O26 Weekly Awards: Miami (OH), Kyle Wiltjer, Howie Dickenman & Binghamton…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 24th, 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

The RedHawks wreaked havoc in the MAC East last week. (GoZips.com)

The RedHawks wreaked havoc in the MAC East last week. (GoZips.com)

Miami (OH). Miami (OH) took a wrecking ball to the MAC East last week, and it’s doubtful anyone saw it coming. At just 4-8 in conference play and 9-16 overall, the RedHawks – 1-7 on the road entering Wednesday’s game – traveled to first-place Bowling Green and beat the Falcons, 67-56, then turned around and knocked off Akron just three nights later. Against the former, John Cooper’s bunch hit 20 of 21 free throws and managed over a point per possession against one of the stingier defenses in America, prompting Falcons’ head coach Chris Jans to say afterward, “We’ve talked and talked about getting everybody’s best shot. And [today] you saw what happened.” But the effort was more than a one-shot, “best-shot” deal for Miami, because the RedHawks kept the upset momentum rolling into Saturday. Again facing long odds and a strong divisional contender, Miami overcome poor shooting (37% FG), forced 20 turnovers and gutted out an overtime win against the preseason MAC East-favorite Zips. Junior guard Eric Washington led the way with 21 points, including four big free throws in the extra period. Miami’s out-of-nowhere run has suddenly put Akron in jeopardy of having to play in first and second round games in the conference tournament (rather than byes), helped knock Bowling Green out of first place, and enabled Kent State to rise atop the standings. But Golden Flashes beware: The red-hot RedHawks come calling tonight at 7:00 PM ET.

Honorable Mentions: Columbia (2-0: at Brown, at Yale); Northern Arizona (2-0: vs. Idaho, vs. Eastern Washington); UC Davis (2-0: at Long Beach State, vs. Hawaii); Stony Brook (2-0: at Albany, vs. Binghamton); Chattanooga (2-0: vs. Mercer, vs. East Tennessee State); Buffalo (2-0: at Eastern Michigan, at Bowling Green)

O26 Player of the Week

Kyle Wiltjer had a huge week and should win WCC Player of the Year. (Bob Stanton/USA TODAY Sports)

Kyle Wiltjer had a huge week and should win WCC Player of the Year. (Bob Stanton/USA TODAY Sports)

Kyle Wiltjer – Gonzaga. We may have found our WCC Player of the Year, folks. Wiltjer, who has been excellent for the Zags since transferring from Kentucky, put together his finest two-game stretch of the season during the Bulldogs’ Bay Area road trip last week. The 6’10’’ junior dominated Pacific on Thursday, scoring 45 points on 15-of-22 shooting (including 7-of-10 3FG), grabbing six boards and almost single-handedly putting away the competitive Tigers. His point total marked the third-highest in program history and the most since Frank Burgess’s 52-point performance way back in 1961. “I was just in the zone,” Wiltjer noted afterward. Two nights later, the forward’s numbers were a bit less gaudy – 16 points and 12 rebounds – but no less instrumental in Gonzaga’s comeback victory at Saint Mary’s. With the teams knotted up late in the contest, Wiltjer ripped off eight points and five rebounds in the final 1:53 to give the Bulldogs a decisive final advantage. Although Brad Waldow, Tyler Haws, Kyle Collinsworth and several of his own teammates have made for a hotly-contested Player of the Year race in the WCC, it feels like Wiltjer (17.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG) is finally separating himself from the pack.

Honorable Mentions: Maodo Lo – Columbia (35 points at Brown… 18 points, six rebounds at Yale); Amere May – Delaware State (39 points vs. Coppin State… 30 points at Hampton); Greg Mays – Green Bay (34 points vs. Detroit… 19 points, seven rebounds vs. Cleveland State); Zeek Woodley – Northwestern State (36 points vs. Central Arkansas… 25 points vs. New Orleans); Jalan West – Northwestern State (10 points, 11 assists, five steals vs. Central Arkansas… 36 points vs. New Orleans); Jalen Cannon – St. Francis-Brooklyn (27 points, 15 rebounds vs. Fairleigh Dickinson… 23 points, 15 rebounds vs. Saint Francis (PA))

O26 Coach of the Week

Central Connecticut State's Howie Dickenman is our O26 Coach of the Week. (Associated Press)

Central Connecticut State’s Howie Dickenman is our O26 Coach of the Week. (Associated Press)

Howie Dickenman – Central Connecticut State. Give it up for Dickenman and his Central Connecticut State squad, which entered the week low on healthy players and even lower on confidence. Not only were the Blue Devils 3-24 overall before last Thursday’s game against Saint Francis (PA), but freshman point guard Kevin Seymour didn’t suit up, meaning that a team ranked 348th nationally in bench minutes – shorthanded all season following the departure of Kyle Vinales and injury to Malcolm McMillan – was suddenly made thinner. But instead of folding on the season, Dickenman’s team went out and beat a tough Red Flash unit on Thursday – despite starters accounting for 193 of  200 minutes on the floor – before knocking off Sacred Heart on Saturday (with only slightly more bench production). The Blue Devils could have a memorable finish to a mostly forgettable season, and the 19th-year head coach deserves a lot of credit for that.

Honorable Mentions: John Cooper – Miami (OH); Kyle Smith – Columbia; Bobby Hurley – Buffalo; Larry Shyatt – Wyoming; Chris Casey – Niagara; Jack Murphy – Northern Arizona

O26 Upset of the Week

Binghamton pulled off the upset of the year in the America East. (Binghamton University photo)

Binghamton pulled off the upset of the year in the America East. (Binghamton University photo)

Binghamton over Vermont, 57-55. Vermont entered last Wednesday 11-2 in America East play, hot off a five-game winning streak that included a road victory over Stony Brook. Binghamton had lost four in a row, sat 4-24 overall and came in ranked 338th in KenPom. When the two teams hooked up in Burlington back on January 19, the Catamounts pounded Tommy Dempsey’s bunch by 20 points. All signs pointed to another drubbing. Instead, one of the more unexpected results of the season played out, as the Bearcats – in the face of an 11.6 percent win probability – forced 11 Vermont turnovers, took care of the ball and eked out a narrow home upset over the reigning conference champs. After trailing for much of the contest, Binghamton tied things up with around three minutes left before using strong defense and numerous trips to the free throw line to grab hold of the lead and seal the improbable win. For Dempsey’s young group, the result was psychologically important: “It shows that we can compete with anyone in the conference,” freshman Willie Rodriguez said. For the Catamounts, the defeat likely ended their repeat-title hopes; Albany can clinch the crown with a win over UMBC tomorrow night.

Honorable Mentions: Troy over Georgia Southern, 69-57; Duquesne over Dayton, 75-66; Columbia over Yale, 65-57; Niagara over Rider, 65-61

O26 Dunk of the Week

Keifer Sykes – Green Bay. Newsflash: Sykes is still (barely) 6’0’’ and dunking like he’s 6’6’’. This latest high-flying installment came at the expense of Detroit’s Paris Bass last Wednesday night. That’s right Paris… just get out of his way.

Honorable Mentions: Demetrius Dyson – Massachusetts; Chris Davenport – North Florida; Daniel Mullings – New Mexico State

O26 Tirade of the Week

Don VerlinIdaho. The Idaho head man was none too pleased with assistant coach Chris Helbling during the Vandals’ loss to Northern Arizona last Thursday. First he tosses the binder… then he tosses Helbling. I’m guessing it was a long trip back to Moscow for everyone involved.

O26 Travel Woes of the Week

Richmond’s bus gets stuck. Richmond’s road victory at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday night was a nice one. The road home? Not so much. The Spiders’ bus got stuck for several hours in rural upstate New York, making for a unique team bonding situation and spawning the Twitter hashtag #URStuck.


Tommy Lemoine (250 Posts)

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