Player of the Week: Elston Turner, Texas A&M
Is this even really a conversation? On Saturday afternoon, Turner went into Rupp Arena and put on one of the most impressive performances that we’ve seen this season: 40 points. 14-19 shooting. 6-10 threes. Six boards, four assists and not a single turnover.
More importantly, he led the Aggies to a win over Kentucky. On Wednesday, he had 15 points as Texas A&M knocked off Arkansas at home. The Aggies actually have one of the better RPIs in the SEC, and with the lack of quality wins that are going to be available during league play — there are only two teams that are notable enough to be considered quality wins, and A&M only gets Florida and Missouri once apiece — A&M couldn’t afford losing to a team with a profile like Kentucky.
Turner has been one of the bright spots for A&M this season. The Washington transfer is leading the team in scoring, averaging 17.9 points, while shooting 44.2% from distance. They’ll need him to continue shooting that way on Thursday, as Florida comes to town in the biggest game of the year to date for Billy Kennedy’s club.
The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team
- G: Aaron Craft, Ohio State: Craft at 15 points in a win at Purdue on Wednesday, which is nice but not the reason that he made this list. On Saturday, as the Buckeyes handed Michigan their first loss of the season, Craft some of the best defense that you will see this season. He frustrated Michigan’s all-american point guard, which completely stagnated Michigan’s offense.
- G: Shabazz Napier, UConn: The fact that Shabazz Napier was left off of the Cousy List, which rates the 20 best point guards in the country, borders on criminal. He’s been sensational this season leading UConn in a year where the Huskies have, quite literally, no postseason to play for. This week he was at it again, averaging 17.5 points, 6.5 boards, 5.5 assists and 2.5 steals while shooting 50% from the floor and 50% from beyond the arc and committing just a single turnover in 74 minutes. Oh yeah, and UConn beat DePaul and won at Notre Dame.
- F: CJ Fair, Syracuse: We’ve been waiting for CJ Fair to start fulfilling his vast potential, and this week the 6-foot-8 lefty looked like a lottery pick. He averaged 22.5 points, 8.0 boards and 4.0 blocks in wins over Villanova and Providence, shooting 14-25 from the field and 16-18 from the free throw line.
- F: Doug McDermott, Creighton: McDermott had arguably the most impressive performance of his career on Friday night. McDermott had 28 of his 39 points in the second half. He hit his first 10 shots from the field in the second half and made 14 straight shots overall. He scored all 18 points in an 18-5 run to start the second half that blew the game open.
- C: Alex Kirk, New Mexico: The Lobos jumped out to a 2-0 start in the Mountain West with wins over Fresno State and UNLV, and Kirk was one of the biggest reasons why. He went for 23 points and nine boards, outplaying Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch in the win against the Rebels, and followed that up with 19 points, 14 boards and two blocks against the Bulldogs.
- Bench: Sean Armand (Iona), Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga), Devon Saddler (Delaware), CJ Wilcox (Washington)
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Sindarius Thornwell will not play on Monday against Seton Hall, according to a report from ESPN. South Carolina will be playing the Pirates in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Thornwell was suspended indefinitely from the team last weekend. Frank Martin discussed the suspension on the radio on Thursday.
“He’s been with us at practice, he’ll travel with us, he’s excited about our team, his role on the team,” he said. “Sindarius is one of my favorite guys I’ve ever come across. He messed up and it is what it is. He’s like a son to me. He messed up and he’s owned up to his mess up.”
“Outside of that, I’m not going to get into anything else. He has my full support. Our job is to prepare our team to play, we don’t prepare individual players to play. It’s no different to someone rolling an ankle. We’re down because of a bad decision. We’ll be fine.”
Josh Hart put on a show on Saturday as the senior willed No. 1 Villanova to a 74-66 win over No. 23 Notre Dame.
The matchup of unbeatens in New Jersey was tight throughout, but Hart put together one of the best performances any player will have all season, finishing with a career-high 37 points, 11 rebounds and four assists as Hart looked completely unstoppable.
With most of Villanova’s roster struggling on the offensive end, Hart took it upon himself to take over the second half. The Wildcats (10-0) only shot 25 percent (4-for-16) from three-point range but Hart’s aggressiveness attacking the basket was the difference. Hart finished 10-for-14 from the field and went 14-for-14 from the free-throw line as he put together the signature performance that could eventually help land him Player of the Year honors.
Notre Dame (9-1) put together a strong first half to jump out to a 41-36 halftime lead but the Irish’s offense didn’t perform at the same level in the second half. The first half saw a tremendous effort from junior point guard Matt Farrell as he torched the Villanova defense for 12 points and six assists in the game’s opening half.
Villanova’s defense made halftime adjustments and did a much better job of defending ball screens and forcing turnovers as Farrell and Notre Dame’s offense was slowed down in the second half. Farrell finished with 18 points but he didn’t pick up any assists in the second half as he finished with six. Steve Vasturia also added 18 points for Notre Dame while Bonzie Colson chipped in 11 points.
This win was a good one for Villanova because they were able to beat a tough opponent when most of the roster wasn’t performing up to standard expectations. The Wildcats definitely don’t want to rely on Hart that much during most games but the Villanova defense deserves credit for performing better in the second half after looking very poor at times during the first. Eric Paschall also provided a really nice lift for Villanova off the bench as he went 4-for-4 from the field, finishing with eight points and giving good energy on the defensive end.
Free-throw shooting was also an important factor in this one as Villanova was 20-for-22 from the charity stripe. With their ability to close out games at the line while having perhaps college basketball’s best closer in Hart, Villanova is looking like the toughest defending national champion we’ve seen since the back-to-back Florida titles 10 years ago.
Carlton Bragg Jr.’s battery case took an interesting twist Saturday morning.
On Friday afternoon, a 19-year old woman was arrested at the same address that Bragg was arrested. She was charged with suspicion of battery at 4:42 p.m., after Bragg’s appearance in court, and it was filed under the same case number as Bragg’s. The Kansas City Star is reporting that the woman is Bragg’s girlfriend.
According to Douglas County Sheriff’s records, the woman is still in custody.
NBC Sports is not identifying the woman as she has not yet been charged with a crime.
Bragg was charged with battery, a misdemeanor, Friday afternoon after an early morning arrest. He was accused of striking his girlfriend and pushing her down stairs. He has been suspended indefinitely by Kansas head coach Bill Self and will not play in Saturday afternoon’s game at Phog Allen Fieldhouse against Nebraska.
Self commented on Bragg’s status during a pregame radio appearance on Saturday.
(H/t: Jesse Newell)
Oklahoma State added an important commitment from one of the best available Class of 2017 guards on Friday as Amauri Hardy pledged to the Cowboys.
The 6-foot-2 Hardy is regarded by some recruiting services as a top-100 player as he gives head coach Brad Underwood a key commitment for Oklahoma State. A quick scoring guard who plays with a lot of energy, Hardy had a solid summer with The Family as the Michigan native offers up some insurance for Oklahoma State at guard.
Since Phil Forte is exhausting his eligibility after this season and sophomore point guard Jawun Evans is having a monster year and could go pro, having Hardy’s commitment is a good backup plan. If Evans does return for his junior season, Hardy can provide valuable backup minutes while also being able to play a bit off the ball alongside Evans.
Hardy joins four-star guard Zach Dawson and three-star forward Latravian Glover in Oklahoma State’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.
Taylor University celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Silent Night Game on Friday night.
The Division III school in Upland, Indiana has one of the best traditions in college sports as Taylor has its fanbase stay completely silent until the team scores its 10th point of the game. Upon scoring the team’s 10th point, the Taylor students go ballistic as they storm the court and temporarily stop the game. Dressing up in all sorts of group costumes, the Taylor students bring out some of the best ideas you’ll see from any college fanbase in the country.
As for the game, Taylor jumped out to a 37-9 lead on Lincoln Christian University and never looked back as they won 99-68. The win moves Taylor’s record to 20-0 all-time in Silent Night games.
Jake Heggeland was the game’s high scorer with 18 points for Taylor while Evan Crowe broke the Taylor silence for the second consecutive year.