Team basketball is a sight to behold, but when an individual player is in a zone, sometimes the best strategy is simply to get the heck out of his way and let him dominate.
Across the country, we see these kind of epic performances on a nightly basis. It’s part of what makes college basketball so great — talented student-athletes showing off their spectacular abilities in front of millions.
Each week at NCAA.com, we’ll select a college basketball All-Week team. Comprised of five positions, the squad is selected based on games and performances from the week prior. Let’s get to this week's edition.
ICYMI: Last week's team
G Jordan Woodard, Oklahoma
Oklahoma Sooners guard Jordan Woodard is now in his fourth and final year under head coach Lon Kruger, so he’s going to have to pack all the fun he can into the swan song that is his senior year. Well, this past week was certainly entertaining if you are a member of the Sooners faithful.First off, Oklahoma took a trip to visit West Virginia on Wednesday. The end result: an 89-87 OT win over the hometown Mountaineers. Woodard led five Oklahoma players in double figures with 20 points, but he added five assists, four rebounds and four steals to his stat line as well — not to mention the game-winning layup on a drive with just over two seconds to play in the extra session. Some worried about the season for the Sooners with the departure of Buddy Hield to the NBA, and while there have been struggles Woodard has been a de facto security blanket for this team. But if fans thought Wednesday’s game was exciting, Saturday’s affair with Iowa State needed two overtimes to determine a winner. Woodard’s line was almost identical as he touched all corners of the stat sheet (21 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals), but Oklahoma would fall 92-87 in double overtime. The sledding will continue to be tough going forward for the Sooners, but it’ll be easier to stomach Woodard as the floor general directing the offense.
Woodard and the boys made some clutch plays to pull off the road upset last night. Relive some of the best buckets from late in the game. pic.twitter.com/gevN1KyKqD— Oklahoma Basketball (@OU_MBBall) January 19, 2017
G Rob Edwards, Cleveland State
It’s been a rough first half of the year for the Vikings of Cleveland State, but that hasn’t stopped sophomore guard Rob Edwards (averaging 15.9 points per game, 6th in the Horizon League) as he looks to help his team make some inroads in the conference standings (6-14 overall, 2-6 in the Horizon). This past week the Vikings showed some real fight in a pair of road trips to play at Oakland and Milwaukee.
Edwards dropped a career-high 32 points on Jan. 16 (10-of-14 shooting) to help his Vikings get a 76-65 win against Oakland. It was the team’s third game in five days, but that didn’t seem to bother Edwards who paced his squad to its first road win of the year. However, at the end of the week, Edwards struggled mightily from the field during Friday’s matchup with Milwaukee (6-20 on field goals, 1-of-9 on 3-pointers). Nonetheless, he made it his mission to impact the stat sheet in other facets. His final stat line of 17 points, seven rebounds and a career-high seven steals (most in a game for a CSU player since 1995, per CSU Athletics) helped the Vikings keep pace with the Panthers for most of the night. Edwards definitely gets an A for the effort, but Milwaukee’s Brock Stull had the last laugh as he hit a buzzer-beater to finish off Cleveland State, 63-62.
G/F Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
Since Sindarius Thornwell returned to the starting five for head coach Frank Martin, it’s been smooth sailing for the Gamecocks of South Carolina (5-1). Sure, the most recent outing saw South Carolina fall by 16 against Kentucky in Rupp Arena, but few make it out of Kentucky’s friendly confines with fond memories. Thornwell will though as he dropped a career-high 34 points in the loss, but there's a bigger picture here. In other words, if your plan is making the NCAA Tournament then you are allowed a few minor hiccups along the way.
In South Carolina’s case, the recipe for success is simple: When Thornwell plays the team is 12-1, but when he is out of the lineup the club’s record slips to 3-3. The statistics tell the same story as the 6’5” senior leads his squad in points (19.4 ppg), rebounds (6.8), assists (3.2), steals (2.4) and free-throw percentage (82.6 percent) despite missing all but one of the team’s games in December. Though South Carolina split a pair of tough SEC matchups this week — winning at home against Florida (57-53) and falling on the road at Kentucky (85-69) — Thornwell led the team in scoring on both nights. In spite of his team’s poor shooting performances — including a 29.4 percent clip in the win against Florida — the senior made the free-throw stripe his personal stomping ground (23-28 in the two games; 82.1 percent). The win against Florida marked the eighth time this season that South Carolina held its opponent to less than 60 points in a game. A career night at Kentucky on Saturday showed Thornwell is no slouch when it comes to scoring the rock, but defense has and will continue to be this team's calling card.
F Johnathan Motley, Baylor
Baylor’s Johnathan Motley has been at the forefront of the college basketball discussion since his team’s hot start to the year. And despite a brief stay at No. 1 for Baylor, Motley continues to garner attention as one of the nation’s most consistent and exciting big men to watch. His blend of athleticism and strength is matched by a happy-go-lucky demeanor on the court that would have most college basketball faithful smiling. And his head of hair could stand with the best in the game — bar none.But back to the basketball at hand. The highlight from a pair of Baylor victories over intrastate rivals Texas and TCU was undoubtedly Motley's 32-point, 20-rebound performance in a 10-point win over Texas on Tuesday. It was the third 30-20 game on the year, (Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan and UMBC’s Jairus Lyles have the other two) and marked career-highs for Motley in both points and rebounds. To put it bluntly, the young Longhorns frontline was no match for Motley on this night as he showed off his full basketball repertoire. Perhaps more importantly, the win against Texas definitively put the Bears’ lone loss on the year to West Virginia in the rearview mirror. Next up on Wednesday: the final leg of the Texas Quadrangle as Baylor links up with Texas Tech. Look for more of the same from Motley.
F Jonathan Isaac, Florida State
Last but certainly not least, the big man controlling the paint for Florida State — Jonathan Isaac. If there is any player that has benefitted from FSU’s six-game slog against teams in the AP Top 25, it’s been the 6’10” freshman from Naples, Florida. No better way to get used to the rigors of the college game than to be thrown right into the fray, and in the ACC there’s likely to be a quality opponent on a night-to-night basis. After a minor slip against North Carolina, wins against Notre Dame on Wednesday and Louisville on Saturday has Florida State right back to their winning ways (18-2 overall, 6-1 in conference).Isaac’s performance, which included two double-doubles, helped his team to a pair of victories at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. The point and rebound totals are impressive in their own right, but the freshman’s free-throw shooting (14-for-14 in the two games) and defensive prowess (nine blocks in two games) really speak volumes about the maturity level of his play. Against Notre Dame, Isaac’s line of 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks, allowed him to control the paint while forcing the Irish to work from beyond the 3-point arc for the majority of their points. He also drained two clutch free throws to keep the Irish at bay in the game’s waning moments. And against Louisville, Isaac proved his mettle by going toe to toe with Louisville’s lithe and lengthy frontcourt of Mangok Mathiang and Anas Mahmoud. To be frank, big men simply don’t get as many touches as their backcourt counterparts — let alone freshmen big men. The fact that Isaac is a reliable option on a team replete with outside scoring is only just another feather in head coach Leonard Hamilton’s cap. Only time will tell how high the ceiling is for this freshman.