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Archive - Dec 31, 2011

Toronto native Kabongo touted as NBA material

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TheStar.com
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Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week

Keith Appling, Michigan State

Keith ApplingKeith ApplingAppling, the Spartans’ 6-foot-1 point guard, was told by coach Tom Izzo to be more assertive offensively before Wednesday’s game against Indiana. It paid off in a big way as Appling took over in the second half during a 20-0 Michigan State run that gave the Hoosiers their first loss, 80-65. Of Appling’s career-high 25 points, 19 came in the second half.

Appling has always been given high marks for his defense, and he brought that side of his game Wednesday as well, making a highlight-reel block on Victor Oladipo’s fast-break layup with 1:56 remaining that kept the Hoosiers from coming within seven. (Watch the block here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYlY4CN6Uok)

The Detroit native out of Pershing High School has started to understand what Izzo demands from his point guards. He’s nearly tripled his assists, (3.6 to 1.3 last year), doubled his point output (12.1 to 6.4 last year) and is his shot attempts per game have nearly doubled. He’s already surpassed his assist total from last year despite averaging just five more minutes per game this season.

One of the best on-ball defenders in the Big Ten is suddenly a legitimate threat to run you out of the gym. He’s not afraid to drive to the basket and gets to the free-throw line nearly five times per game. He’s 21-of-22 in the past two games and 29-of-33 (87.8 percent) in the past five.

Who’s Hot

Meyers Leonard, Illinois

The 7-foot-1 sophomore center has posted double-doubles in the past three games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound performance Tuesday in the Illini’s 81-72 win in double overtime against Minnesota. He now has five double-doubles this season after not having one in his first 36 college games. He’s looked impressive going to the hoop on the dribble and being available for ridiculous alley-oops near the basket. He still needs to cut down on the turnovers, though, as he’s given the ball away more than three times per game in the past four, including five against the Gophers.

William Buford and Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

Sullinger had 17 points and 14 rebounds as the Buckeyes might have seriously damaged Northwestern’s psyche with a 87-54 blowout on Wednesday. Sullinger went 7-of-11 from field and hit his third 3-pointer of the season. He only played 22 minutes because of foul trouble. Him and Deshaun Thomas each had four offensive rebounds as Ohio State posted a 48-28 rebounding edge.

Buford went off for 28 points and nine rebounds against Northwestern, hitting 5-of-7 3-pointers and 5-of-5 on free throws. The ultimate lead-by-example senior hasn’t missed a free throw since Nov. 25, making his last 21. He’s the conference’s fifth-leading scorer at 16.6 points per game, has scored in double figures in 12 of 14 games and is third at 86.3 percent from the free-throw line. His 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio can’t be overlooked, either.