Karrington Ward, you guys.
The Eastern Michigan Eagles newcomer had a huge first half to keep his team in the game, setting up a big second half that saw EMU top Cleveland State, 81-69. Ward scored 14 of his game-high 28 points in the first frame and did it all sorts of fun ways, finishing 9-of-10 from the field, 3-of-3 from three and 7-of-11 from the free throw line.
He had help, of course. But it was the play of Ward that really impressed me. He was aggressive, without being reckless. In control, without being timid. Most freshman have to ease their way into renting real estate at the free throw line, but it seemed like Ward has already set up his futon and was just waiting for the cable guy.
With the game somewhat in the balance, Ward took it upon himself to bury the Vikings by finishing back-to-back possessions first at the rim and then at the foul line. First, it was a hard dunk that showcased some athleticism. Then, it was a hanging layup through contact that exhibited some ridiculous body control. Both plays were top-10 worthy and both plays made me really, really happy.
But enough about Ward.
The rest of the Eagles fell somewhere between serviceable and extraordinarily average. Daylen Harrison had a stretch where he looked like a solid stretch four option, going inside one possession and burying an 18-footer the next, but then he would also disappear for possessions at a time. Da'Shonte Riley was a force inside, picking up two blocks in as many seconds one possession, then drew his third and fourth foul in what seemed like just as short a time period.
Even still, EMU exhibited some really nice offensive balance. Glenn Bryant had 10 points and six rebounds off the bench; Mike Talley had nine points, three assists and no turnovers at the point; Riley had eight points, six blocks (!!) and five rebounds; and Harrison had a full stat line of nine points, five rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals.
The game-deciding 12-0 run exemplified that balance. It started with Lee making three foul shots after drawing a big foul on Bryn Forbes, then Ward buried a three and made a layup (with Riley's block spree mixed in the middle), then back-to-back fast break buckets by Bryant turned a 47-47 contest into a 59-47 formality. All that was left were the fouls.
And more Karrington Ward, of course.