O26 Weekly Awards: Iona, Chris Wood, Bob Williams & Texas A&M-CC

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 17th, 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

A.J. English and the MAAC-leading Gaels showed grit last week. (Andrew Theodorakis / New York Post)

A.J. English and the MAAC-leading Gaels showed grit last week. (Andrew Theodorakis / New York Post)

Iona. The Gaels battled a pair of tough MAAC contenders on the road this past weekend and beat them both, despite playing some (at times) less-than-pretty basketball. On Friday, against cross-town foe Manhattan – a rivalry game Steve Masiello once compared to Kentucky vs. Louisville – Iona overcame 21 turnovers, withstood several second-half runs and edged the Jaspers by three for its first victory in Draddy Gymnasium since 2012. “I heard a lot about this game, and there is nothing like a Manhattan crowd,” freshman guard Schadrac Casimir, who hit several big shots in the second half, said afterward. He finished with 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, but it was junior A.J. English who drilled a clutch triple with 32 seconds left to seal the deal. Less than 48 hours later, the Gaels showed arguably more grit at Quinnipiac in not just erasing a seven-point second half deficit but overcoming their worst shooting performance (31.5%) since Tim Cluess took over the program in 2011. A team usually known for its fast-paced and free-flowing offense – the 28th-most efficient in America – put together its best defensive showing of the season to beat the Bobcats by three despite scoring just 0.86 points per possession. “We know that our shots aren’t going to fall every game and we have to find other ways to win,” Iona forward David Laury (18 points, nine rebounds) said. The Gaels have now won eight straight contests and sit two full games up on second-place Rider in the MAAC standings, their gritty weekend inching them one step closer to a second straight conference crown.

Honorable Mentions: San Diego State (2-0: vs. Wyoming, vs. Colorado State); Chattanooga (2-0: at Wofford, vs. Samford); UC Santa Barbara (2-0: vs. Long Beach State, at Cal State Northridge); Central Michigan (2-0: at Ohio, at Buffalo); Rice (2-0: vs. Middle Tennessee State, vs. UAB); Valparaiso (2-0: vs. Green Bay…at UW-Milwaukee)

O26 Player of the Week

UNLV's Chris Wood was a monster against Fresno State and Air Force. (Sam Morris/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

UNLV’s Christian Wood was a monster against Fresno State and Air Force. (Sam Morris/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Christian Wood – UNLV. The Runnin’ Rebels went 1-1 last week and might not finish above .500 in Mountain West play this season, but none of that is the fault of Christian Wood, who has been nothing short of dominant. On Tuesday, the 6’11’’ big man manhandled Fresno State to the tune of 27 points, a career-high 19 rebounds – including nine offensive – and seven blocks in UNLV’s 12-point home victory over the Bulldogs. Wood also attempted 17 free throws, which (along with marking another career-high) forced almost every Fresno State big man into foul trouble. Unfortunately for Dave Rice and his mercurial bunch, the win came with a price: Freshman Rashad Vaughn, the team’s leading scorer (17.8 PPG), tore his meniscus. That left Wood as the primary offensive option on Saturday at Air Force, a role he seemed more than comfortable with; the second-year forward poured in a career-high 31 points, ripped down nine boards, hit all eight of his free throws and blocked five shots. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough – UNLV came up short, 76-75 – but it’s doubtful the Rebels would have made it that close were it not for Wood’s performance. As a result, the sophomore earns Player of the Week honors for the second time this season.

Honorable Mentions: Denzel Livingston – Incarnate Word (32 points, six rebounds, seven steals vs. Nicholls State… 31 points, six assists at Central Arkansas); Jordan Price – La Salle (34 points, 18 rebounds at VCU… 22 points vs. Davidson); John Brown – High Point (34 points vs. Winthrop… 21 points at Campbell); Jamail Jones – Florida Gulf Coast (25 points at Northern Kentucky… 24 points at Lipscomb… combined 17-of-20 FG); Kahlil Felder – Oakland (14 points, nine assists, six rebounds at UW Milwaukee… 29 points, eight assists vs. Detroit).

O26 Coach of the Week

Bob Williams has done an excellent job, despite the absence of Alan Williams. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)

Bob Williams has done an excellent job, despite the absence of Alan Williams. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)

Bob Williams – UC Santa Barbara. UC Davis’ Jim Les earned the award last week for his excellent work without Corey Hawkins, so it’s only natural that Williams – who has been without star Alan Williams since January 17 – also garners some praise. Despite missing their leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker (the big man hurt his shoulder last month), the Gauchos have ripped off three straight victories, including a 15-point drubbing of title contender Long Beach State on Thursday and a win at Cal State Northridge over the weekend. In fact, UC Santa Barbara is now 5-2 without the reigning Big West Player of the Year, and 5-0 in games where its lineup is otherwise healthy (point guard Zalmico Harmon sat out losses at UC Davis and UC Irvine with the flu). Guys like Michael Bryson (23.5 PPG last week) and freshman guard Gabe Vincent have stepped up in lieu of the 6’8’’ Williams, cobbling together several outstanding shooting performances and playing solid defense. Bob Williams, the 17th-year head man, deserves a lot of credit for retooling his team’s approach and keeping the Gauchos – now just a half-game out of third-place – alive and well in the Big West.

Honorable Mentions: Tim Cluess – Iona; Mike Rhoades – Rice; Will Wade – Chattanooga; Dave Paulsen – Bucknell; Archie Miller – Dayton; James Green – Jacksonville State.

O26 Upset of the Week

The Islanders delivered SFA its first Southland loss in two years. (Gabe Hernandez / The Caller Times)

The Islanders delivered SFA its first Southland loss in two years. (Gabe Hernandez / The Caller Times)

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi over Stephen F. Austin, 71-63. Stephen F. Austin had not lost a regular season Southland contest since February 16, 2013 (almost two years to the day) before Texas A&M-Corpus Christi upended the Lumberjacks on Saturday. And early on, it appeared unlikely to happen.  The reigning conference champs jumped out to a 20-13 lead in the game’s first 11 minutes, forcing Islanders’ leading scorer John Jordan into foul trouble and appearing well on its way to a 20th straight win. Then, slowly, momentum shifted. Corpus Christi closed the half on a methodical 22-5 run, using tough defense and attacking the basket to open up a 10-point lead at the break. Stephen F. Austin responded with an 8-0 run of its own to begin the final 20 minutes, but the Islanders counterpunched, ripping off nine straight points and never looking back. The end result? A thorough victory over a program that’s averaged fewer than three regular season losses a year since 2013. For the Lumberjacks, the defeat snapped their 28-game conference winning streak and 19-game overall run. You should not lose faith in Brad Underwood’s veteran group based on one loss, of course, but keep an eye on whether this stumble has any lasting effects on Stephen F. Austin’s pursuit for a second-straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

Honorable Mentions: Jacksonville over USC Upstate, 89-70; Delaware over Williams & Mary, 73-70; Presbyterian over UNC Asheville, 69-65; La Salle over VCU, 74-69; Portland State over Eastern Washington, 68-66.

O26 Dunk of the Week

Antonius Cleveland – Southeast Missouri State. Before Cleveland fouled T.J. Sapp on a three-pointer at the end of regulation – sending the game into overtime and enabling Murray State to avoid an upset – the freshman delivered one of the best posterizations you will see all year. Monstrous.

Honorable Mentions: Tim Coleman – NJIT; Javan Wells – Winston-Salem State.

O26 Buzzer-Beating Launch of the Week

Brett Olson – Denver. Down three with less than three seconds remaining, Olson put up this half-court shot (and hit it) like it’s a 15-footer from the elbow. Casual.

Tommy Lemoine (250 Posts)

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