Jimmermania highlights season's top performances
Jimmer! Kemba! Unique names, big games.
BYU's Jimmer Fredette and Connecticut's Kemba Walker have stormed through the season with jaw-dropping performances that have lifted their teams into the Top 10 and has them both in contention for player of the year honors. The only thing harder than guarding one of the two is figuring out which of their games rocked college basketball more than the others.
Take Fredette. He scored 47 points against Utah and 42 vs. Colorado State. Either of those stellar performances would be a career highlight for about any other player. It's just not the best for the player who sparked "Jimmermania."
Walker scored 42 points in the second game of the season against Vermont, a sneak peek at was ahead for the junior guard who's making the Huskies forget all about last season and put their sights firmly on a deep tourney run in March.
Fredette and Walker — oh, to heck with proper names — Jimmer and Kemba headline a list of six standout performances to remember with the best of the sport still ahead.
Kemba Walker, UConn. His 29 points against Kentucky weren't his season high, but his performance in the Maui Invitational championship game victory sent a message that UConn was back. He was the tournament MVP, hitting runners, game-changing 3s and engineering the decisive run that squashed the Wildcats for good. Kentucky coach John Calipari called Walker a pit bull and did he ever attack in Maui. He shot 10 for 17, hit 3 of 4 3s and added six assists in the 84-67 victory. The Huskies were unranked at the time, but are No. 5 in the poll heading into Saturday's game at Louisville.
Jimmer Fredette. BYU. Fredette scored 40 points in three of the last four games for the No. 9 Cougars (20-1) and is earning comparisons to former Davidson super scorer Stephen Curry. One name says it all. Like Oprah. Magic. LeBron. You know exactly who is being talked about when you hear the name Jimmer. He's even inspired "Jimmermania" thanks to his longer than long NBA 3s and he's leading the nation in scoring with a 27.4-point average. That would be the highest since Curry averaged 28.6 in 2008-09. He shined in BYU's biggest game of the season, scoring 43 points this week to help BYU beat undefeated No. 4 San Diego State. Fredette scored BYU's final 15 points of the first half and 24 of 27 in one stretch. He was 14 of 24 from the field, hit 5 of 8 3s and stamped himself the new No. 1 contender for the player of the year trophy.
Jared Sullinger, Ohio State. No. 1 in the poll, unbeaten on the court. Sullinger has been the go-to Buckeye for a team dominating the Big Ten and all of college basketball. The 6-foot-9 Sullinger is averaging 17.9 points and 10.2 rebounds for the 21-0 Buckeyes. His night to remember came in a win over Illinois. He had 27 points and 16 rebounds, and played all 40 minutes in the 73-68 decision over the Illini. Sullinger was 13 for 15 at the free throw line and scored Ohio State's first nine points of the second half, to keep the perfect record in tact. He's a deft passer, doesn't turn the ball over and could follow former Buckeye Evan Turner as a lottery pick selection in the NBA.
Terrence Jones, Kentucky. Jamal Mashburn. Rex Chapman. Dan Issel. John Wall. Cotton Nash. None of them did what Jones accomplished when he came off the bench and scored a Kentucky freshman-record 35 points against Auburn. OK, it was against Auburn, but it's no easy feat to set scoring records these days in a storied program like Kentucky's. Yet the amazing thing was the record he broke wasn't set in a black-and-white or VHS era. It was just last month when Doron Lamb set a Kentucky freshman scoring record with 32 points in a victory over Winthrop. Coach John Calipari predicted the mark wouldn't last — and he was right. Jones made 11 of 17 shots, including four 3-pointers, and grabbed eight rebounds in 30 minutes. Jones has one big question left to answer in the coming weeks: Can he break his own record? Or will Lamb leap past him and take back the record he held for only slightly longer than a "Lord of the Rings" marathon.
LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor. Don't remember this one? Well, Morgan State would surely like to forget it, after Dunn exploded for one of the dominant games of the season. He scored 43 points and hit 10 3-pointers — including three in 58 seconds. He's a pure shooter, a 3-point specialist and was a second-team All-Big 12 pick last season.
Kyrie Irving, Duke. Hard to believe now, considering the state of both parties, but this was as clutch a performance against as good a team as Michigan State as any in early December. Irving scored a season-high 31 points and became the fourth Duke freshman to score 30 points and the first since J.J. Redick in 2003. It seemed like a sign of things to come. It was — for the Spartans. Michigan State has slumped badly in Big Ten play while Irving's season is in jeopardy after he injured his right big toe. He may not play again, but the true point left a fleeting glimpse of just how talented he is and why he had the Blue Devils believing they could repeat as national champions.