A review of the week that was in college basketball focusing on the best (and worst) performances. Check in every Monday morning for our weekly awards.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Steven Pledger, Oklahoma: Pledger continued his outstanding junior season with his best outing in Saturday’s 79-74 win over Houston. Pledger, a combo guard/forward, made 10 of his 13 field goal attempts, all seven of his free throws and 4 of 5 from behind the 3-point arc.
Pledger, who was named Big 12 co-Player of the Week with Baylor’s Perry Jones III, was also a monster on the boards, earning a double-double with 10 rebounds, including four on the offensive end.
“Pledger was terrific all night long,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said after the win. “We played off him all night.”
Pledger, who has dramatically improved his scoring average each of the past two seasons, is averaging 19.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.6 steals this season. He has connected on 60.4 percent of his field goal attempts and has made 21 of 41 of his 3-pointers this season..
MID-MAJOR PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Reggie Hamilton, Oakland: Hamilton is quickly becoming the best mid-major scorer in America. In the last month, he has scored 23-plus points four times, including back-to-back outings of 34 vs. Utah Valley and 35 in a win over Tennessee.
On Saturday, the 5-foot-11 senior from Chicago dropped in 41 points in 38 minutes during the Golden Grizzlies’ 82-80 victory over Valparaiso. Hamilton hit 14 of 24 shots, including five of his 10 3-point attempts. He capped off the performance with a jumper from the top of the key at the buzzer to give Oakland its eighth victory in 12 games.
“There’s no question in my mind he’s one of the best 10 guards in the country,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “After (the performance against Valpo), I might want to change that to top three or four. If he doing that, I might say he’s the best.”
Hamilton, who is averaging 22 points per game this season, also had four rebounds, three assists and four steals against the Crusaders. He has scored in double-figures in 16 consecutive games, dating back to last season.
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Syracuse: The Orange’s 23-0, six-minute run late in the first half was as impressive as anything this season. With an 88-72 victory in its first true road test, Syracuse proved it is a worthy No. 1 and a true national title contender.
PLAY OF THE WEEK
Andrew Smith’s tip-in with one second left beats Purdue: Smith’s tap-in capped a 15-point comeback in a 67-65 win at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. It was Purdue’s second straight collapse after surrendering a 17-point second-half lead at Xavier a week ago, and it was a huge win for the Bulldogs. The two-time defending national runner-up was 4-6 heading into the game with recent losses to Valparaiso and Ball State.
WIN OF THE WEEK
UNLV 64, Illinois 48: The Rebels’ up-and-down season is up again after a strong performance against the previously-unbeaten Illini. UNLV led from start to finish, getting 17 points and 11 boards from Mike Moser, to improve to 11-2.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
Indiana State 61, Vanderbilt 55: An enormous win for the Sycamores, who are now 8-2, and the Missouri Valley Conference, which should garner three or four berths in the NCAA Tournament.
THE COLLEGE BASKETBALL LIST
Pre-Conference All-American Team
With the conference season upon us, here are the five players who have earned early Player of the Year recognition.
1. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: Unfortunately, Sullinger can’t stay on the floor. But one thing his injuries have shown is that the Buckeyes aren’t the same team without him.
2. Kris Joseph, Syracuse: The Orange are the deepest team in the country, but Joseph has left no doubt that he’s now their best all-around player.
3. Tu Holloway, Xavier: There is no better clutch scorer in college basketball.
4. Marcus Denmon, Missouri: With shooting percentages like Denmon’s, he won’t be a sleeper Player of the Year choice for long.
5. Peyton Siva, Louisville: His numbers will never allow him to be a first-team All-American, but few players are as vital to their team’s success as Siva.
The next 5: Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut; Doug McDermott, Creighton; Tyler Zeller, North Carolina; Damian Lillard, Weber St.; Terrence Jones, Kentucky.