Player of the Week: Talor Battle, Penn State
The month of February is when teams begin to either separate themselves from the pack or fall out of the picture. Likewise, it is when star players step-up and carry their respective teams to key wins on the road or last-second victories at home. Those All-American candidates are usually the difference between a bubble team spending March in the NIT or creating major problems in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament. This past week, there were plenty of performances by go-to-guys that will certainly have an impact come Selection Sunday.
Over the weekend, the game that stood out the most was Kansas State’s Denis Clemente, who had 44 points and three assists in the Wildcats’ upset win at Texas. He also had 10 points and seven assists against Missouri earlier in the week. Arizona’s Chase Budinger has woken up since getting his face stomped on by Houston’s Aubrey Coleman. He averaged 22 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists in back-to-back wins over Washington and Washington State. Jerel McNeal of Marquette continued his standout season, averaging 26.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 6.5 assists in victories over Notre Dame and Georgetown. Furthermore, DeJuan Blair of Pitt had 23 points and 22 rebounds against Notre Dame, while Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet tallied a triple-double in a win over Providence after putting up 11 and 9 on Wednesday. And what about Utah Valley guard Ryan Toolson’s 63-point performance? However, the most important week belonged to Penn State’s Talor Battle.
Battle, a 5-11 sophomore guard, had a fantastic week, leading the Nittany Lions to back-to-back four-point victories over Iowa and at Michigan State. He had 20 points, six rebounds and six assists against Iowa, but saved his best performance for the win over the Spartans. Battle hit six threes at Michigan State, finishing with 29 points and five rebounds. He hit several clutch three-pointers, and seemingly came up with a bucket every time the Nittany Lions needed one. The victory over the Spartans was Penn State’s first-ever win against Michigan State. Overall, Battle averaged 24.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the week. However, more important than the stat line was the significance of the victories. With the wins, the Nittany Lions are now 6-3 in the Big Ten and poised for the at-large discussion come Selection Sunday. On the season, Battle is averaging 19.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.
- Denis Clemente, Kansas State
- Chase Budinger, Arizona
- Jerel McNeal, Marquette
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