College basketball: Big man spotlight studies three guys named Justin
These days, college basketball is dominated by guards. Gone is the day when back-to-the-basket play reigned supreme. Given the impact and the allure of the 3-point arc, it may be some time before we see that day again.
|MARCH MADNESS ON SOCIAL MEDIA|
JOIN THE TEAM.
Justin Tuoyo, senior, 6-foot-10, 235 lbs, Chattanooga Mocs (10-4)
27.4 minutes, 13.6 pts, 7.4 reb, 0.9 ast, 3.8 blk, 63.3 FG percentage
Tuoyo has been relaibly consistent in the New Year, a good sign for second-year head coach Matt McCall. In order for the Mocs to be in the mix come season's end, a lot is riding on Tuoyo's shoulders.
The Fayettville, GA native is tied with Baylor's junior forward Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. at 3.8 swats per game. Tuoyo has had 16 blocks in the team's last three games, including six and seven blocks in wins against Jacksonville State and Western Carolina. In Chattanooga's Southern Conference season-opening road win at Western Carolina, the big man poured in 15 points and snagged eight rebounds along with those season-high seven blocks as the Mocs held an opponent to under 50 points for the first time this year. A few days later in a five-point loss on the road against UNC-Greensboro, Tuoyo tallied his third double-double of the year (18 points, 11 rebounds), converting on eight of nine free-throw attempts.
His patience in the post is evident when he works out of a pick-and-roll setup. He does much of his damage off feeds around the rim, but there's an occasional drop-step move with his back to the basket or a left-hand hook in his repertoire, too. Although not known for his passing ability, Tuoyo's athleticism enables him to catch, turn and look at the other side of the court without running through defenders trying to take a charge. It helps make him the team's go-to guy in plays that call for screening action.
Thoughts when he has the rock: Like flaming saganaki, he's good as at room temperature, but get him warmed up and watch out. Opa!
Justin Patton, freshman, 7-foot, 230 lbs, Creighton Bluejays (13-1)
24.9 minutes, 13.1 pts, 6.4 reb, 1.1 ast, 1.6 blk; 74.3 FG percentage
It may be hard to find a silver lining for Creighton fans, especially following their team's hiccup in a battle of unbeatens with No. 1 Villanova on Saturday, but check out Patton, who boasts one of the best shooting marks in the nation. He's a fine balance to Creighton's backcourt tandem of Marcus Foster (19.0 ppg) and Maurice Watson Jr. (12.9 ppg, 9.1 apg).
Having the country's leading assist man in Watson Jr. is a nice plus for the baby-faced big man, but that shouldn't overshadow the talent that Patton brings to the table. Length and athleticism aside, Patton has a bevy of post moves, and he uses both hands on either block. Just ask Seton Hall or Villanova how they handled him. (They didn't). This team likes to run in the open court, too, and its young, athletic big man can catch and finish in traffic.
If this is how good the guard-to-big connection has been through 14 games, what's it going to look like come the end of the season? One thing is for sure: Patton — who has scored double figures in all but two games (he scored nine points in those two other games) —will figure in heavily for Creighton.
Thoughts when he has the rock: A fine wine betters as it ages; fans just need to wait and see Patton mature.
Justin Alston, senior, 6-foot-8, 230 lbs, Boston University Terriers (7-7)
23.2 minutes, 11.3 pts, 6.0 reb, 0.6 ast, 0.5 blk; 54.0 FG percentage
This fifth-year senior is often flanked by less experienced teammates, which means Alston normally draws the assignment of sticking with the opponent's top big man. Lately, that's worked well for coach Joe Jones. First off, Alston put together 13 points and 15 rebounds while limiting Holy Cross' senior forward and leading scorer Malachi Alexander to just eight points in a 61-55 win on New Year's Eve. Holy Cross might not scare many, but they were the only NCAA Tournament team to come out of the Patriot League (winning the automatic bid as the conference tournament champ).
On Monday, BU linked up with preseason Patriot League favorite Lehigh. Alston's 14 points and nine rebounds basically canceled out the performance from his counterpart, Lehigh's Tim Kempton Jr., the two-time reigning Patriot League Player of the Year. It might seem odd to highlight Alston's defense on a night when Kempton, who ranks 29th in the nation in scoring (20.9 ppg) had a near double-double (16 points and eight rebounds), but forcing a star player into a fairly pedestrian night is a defensive victory.
Alston blends a well-built frame with good instincts to position himself around the basket for rebounds, an undervalued skill in the college game. A so-so start to the year for BU has been offset by a 2-0 start in the Patriot League. Now, the Terriers will be looking for even more solid two-way play from their big man.
Thoughts when he has the rock: A good bowl of chili looks simple enough, but beneath the surface big flavor is brewing.