Player of the Week
Sterling Gibbs – Seton Hall (G, Jr., 6-2, 185, Scotch Plains, N.J.)
Gibbs had a standout performance in Seton Hall’s Big East season-opening 78-67 win over No. 15 St. John’s. The junior guard tallied a team-high 25 points and a season-high eight assists to go along with two rebounds. He shot 7-for-13 from the field, including 5-for-7 from deep, and 6-for-8 from the free throw line. After averaging 3.0 turnovers per game in his last five outings, he recorded his third zero-assist game of the season in the win. The Pirates have been playing without heralded freshman Isaiah Whitehead for the past two games due to a stress fracture in his right foot, but Gibbs has stepped up in huge way. Against the Johnnies, he was in a zone and was able to execute in various phases of the game. Not only was his scoring impactful, but so was his playmaking and poise. He essentially sealed the win by draining a three-pointer as the shot clock ran out to push Seton Hall’s lead to 70-63 with four minutes remaining in the game.
The junior poured in a team-high 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field and 3-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc in the Pirates’ final non-conference game of the season, a 72-43 win over Maine. He also recorded three rebounds and team-highs in assists (five) and steals (two). Gibbs was a spark plug for Seton Hall in the first half, scoring 10 of his 18 points in the period. His 10 first half points were a major contribution to the team’s huge 21-0 run after Maine scored the game’s first five points. He began the Pirates’ run by burying a three-pointer before throwing a pretty alley-oop pass to teammate Stephane Manga to tie the game.
Over the two wins, Gibbs averages were as followed: 21.5 points, 6.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.0 steals on 60 percent shooting from the floor and 66 percent on three-pointers.
LaDontae Henton – Providence (F, Sr., 6-6, 215, Lansing, Mich.)
The Friars had nine days of rest before they took the floor for their Big East season opener against Creighton. That gave Henton plenty of time to rejuvenate after having just a one day break between the team’s last two games. Boy did that pay off. The senior exploded for a game-high 35 points and eight rebounds in Providence’s 65-53 win over the Bluejays at home. He made 12-of-21 field goals, including 3-of-7 from three-point range. He was the only Friar to reach double-figures. Guard Jalen Lindsey had the team’s next highest point total with eight. Henton’s one-man show began in the first half, as he led both clubs in scoring with 17 points while grabbing three rebounds. He continued his hot shooting at the beginning of the second half, scoring eight points in the team’s 10-2 run to open the half. Later, he hit consecutive threes during a 12-0 run to balloon the Friars lead to 56-39 with just over eight minutes remaining.
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera – Georgetown (G, Jr., 6-3, 214, Indianapolis, Ind.)
Smith-Rivera’s game-high 29-point effort in the Hoyas’ 91-87 overtime win over Indiana is a reason why he’s the reigning Big East Player of the Week. He led the Hoyas with four assists and four steals, and added two rebounds as well. The junior was in a great shooting rhythm throughout the entire game, going 9-for-18 from the field and 5-for-7 from the beyond the arc. Smith-Rivera made key shots from all over the floor, none more timely than his pull-up jumper with 23 seconds left in overtime to push the team’s lead to 90-85. Georgetown opened Big East play with a 70-53 loss at Xavier. Smith-Rivera led all scorers with 18 points, three rebounds, one steal and one block.
Billy Garrett Jr. – DePaul (G. So., 6-6, 205, Chicago, Ill.)
On Christmas Day, Santa Claus brought the Blue Demons a lump of coal as they fell to Loyola Mary 72-69 in the final game of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, which was their sixth straight loss. Garrett stood out in the loss with 16 points to lead DePaul, while adding four rebounds and two assists. He showed off his sharp-shooting ability from long distance, with the bulk of his points coming off a 4-for-6 shooting performance from the three-point line. On New Years Eve, he helped the Blue Demons snap their losing streak with game-high 19 points in the team’s Big East season-opening 61-58 win against Marquette. In what was a thrilling finish, Garrett scored six of his 19 points in the final two minutes. His three-pointer at the 1:55 mark tied the game at 55, before he put the team up for good on a free throw with 42 seconds left.
Trevon Bluiett – Xavier (F, Fr., 6-6, 205, Indianapolis, Ind.)
Xavier went 2-0 this week, including a 70-53 victory over Georgetown to ring in 2015. However, things could not be worse for Bluiett when it comes to his individual play. He has not shot over 33 percent in any of the previous four games for the Musketeers. Over the team’s recent two-game span, he’s shot just 2-for-15 for eight points. Bluiett is normally an efficient shooter. He’s shooting 46 percent from the field and 39 percent from three on the season. Maybe he’s going through a freshman slump or just a rough patch, but now is not the time to slack off in production as Big East play gets underway, especially since he’s a key player in what they do offensively.
Forrest Robinson – DePaul (F, Sr., 6-10, 223, Eastland, Tx.)
The Blue Demons’ sixth man has combined to shoot 13 percent over his last two outings, including 12 percent from long range. It’s been ugly week for Robinson offensively, who got his first start of the season against Marquette with starting center Tommy Hamilton serving a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules. Much like he has all season, Robinson had an underwhelming performance. Some fans have even called for him to stop shooting the ball in recent weeks. In the team’s loss to Loyola Mary, he shot 1-for-9 for two points with six rebounds and one steal. In their win over Marquette, he turned in a 1-for-6 performance. He did make a bit of an impact on the defensive end, with four rebounds and three blocked shots. One thing that has plagued him over the course of the last two games is foul trouble. His inability to stay on the floor has been a big factor why he’s been unable to find a rhythm. He’s committed nine fouls in the last two games.
Top Five Senior Performers
1. D'Angelo Harrison – No. 15 St. John’s (G, Sr., 6-4, 204, Missouri City, Tx.)
Season Averages: 19.5 PTS, 6.3 REB, 1.8 AST, 0.4 BLK, 1.2 STL
The Preseason All-Big East First Team selection has played like the best senior in the conference this season. Harrison has stepped up on and off the court as the leader for a St. John’s team that is ranked for the first time since March 2011. He was a senior in high school back then. He is the second-leading scorer in the Big East with an average of 19.5 points per game. He’s top-10 in total rebounds per game (6.3), defensive rebounds per game (4.8), free throw percentage (.826), three-point field goals made (26), and minutes played (34.5 per game). At 6-foot-4, he’s the best rebounding guard in the conference. He had a career-high 17 rebounds in a Nov. 17 win over Franklin Pierce, which is the most by any player in the Big East in a single game this season. In that game, he also scored a season-high 31 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the field, including 5-for-8 from three, and 12-for-16 from the charity stripe. The senior has scored in double-figures in 12 of the team’s 13 games, with 20 or more points in seven of those contests. He recorded a season-high six steals in a win over Minnesota. He has also been named Big East Player of the Week twice this season.
2. LaDontae Henton – Providence (F, Sr., 6-6, 215, Lansing, Mich.)
Season Averages: 21.1 PTS, 5.5 REB, 1.1 AST, 0.3 BLK, 1.7 STL
If Harrison is 1A when it comes to the ranking the best seniors in the conference, Henton should be ranked 1B. He has had as good of a season as Harrison and their numbers are almost identical across the board. Henton does have Harrison beat in points per game average with 21.1, good for first in the conference. He’s shooting just under 50 percent on the season, which is noteworthy when you consider the fact that he attempts 15.9 shots per game. The senior dropped a season-high 38 points in the Friars Nov. 23 win over Notre Dame. He shot 14-for-19 from the floor, 4-for-8 from beyond the arc, and 6-for-7 on free throws. His 14 field goals made were the most by a player in the conference in a single game this season. The win sent Providence to a perfect 5-0 start on the season and gave the Friars the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic Championship trophy. He was awarded Big East Player of the Week honors after the performance. Over his last three games Henton has averaged 29.0 points and 5.3 rebounds on 54 percent shooting. In the Friars last game, a 65-53 win over Creighton, he dropped 35 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
3. Matt Stainbrook – Xavier (C, Sr., 6-10, 270, Bay Village, Ohio)
Season Averages: 12.6 PTS, 7.3 REB, 2.1 AST, 0.8 BLK, 0.8 STL
Stainbrook has been in beast mode for almost the entire season. He’s arguably the best center in the conference, averaging 12.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. His best stretch of the season was through the first eight games when he averaged 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. The big man is as efficient as they come, as he leads the conference in field goal percentage while shooting 64 percent. At 6-foot-10, he’s ranked No. 6 in the Big East in defensive rebounds per game (5.3) and No. 7 in total rebounding.
4. Sir'Dominic Pointer – No. 15 St. John’s (G, Sr., 6-6, 196, Detroit, Mich.)
Season Average: 10.9 PTS, 7.5 REB, 3.2 AST, 1.8 BLK, 2.4 STL
Pointer has flown under the radar this season although he’s been having a great year so far for the Johnnies. He’s a terrific athlete and can finish around the basket with the best of them. He also takes high-quality shots, making 55 percent of them. His athleticism makes him a talented defender and great rebounder for his size. He’s first in the Big East in defensive rebounds per game and is tied for fourth in total rebounds per game. Pointer has the build of a prototypical wing defender. He’s a good low-post defender. He’s second in the conference in steals and fourth in blocked shots. In St. John’s Dec. 28 win over Tulane, he recorded a season-high seven steals, the most by any player in the conference in a single game. He’s in a four-way tie for second in the league with the most blocks in a single game with six.
5. Joshua Smith – Georgetown (C, Sr., 6-10, 320, Kent, Wa.)
Season Averages: 12.6 PTS, 6.3 REB, 1.1 AST, 0.9 BLK, 0.8 STL
The 6-foot-10, 320-pounder is a load to handle for opposing big men when he’s on the floor. He’s often a mismatch in the paint. He has a wide body and possesses strong hands and nibble feet, which has helped him make 62 percent of his field goal attempts, ranking No. 5 in the Big East. Most of his points come around the basket. What makes him make even more intriguing is his ability to pass the ball. Smith can find open teammates on the perimeter from inside or make pinpoint passes to cutters in the lane from the top of the key.
Other Notable Seniors
Juan Anderson (Marquette) 11.0 PTS, 6.8 REB, 2.6 AST…Kameron Woods (Butler) 6.9 PTS, 8.8 REB, 1.4 AST… Jamee Crockett (DePaul) 12.3 PTS, 3.3 REB, 1.2 AST… Jayvaughn Pinkston (Villanova) 10.8 PTS, 6.0 REB, 1.5 AST… Brandon Mobley (Seton Hall) 10.2 PTS, 5.1 REB, 0.9 AST… Darrun Hilliard (Villanova) 12.3 PTS, 2.8 REB, 2.1 AST… Austin Chatman (Creighton) 13.7 PTS, 4.2 REB, 4.5 AST… Phil Greene IV (St. John’s) 11.2 PTS, 2.9 REB, 1.3 AST