College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, December 8, 2012
With 21 of the top 25 teams in action on Saturday, choosing a single Player of the Day was no easy feat.
There was Cody Zeller of #1 Indiana, who led the Hoosiers to their ninth win without a loss, defeating hopelessly overmatched Central Connecticut State, 100-69.
Zeller, a top early choice for Player of the Year, had one of his best games of the season, scoring 19 points and hauling down the same number of rebounds.
His effort was gargantuan, but so was Russ Smith's game, as #5 Louisville crushed Missouri Kansas City, 99-47. Smith rolled up 31 points on 12-for-18 shooting, including three treys. He also had seven boards, five assists and five steals. Wow!
However, both of those efforts were against inferior opposition by top-ranked teams. For a look at the game of the day, that honor fell to Brandon Paul, the 6'4" senior leader of the 13th-ranked Fighting Illini, who led his squad to their 10th straight win without a loss, handing #10 Gonzaga their first loss of the season (9-1) with a come-from-behind, 85-74, victory.
Paul, who has scored in double figures every game this season, went off for a season-high 35 points on 10-for-16 shooting (5-for-9 on threes), making 10 of 11 from the foul line while adding four rebounds, three assists, three steals and a pair of blocked shots, turning the ball over just twice.
A starter since joining the Illini as a freshman, Paul seems to savor big games against big opponents. His career high of 43 points came last season against the Ohio State Buckeyes, leading his team to a 79-75 win in one of the biggest Big Ten upsets of the year.
The Illini had a rough season, though, going 6-12 in the conference and losing their opening round game in the conference tourney to Iowa, costing them any chance at further post-season play, but the Illini have turned things around this season and appear poised to challenge Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State for league leadership.
Paul's superior performance on Saturday, on the road against an unbeaten, ranked foe, was perhaps this season's top single-game effort of the 2012-13 season.