on a Nate Buss three-pointer. “That was the most zone we’ve played in a long time,” Jacobson said after the win. The Panthers are now 18-2 and ranked No. 18 in the national polls, setting up a tantalizing showdown at home against Wichita State on Saturday. And while Jacobson is sure to have his work cut out for him against the reigning National Coach of the Year, Gregg Marshall, you can be he will be ready. There’s a reason UNI is in position to earn an NCAA Tournament at-large bid this season – its ninth-year head man can coach.

Honorable Mentions: Will Brown – Albany; Saul Phillips – Ohio; Russell Turner – UC Irvine; Paul Cormier – Dartmouth; Jim Fox – Appalachian State

O26 Upset of the Week

Dartmouth shocked Harvard in Cambridge on Saturday. (Photos by Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer)

Dartmouth shocked Harvard in Cambridge on Saturday. (Photos by Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer)

Dartmouth over Harvard, 70-61. Statistically speaking, Maine’s road win at Hartford on Sunday was probably the upset of the week; the Black Bears were 1-18 and had lost 13-straight contests by an average of 17 points per game. But Harvard’s loss – at home against Dartmouth, a team it beat by 11 on the road two weeks prior – was equally as curious and far more impactful. The preseason Ivy League favorites entered the game with an 88.5 percent chance of winning, odds that reached something closer to 99 percent when the Crimson opened up a 14-point lead midway through the second half. Then came the massive Dartmouth run. Trailing 43-29 with 13 minutes left, the Big Green outscored Harvard 26-2 over the subsequent 10 minutes, grabbed a 10-point lead with little time remaining and stunned the Cambridge home crowd – ending Harvard’s nine-game home and conference winning streaks. For Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier, the victory helps validate his program’s slow-but-steady rise during his five years at the helm. For Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, the result is troublesome, both because it once again exposed his team’s offensive issues – the Crimson turned the ball over 18 times – and because the loss represents a legitimate setback in its quest for the Ivy League title. With four road games up ahead and Yale looking strong, a third-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament is far from guaranteed for the Crimson. “It doesn’t get any easier for us,” Amaker put it bluntly after the loss. “We knew that, we knew how the schedule was laid out, and it makes it incredibly, incredibly hard.”

Honorable Mentions: Maine over Hartford, 70-61; North Texas over Louisiana Tech, 73-66; Jacksonville State over Eastern Kentucky, 71-67; James Madison over Hofstra, 69-63

O26 Dunk of the Week

Malcolm Miller – Holy Cross. Holy Cross had its first good week in awhile, beating Lafayette and Navy at home after losing seven of its previous eight games. Perhaps Malcolm Miller’s posterizing slam over Leopards forward Dan Trist was the catalyst. Look out, big fella!

Honorable Mentions: Karl Cochran – Wofford; Hugh GreenwoodNew Mexico (because he almost never dunks)

O26 Finish of the Week

Ohio over Buffalo, 63-61; Central Connecticut State over Wagner, 53-50. Two full-court heaves, two buzzer-beaters, two Finishes of the Week. On Saturday, Central Connecticut State beat Wagner on a Brandon Peel buzzer-beater with one second on the clock (here’s another great look), an awesome finish with an equally-awesome celebration.

And the heroics were similar in Athens. With the game tied, 3.2 seconds on the clock, Ohio’s Tony Campbell threw a full-court inbounds pass to Maurice Ndour, who promptly took it to the rack and threw down a buzzer-beating dunk to upset Buffalo. Great stuff.

Tommy Lemoine (250 Posts)

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