Baylor guard Jared Butler leads the Heartland College Sports Men’s Basketball Starting 5 for the games ending Jan. 2:
G Jared Butler, Baylor
He struggled at times on Saturday, but he ultimately made the difference for the Bears in their hard-fought win over Iowa State. Butler finished with 21 points, 5 assists, 4 steals and a rebound. Yes, he had 7 turnovers and that’s probably going to drive head coach Scott Drew nuts. But he helped the Bears outscore the Cyclones 23-10 in the final 10 minutes. He also he canned a trio of 3-pointers in this one, one of which came in the second half after a great defensive play by Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua.
G Umoja Gibson, Oklahoma
Yes, Gibson didn’t start against West Virginia. But he was as dominant as any starter was in Big 12 play on Saturday. He came off the bench and had the biggest game he’s had in an OU uniform, scoring 29 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including a whopping 8-of-11 from the 3-point line. Many of the starters struggled to score for the Sooners in their win over the Mountaineers. Thank goodness for Gibson.
G Isaac Likekele, Oklahoma State
Games like Saturday’s win over Texas Tech are the kinds of games that are going to intrigue NBA scouts, should Likekele leave the Cowboys for the NBA after this season. He finished with 17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals in 39 minutes of an overtime win over the Red Raiders. As it always seems with Likekele, he quietly built up to having great importance in the game, making some big shots and playing some big defense late. Cade Cunningham gets a lot of headlines, as he should. But Likekele is the heartbeat of this team.
G RJ Nembhard, TCU
Nembhard might be one of the Top 5 offensive players in the Big 12. He certainly spent a lot of time last season watching and learning from Desmond Bane, who is now in the NBA. Nembhard shot 50 percent, scored 21 points, and added 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals as the Horned Frogs defeated Kansas State, 67-60. As long as Nembhard is playing like this, the Horned Frogs will be a hard out for anyone in the Big 12.
F Jericho Sims, Texas
Texas head coach Shaka Smart called Sims the ‘most important player’ on the floor for Texas in their enormous win over Kansas on Saturday. In a game where five Longhorns hit double figures, Sims was the only one with a double-double — 11 points and 12 rebounds. His aggressive play inside set the tone for the Longhorns the entire afternoon, and the Jayhawks didn’t have an answer.
The Sixth Man
G Taz Sherman, West Virginia
There were some exceptional performances off the bench on Saturday, but none breathed fire into a moribund team quite like Sherman’s 19 points did for the Mountaineers, who were down at 18 at halftime. Sherman nearly brought them back single-handedly, hitting four 3-pointers and waking the Mountaineers up from a horrible first half. It wasn’t enough to win, but his shooting touch in the second half proved infectious to the rest of the Mountaineers’ perimeter players and made it a game to watch in the late afternoon.
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