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Player of the Week: James Blackmon Jr., Indiana

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This could have been the week where Indiana’s season collapsed.

On Wednesday night, O.G. Anunoby, who is arguably the most irreplaceable player on the Hoosier roster, injured his knee badly enough that he will need surgery and miss the rest of the season. The injury happened in the first half of a game against Penn State. Tom Crean said after the game that the team was crying in the locker room at half time.

The Hoosiers then proceeded to blow a big lead to the Nittany Lions, allowing Penn State to draw even in the final minute of regulation. That’s when Blackmon stepped up. The Hoosier star buried a three at the buzzer to give Indiana the win; a loss in that game could have been the kind of thing that sent Indiana’s season spiraling. The shot wasn’t a morale booster as much as it was a morale saver.

On Saturday, Indiana put together one of their best games of the season despite the fact that they were without Anunoby and Juwan Morgan, who was dealing with a foot injury that has now kept him out of back-to-back games. Blackmon, again, was the star, matching a career-high with 33 points.

Suddenly, Indiana has won four of their last five games and are sitting at 4-3 in the Big Ten standings, just two games out of first place.

In the long term, I don’t know if Indiana is going to be able to play at the level Hoosier fans expect without Anunoby. But in the short term, Saturday was an impressive win in a trying week, and it was Blackmon who stepped up to lead with the Hoosiers needed it the most.

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THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Lauri Markkanen, Arizona: Markkanen, as he has all season long, starred for the Wildcats this weekend, helping No. 14 Arizona keep pace with Oregon at the top of the Pac-12 standings. The Wildcats swept the road leg against the LA schools, as Markkanen went for 23 points in a win over USC and followed that up with 18 points and seven boards in the big win over UCLA.
  • Jonathan Isaac, Florida State: The Seminoles had a massive week, and Isaac was the best player on the floor in both of their wins. Against Notre Dame, Isaac had 15 of his 23 points in the second half, adding 10 boards and a pair of game-saving blocks in the final second, and he followed that up with 16 points and 10 boards as Florida State knocked off Louisville.
  • Ethan Happ, Wisconsin: Happ was pretty good in Wisconsin’s win over Michigan, but he was sensational as the Badgers went into Minneapolis and beat Minnesota in overtime, finishing with 28 points, 12 boards, six assists and five blocks. No one had put up a stat line like that since at least 2010.
  • Marcus Keene, Central Michigan: Keene became the first player since South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters in 2013 to go for 50 points in a game, scoring 39 of the 50 in the second half of a win over Miami (OH).
  • Shake Milton, SMU: SMU is quietly rolling along at 17-4, a two-point loss at Cincinnati away from being undefeated in the AAC. The Mustangs picked up a pair of wins this week as Milton averaged 25 points, 5.5 assists and 5.0 boards.

Four-star combo guard verbally commits to SMU

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Despite having just one senior in his backcourt this season, SMU head coach Larry Brown has continued to add talented pieces as he works towards delivering the program’s first NCAA tournament bid in more than 20 years. Wednesday afternoon SMU landed its third verbal commitment in the Class of 2015, as 6-foot-5 combo guard Shake Milton verbally committed to the school during a press conference at Owasso HS in Owasso, Oklahoma.

Milton, who is ranked 66th in the class by Rivals, picked the Mustangs over Indiana and Oklahoma. He joins point guard Sedrick Barefield and shooting guard Jarrey Foster in SMU’s 2015 recruiting haul to date.

Milton earned Gatorade Player of the Year honors in Oklahoma last season, averaging 27.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and four assists per game for Owasso HS. He played for the Mokan Elite program, averaging 11.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game in Nike EYBL competition.

As for the nickname? It’s been with Milton, whose given first name is Malik, since before he was even born according to a story written back in April by Scott Wright of The Oklahoman.

Milton’s father, Myrion, who passed away two years ago at age 43, picked up the nickname Milkman during his playing days at Texas A&M. And the Milkman’s baby boy, still in the womb, was dubbed Shake — as in Milkshake.

“It just stuck. I’ve been called that my whole life,” Milton said.

Landing Milton gives SMU even more depth on the perimeter, with Ryan Manuel being the lone senior on the 2014-15 roster. Among the players who will have eligibility remaining when Milton arrives on campus are point guard Nic Moore and sophomore shooting guards Sterling Brown and Keith Frazier. The Mustangs will also add Ben Emelogu, who started as a freshman at Virginia Tech in 2013-14.

However they have three seniors in the front court, Cannen Cunningham, Yanick Moreira and Justin Martin. With Texas Tech transfer Jordan Tolbert and Markus Kennedy being seniors in 2015-16, the front court is the area where SMU will need to focus its recruiting efforts as they work to complete their 2015 class.

Four-star 2015 guard sets decision date

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With the November Signing Period rapidly approaching a lot of players are going to be finalizing decisions in the next few weeks.

Many of the guards in the Rivals 150 in the 2015 class have committed already so programs are awaiting the last few decisions, which makes four-star guard Shake Milton a priority recruit.

The native of Owasso, Oklahoma is down to three schools and will announce his decision on Wednesday, according to Justin Albers of AllHoosiers.

Indiana, Oklahoma and SMU are all still in the picture and all have received official visits from the 6-foot-4 Milton, who is the No. 66 overall player in the 2015 class.

Milton’s grassroots teammate in the EYBL, Juwan Morgan, is already committed to the Hoosiers and the 6-foot-8 forward is trying to convince Shake to join him in Bloomington. But Oklahoma and SMU have put in a lot of work for Milton, as well, and remain closer to home.