by RENALDO DORSETT
It was hot shooting for Bahamian players virtually across the board in NCAA Division I basketball play this weekend with career high numbers and record setting performances in their respective conferences.
Despite a career day for Danrad Knowles, the Houston Cougars fell just short in American Athletic Conference play, with a 68-65 loss at the hands of the Tulane Green Wave Saturday.
Knowles, the 6’10” sophomore forward, scored a career high 31 points on 11-15 shooting from the field, including 2-4 from three point range and 7-9 from the line.
Tulane had no answer for a stretch-four like Knowles, but only one other player on the Cougars’ roster was able to reach double figures.
Fellow Bahamian LJ Rose finished with four points and four assists while Mikhail McLean added a rebound in 10 minutes.
Despite the career night, Knowles said his focus remained on the disappointment of not ending his team’s six game losing streak.
“It’s very disappointing,” Knowles said, “I thought about the game the whole night. I didn’t really sleep much. We have Cincinnati on Wednesday, and we’re going to be aggressive again.”
Knowles, who is averaging 10.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game on the season, said he has accepted the challenges to improve his practice habits by new head coach Kelvin Sampson.
“I just gave in,” he said, “He [Sampson] told me to practice harder, so I started practicing harder this whole month. I try to go harder every day. I’m trying to get better. He tells me to be aggressive every time.”
Sampson, who took over the Cougars programme following the departure of James Dickey last summer, said the sky is the limit for a player with Knowles’ potential.
“He’s learning on the fly. Danrad’s a sophomore but he just doesn’t have a lot of experience. He’s going through things for the first time. He has a chance, but he has to show me everyday how important practice is. I’ve never seen an outstanding player that wasn’t a great practice player,” Sampson said, “We’re making progress on it. Culture is something you build on every day. We talk about it directly and indirectly every day. Look at the differences in Chicken (Danrad) today versus two months ago. Two months ago he was almost comatose. But there’s probably nobody on this team I’ve ridden harder and challenged more in practice every day.”
As a Junior next season, Sampson said he expects Knowles’ growth to continue.
“When Danrad goes into the summer he has to become a more reliable shooter. A more reliable free throw shooter, and he has to be a catch and face guy from inside 10 feet, and get to the free throw line,” he said, “At some point, coaches can’t let kids fail. You have to get them to believe in themselves sometimes. Chicken had no idea how good of a player he could be. When I got here, he saw himself as the sixth or seventh best player. He didn’t have that mentality. Now, he’s a major part in everything we do. We put him out to the 3-point line, so we make these centers go out and guard him. Mentally he’s learning to tighten things up, so his expectation level will go up. When that goes up all these things across the board will be good. He’s not going to average 31 points, but Danrad down the road can be an all-conference player.”
In the SEC, Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said his team needed to play “with a fire” in order to pull off an upset against no.19 ranked Arkansas, and Dwight Coleby was one of the major contributors to help ignite that fire.
The 6’9″ sophomore forward finished with the best game of his collegiate career, a double double – 12 points and 10 rebounds – in the Rebels’ 96-82 win Saturday night.
He shot 62 percent from the field (5-8) and was perfect in his only trip to the line.
Ole Miss shot a season high 56 percent from the field and five players finished in double figures as the Rebels improved to 11-6, 2-3 in Southeastern Conference play.
Coleby has been a force on the offence end the entire month, as he scored in double figures for the third time since the calendar flipped to 2015.
In January, he has averaged 8.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
Through 15 games he has posted averages of 6.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 62 percent from the field in 17 minutes per game.
He has seen his numbers increase across the board since his freshman season when he averaged 2.3 points and 1.8 rebounds, shot 47 percent from the field in 10 minutes per game.
In the Big 12, if not for two misses at the free throw line, it would have been a perfect game for high scoring junior guard Buddy Hield.
Hield scored 27 points to lead the no.18 Oklahoma Sooners to an 82-65 win over the no.24 ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys.
He shot an incredible 10-10 from the field, including 4-4 from beyond three point range.
He also added five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“My teammates found me in good spots. I got open in transition. Ryan [Spangler] got me open when I cheated a little bit and leaked out. Jordan [Woodard] found me, too. I just stepped up and made some shots, but I couldn’t do it without them. Hats off to them for finding me. I have to stay humble. I have to listen to Coach Kruger and let him run his offense,” Hield said, “I came in early that morning with Ryan at about 9 o’clock. This was a late game on Saturday so I just stayed in the gym and shot. It is a routine. If I don’t do it, I don’t feel comfortable. I just shoot until I feel comfortable and then I go sit down in the locker room and crack jokes with the boys. I rest for about 30 minutes and then I come back and shoot again.”
Sooners head coach Lon Kruger also praised Hield’s effort.
“Yeah, he’s fantastic. He made shots early when we needed him and he made shots late when maybe they were thinking about making a run. I thought he hit a couple of big shots at those moments,” Kruger said, “His defensive awareness was outstanding. A lot of guys played well but I thought Buddy was fantastic.”
Hield was recently recognised as one of the top players in all of NCAA Division I basketball when the Los Angeles Athletic Club announced its John R Wooden Award Midseason Top 25.
The 6-4, 212-pound Hield is averaging 17.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, shooting 44 per cent from the field and 40 per cent from three-point range. His point per game numbers ranks third in the conference while his three point shooting ranks sixth and free throw shooting at 84 per cent ranks third.