The commonality of the 40-point scorer in college basketball

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Jahii Carson is the most notable of players who've gone for 40 or more this season. (USATSI)
Jahii Carson is the most notable of players who've gone for 40 or more this season. (USATSI)

We've seen how offense, tempo, efficiency, free throw attempts and 3-pointers have gone up so far this season, due in large part to a change in how (and how often) fouls are called.

What of the individual offensive performances, though? Are we seeing a spike there? As of Christmas Day, college basketball has had nine players score 40 or more points in a game this season. If that seems high, it's actually not a drastic increase from most years over the past decade. In fact, we were actually behind the pace of most recent seasons until the past week, when we had a 40-point performance for five days running: Texas Southern's Aaric Murray, Morehead State's Drew Kelly, Furman's Stephen Croone, Green Bay's Alec Brown, Georgia State's R.J. Hunter.

In light of this flurry of 40-pointers over a five-day stretch, I wanted to look at the past decade and see who and how often we had 40-point games. What I found: Big-time scoring performances mostly happen at the mid-major level. Makes sense. How many big-name college players can you recall, specifically when and against what team, scored 40?

No doubt Jimmer Fredette, Stephen Curry and Adam Morrison come to mind -- because they all did it six times apiece, the most of any players since 2000. But do you remember when Tyler Hansbrough had 40? What about Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes and Kemba Walker? Did you know Damian Lillard did it twice? Klay Thompson, too.

Trends from the past season, with the projected rate for 40-point games by the end of this one.

Here's the past decade, specifically, with notable performances from each season. The home/away/netural signifies where the 40-plus performances came. Thanks to the ever-valuable bbstate.com for help in tallying the data.


Season40+ gamesSeason-highs and those who had multiple 40+ games
18Nate Wolters' 53 was the season high. Central Connecticut (Kyle Vinales and Matt Hunter) had two 40-point scorers in one season. Few other teams can claim that. They are: Seton Hall (Jeremy Hazell and Jamel Jackson); Troy in '07-08; Liberty in '06-07; and Chicago State in '08-09. Away: 8; home: 7; neutral: 3.
17Kevin Murphy's 50 burger for Tennessee Tech was tops. This was when Lillard had two in one season. Reggie Hamilton at Oakland did the same. Creighton's Doug McDermott has two in the past two seasons, just like Klay Thompson at Washingotn State during the 2009-10/2010-11 seasons. Home: 12; away: 4; neutral: 1.
25Jimmer Fredette had four 40-point games in that 2010-11 season, and his 52 tied with two other players for most in that campaign. Providence's Marshon Brooks twice eclipsed 40 during 2010-11. Home: 13; away: 10; neutral: 2.
20Rotnei Clarke, then at Arkansas, had 51 in the team's first game and set a bar that was not surpassed all season. Nicholls State's Anatoly Bose had two games of 40 or more. Away: 10; home: 5; neutral: 5.
34Utah Valley's Ryan Toolson topped all that year, putting up 63 against Chicago State in four overtimes. Both teams were independents at the time. David Holston at Chicago State (twice) and teammate John Cantrell also went for 40 or more. It was a huge year for repeat performances. Fullerton's Josh Akognon, Lester Hudson at Tennessee-Martin and Jamal Barney of Loyola (MD) went for two 40-or-more. Even better? Kentucky's Jodie Meeks had three that year, and Stephen Curry had four. Away: 14; home: 13; neutral: 7.
28Houston's Rob McKiver had two games of 40 or more, and his 52 was the highest that season. Reggie Willims of VMI, Michael Beasley at K-State and Curry also double-dipped. Charron Fisher Niagara too. And Rob McKiver from Houston. Home: 14; away: 12; neutral: 2.
26Trey Johnson of Jackson State put up 49 against UTEP, which has been involved in nearly as many 40-point games as any other program the past 10 years. Morris Almond (Rice) went for 40 or more twice. Reggie Williams dominated in his four year at VMI, and this was his biggest season -- four games above 40. Home: 15; away: 8; neutral: 3.
29Brion Rush of Grambling had 53, the season's high. Adam Morrison's five 40-piont games during 2005-06 is a record over the past 15 years for most 40-point games in one season. J.J. Redick had three that year. Keydren Clark of St. Peter's had four 40-pointers that season, and had two the year before. Away: 16; home: 10; neutral: 3.
12Joe Knight of Lehigh had 45. Quinnpiac's Rob Monroe went for more than 40 twice. The most impotent scoring season at the top over the past decade. Home: 5; away: 5; neutral: 2.
23Old Dominion's Alex Loughton had a 45-point game, which was the best that season. Players with two 40-point performances: Akron's Derrick Tarver, IUPUI's Odell Bradley, Oregon's Luke Jackson, Western Carolina's Kevin Martin and of course Vermont's Taylor Coppenrath! Home: 15; away: 7; neutral: 1.

The average season provides 23 40-point games. This year's pace is two under that, which could be something of a surprise. There were 111 showings that came on home courts, 94 on the road and 29 on neutral courts. None came during the NCAA tournament. The fact the home/away is relatively close was a bit surprising to me.

Wondering how the leagues stack up? Check how low the Big Ten is. And look at the SoCon setting the standard.

SoCon: 16
Big East: 14
Big 12: 13
C-USA: 13
ACC: 13
Big South: 11
MAAC: 11
Mountain West: 10
Big Sky: 9
West Coast: 8
Northeast: 8
Pac-12: 8
SEC: 8
Summit: 7
Independent: 7
MEAC: 7
MAC: 6
Southland: 6
Ohio Valley: 6
America East: 5
CAA: 5
Atlantic 10: 5
Big West: 5
Horizon: 5
Sun Belt: 5
SWAC: 5
Big Ten: 4
Patriot League: 4
Missouri Valley: 4
*Mid-Continent: 4
WAC: 3
Atlantic Sun: 2
*Great West: 2

Notice who's missing? Only one league. The Ivy. Sean McGonagill of Brown had 39 points in February 2011. Another guy from Brown, Damon Huffman, had 39 back in '08. But the Ivy hasn't had a player go for more than 40 since March 2003, when Harvard's Brady Merchant did it to Brown.

As for 50-point scorers since the 2003-04 season:

54: Jodie Meeks, Kentucky (1/13/09)
54: Brion Rush, Grambling (2/4/06)
53: Nate Wolters, South Dakota State (2/7/13)
52: Rob McKiver, Houston (2/27/08)
52: Jimmer Fredette, BYU (3/11/11)
52: Mike James Lamar (1/4/11)
52: Marshon Brooks, Providence (2/23/11)
51: Rotnei Clarke, Arkansas (11/13/09)
50: Kevin Murphy, Tennessee Tech (1/30/12)

Any 60-point guys? Yessir.

63: Ryan Toolson, Utah Valley (1/29/09, four OTs)
60: Ben Woodside, North Dakota State (12/12/08)

College hoops is tailored for many big-time performances, but if anything, we're seeing that in the past decade a stagnation in the game collectively didn't ultimately lead to a noticeable trend -- rise or fall -- in how specific players put up points. Perhaps there will be a rise going forward, but overall, it's the teams more than the individuals that are benefitting more as of now.

 
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