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January 30, 2008

Coburn leads Rutgers to surprising wins

There were a lot of the usual suspects for Rivals.com's National Freshman of the Week award.

Five-star prospects were tearing it up throughout the country. Michael Beasley was running rampant in the Big 12, and Kevin Love returned home to help UCLA cut a swath through the state of Oregon. Jerryd Bayless was back in form as Arizona swept the Pac-10's Washington schools.

But none of them led his team to two wins over ranked teams last week like Rutgers guard Mike Coburn. The host Scarlet Knights knocked off No. 18 Villanova 80-68 for their first victory in the Big East this season and their first over a ranked opponent in two years. They followed up by winning at No. 13 Pittsburgh 77-64. The Panthers are the highest-ranked team Rutgers has beaten on the road in school history, and it was just the eighth loss for Pittsburgh in 100 games at the Petersen Events Center.

"Toward the middle of the second half (at Pittsburgh) we started to turn it up and made a nice run," Coburn told Rivals.com. "We got up by a good amount and kept the lead. We did a good job of taking care of the ball, making free throws and finishing it together as a team.

"Pittsburgh is great at home, and to get a win on the road it was a great feeling. We believed in ourselves."

Coburn, a 6-footer from Mount Vernon, N.Y., averaged 20 points and 4.0 assists to earn Rivals.com's national freshman honor. He made all five of his 3-pointers in the two games, and he shot a combined 59.1 percent (13 of 22) from the floor. He established a career high with 23 points against Villanova, and he followed up with 17 and five assists against Pittsburgh.

"I'm really adjusting now to the speed of the game," Coburn said. "My confidence is up tremendously and I'm more comfortable. I think I'm making better decisions."

Rutgers may have surprised the nation, but Coburn said the Scarlet Knights haven't surprised themselves.

"We knew from the beginning we could play with teams in the Big East," Coburn said. "Our shots are falling, we're playing together and playing hard. If we continue to do that, we'll give ourselves a chance to win a lot more."

F Michael Beasley, Kansas State
Beasley had a huge week in two victories, averaging 31 points and 14 rebounds as the Wildcats beat Colorado and Iowa State. He shot 55.3 percent (21 of 38) and got to the free-throw line 20 times, knocking down 18 (90 percent).
C Kevin Love, UCLA
Love was virtually unstoppable on the Oregon road swing, leading the Bruins to two victories by averaging 21 points and 19.5 rebounds. He riddled Oregon for 26 points and 18 rebounds and shot 63.6 percent (14 of 22) for the week.
G Jerryd Bayless, Arizona
Bayless was near-perfect in the Wildcats' home sweep of the Washington schools, averaging 24.5 points and 6.0 assists, making all 11 of his free throws and shooting 65.2 percent from the floor.

Darren Collison,
Collison is finding there is a lot of room to roam when teams have to pay so much attention to Love. Collison averaged 27.5 points and 4.5 assists, made all 19 of his free-throw attempts and shot 61.5 percent (16 of 26) last week as the Bruins blitzed through the Beaver State, beating Oregon 80-75 and Oregon State 85-62.

Collison, a 6-foot junior, had only two turnovers in 73 minutes and was 4-for-7 from 3-point range. He had a career-high 22 points against the Ducks, then upped it to 33 in a sizzling performance against the Beavers.

"Collison did a tremendous job this entire game controlling the tempo," UCLA coach Ben Howland said after the Oregon State game. "Darren had a great weekend."

G Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame
McAlarney was chosen as Big East Player of the Week after he poured in a game-high 30 points in the Irish's 90-80 victory at Villanova in the their only game last week. McAlarney, a 6-1 junior, was 10 of 15 from the floor, including 5-for-8 from 3-point range. He also had five assists.
G Curtis Jerrells, Baylor
Jerrells, a 6-1 junior, averaged 26.5 points as Baylor split two games last week. He scored a career-high 36 points, including 11 in the fifth overtime, as the Bears' beat Texas A&M 116-110 in the longest game in Big 12 history. He was 20 of 24 from the free-throw line, setting a conference record for free throws made. He followed that effort with 17 points as BU lost 77-71 to Oklahoma. He also had 10 assists for the week with just two turnovers.

Courtney Lee,
G, Western Kentucky
When Lee is hot, so are the Hilltoppers. Fortunately for them, Lee's pilot light rarely goes out.

Lee sizzled last week as WKU tried to keep pace with South Alabama in the Sun Belt East. He shot 65.4 percent (17 of 26) from the floor and averaged 26 points and 4.5 rebounds as the Hilltoppers won at New Orleans and beat Arkansas State. He was even better from behind the arc, sinking 8-of-12 3-pointers (66.7 percent).

Lee, a 6-5 senior, got to the line a season-high 13 times against the Indians. It was part of what helped propel him to a career-high 33 points.

Lee is averaging 21.3 points for the season. He's shooting 52.8 percent in WKU victories and just 43.5 percent in the team's five losses. The 'Toppers have won six in a row.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.

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