Feast Week Awards!

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The Award for the Most Valuable Player goes to: Kemba Walker, UConn

Do I really need to explain this to you? Yes? Ok, well the Huskies, who were picked 10 in the Big East, got 30.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, and 2.7 spg from Walker (who also shot an absurd 28-52 [53.8%] from the floor, 26-28 [92.9%] from the line, and 8-19 [42.5%] from three) en route to a Maui Invitational title, which included wins over top ten teams Michigan State and Kentucky. Good enough? For the record, we want to avoid making this a completely Husky-centric post, so consider them out of the running for any other award.

The Award for the Least Valuable Player goes to: JaMychal Green, Alabama

Green was a McDonald’s all-american coming out of high school. Many were hoping that he could be the guy that turned around the Crimson Tide’s struggling program. Things looked promising, as he averaged 14 points and 7 boards as a sophomore, but his junior year as started off anything but well. Alabama went 0-3 in the Paradise Jam, which included a 50-49 loss to a St. Peter’s team that was missing star Wesley Jenkins. Green averaged a paltry 11.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg (just two defensive rebounds in the three games), and had as many turnovers (8) as he did blocks, steals, and assists combined.

The Award for the Biggest Surprise goes to: Minnesota

There were a few people that were tooting the Gopher horn before the season started, but I doubt that any of them could have predicted this. Minnesota jumped out to a 6-0 start to the season, a stretch headlined by their title in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament. They knocked off Western Kentucky, North Carolina, and West Virginia while getting stellar play out of transfer Trevor Mbakwe, who is finally playing after sitting out last season with legal issues. Now, just imagine their front line if Royce White was still around.

The Award for the Biggest Disappointment goes to: Temple

You’re right. This is an upset. UNC probably should have one this award, but since the committee (aka just me, baby!) is sick of hearing about the Tar Heels, they went another direction. The Owls headed into the Old Spice Classic with a top 20 ranking as the flag bearer of a somewhat underwhelming Atlantic 10 conference. When they left, the A-10 looked weaker than ever, as Temple sandwiched a mediocre win over Georgia with losses to Cal and Texas A&M. Temple could not get anything going offensively against Texas A&M, and looked disinterested in their opener against Cal. Juan Fernandez was particularly bad, averaging 8.7 ppg and 1.7 apg while shooting 7-32 from the floor, 2-16 from three, and committing 9 turnovers.

The Award for Most Impressive Team goes to: TIE — Notre Dame and UNLV

Notre Dame and UNLV won the Old Spice Classic and the 76 Classic, respectively. Notre Dame had the more impressive wins (Georgia, Cal, Wisconsin), but UNLV did it in more impressive fashion. There are a couple of reasons I really like this Irish team. For starters, they are playing as much defense as they ever have this year. They held Cal to five points in the first half on Friday, then used their defense to spur a game-clinching, 26-8 surge in the final seven minutes. The second reason is that with Carleton Scott, Scott Martin, Tim Abromaitis, Tyrone Nash, and Jack Cooley on their roster, the Irish are capable of throwing out a number of different looks. They closed out the Badgers with Scott at center and Martin at the four, essentially playing a five-out offense. Lastly, Eric Atkins looks like he will be an impact player as a freshman. That addition is going to allow Ben Hansbrough time playing off the ball.

For UNLV, I was more impressed with how this team looked than any other team in the country during Feast Week (well, save Duke and the UConn Kemba Walkers). They have a lot of really talented back court players that are strong, athletic, and love to defend. Their press is going to give a lot of team fits this season. I love Chace Stanback at the four. He creates a real mismatch problem for opponents, as he is essentially a 6’8″ two guard. The best part? They probably have only gotten 70-75% of the real Tre’Von Willis. There are a lot of interchangeable weapons on this team.

The Award for the Least Impressive Team goes to: Washington

Maybe this is because I am basing this off of the impression I got from this team in their 43 point win over Virginia, but I was dreadfully disappointed in the performance from the Huskies in Maui. They looked horrid offensively against Kentucky, as Isaiah Thomas choked down the stretch and their guards made bad decision after bad decision. Against Michigan State, it was more of the same. Washington, right now, has the talent to be a top 10 team, probably higher. They have the pieces. This team just doesn’t seem to understand how to play basketball and what Lorenzo Romar wants them to do. If you couldn’t figure it out, that is a bad thing.

The Award for the Best Game goes to: BYU 77, South Florida 75 2OT

The Bulls opened a lead as big as ten in the second half of this South Padre Island Invitational semifinal, but BYU battled back. They tied the game at 58, but with under a minute left USF’s Jowanza Poland hit a three for a 61-58 lead. At the other end, Charles Abouo answered with a three of his own to force overtime. In the first extra frame, Fredette missed a leaner at the buzzer, which forced a second overtime. In the second extra period, a three from Jimmer gave BYU a 75-72 lead, but a bucket by Gus Gilchrist, a USF stop, and a free throw from Toarlyn Fitzpatrick tied the game. It set up this final possession:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpBEqipdiU4]

The Award for the Weirdest Finish goes to: Weber State 82, Drake 81

Drake freshman Rayvonte Rice scored a layup with 20 seconds left to give the Bulldogs an 81-80 lead. At the other end, Damian Lillard drove to the rim to try and win the game, but he was called for a charge. But Aaron Hawley of Drake was given a technical foul for spiking the ball in celebration. Lillard knocked down two free throws for an 82-81 lead, which capped a 13 point second half comeback, and Drake missed two shots in the final seconds.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

Saul Young/News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior center Tamari Key will miss the rest of this season because of blood clots in her lungs, coach Kellie Harper said.

Doctors found the issue during testing. Key is expected to make a full recovery after treatment from University of Tennessee doctors, Harper said, adding that her sole concern is Key getting the medical care she needs to heal and return to full strength.

Key missed the first game of her career in a win Tuesday night over Chattanooga after playing her first 99.

“This is much bigger than basketball. We are so grateful that this medical condition was caught,” Harper said in a statement. “Our entire program will be right beside Tamari during this process and welcomes prayers and positive thoughts from Lady Vol Nation and beyond.”

The Lady Vols opened the season ranked fifth but currently are 5-5.

The 6-foot-6 Key from Cary, North Carolina, currently is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer averaging 8.4 points a game and averaged 4.2 rebounds per game. She started all 34 games as the Lady Vols reached their first Sweet 16 since 2016 last season and set the school record with 119 blocked shots.

Key had 18 blocks this season and 295 for her career, five away from becoming the eighth woman to reach that mark in Southeastern Conference history.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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Saul Young/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan State snaps 2-game skid

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Matthew OHaren/USA TODAY Sports
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats Boston College 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.