Player of the Week
With 2:39 to go in regulation and down nine points against Wisconsin, Michigan State was on the verge of dropping out of the top 25 with 6 losses and falling to a 2-2 mark in conference play. Draymond Green came up big with three pointer to cut the lead to six and followed it up with a block and recovery of a Rob Wilson shot. Michigan State battled back to force overtime where Green had 8 points, 3 rebounds, and a blocked shot to steal a much needed win for the Spartans. Green finished the Wisconsin game with 26 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocked shots. On Saturday against Northwestern, Delvon Roe was given the duty to guard Northwestern star John Shurna. In many ways, Roe was the star of the game for Michigan State holding Shurna to 6 points on 2-10 shooting and 3 assists. Green, however, was huge on the offensive glass down the stretch in regulation and hit big free throw after big free throw to keep the Spartans close in a game where they were struggling mightily to score from the field. Then in overtime, Green made the biggest play of the game jumping the passing lane on a pass from Drew Crawford and took it the other way for an easy dunk to turn the momentum and ultimately the game for Michigan State. Green finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and was 10-10 from the free throw line.
This season, the fate of Michigan State has been largely tied to the performance of Green. He not only personifies the blue collar toughness and grit that is the trademark of the Izzo program by being an aggressive defender and attacking rebounder, but also offers them the greatest mismatch potential on offense. As talented as the Spartans are, far too often the team struggles to put the ball in the basket. Green needs to have more weeks like this for Michigan State to stay in the mix for the league title. They certainly are not going to win games in Champaign and West Lafayette this week without similar performances.
Verdell Jones III’s shooting
Through their first four conference games, Indiana looked about as poor as a team could. As a team, they played one half of Ben Ten conference caliber defense out of eight. The only team they held to under 50 percent shooting was Minnesota, and even they lit up the Hoosiers in the second half scoring 41 points on 14-27 from the field. On top of that, the team showed little in the way of offensive efficiency scoring only 67.8 PPG. Saturday night was a 180 degree turn for them. Verdell Jones was near perfect offensively. He had 14 points by the break and the Hoosiers held a 30-15 lead. After scoring the first basket of the second half, Jones was outscoring the Wolverines for a short period of time. The junior finished with 24 points on 9-10 shooting along with 4 assists and 4 rebounds. The defensive effort to hold the Wolverines to 61 points and 36.4 percent shooting was led by
Christian Watford and Tom Pritchard. The duo combined for 17 rebounds and the latter earned the praise of Tom Crean after the game for anchoring the team’s interior defense.
The Fighting Illini entered the week on an unbelievable offensive tear. They went through their first three conference games shooting 86-133 from the field for an incredible 65 percent, but their trips to State College and Madison brought them back to earth. A turnover prone first eleven minutes allowed Penn State to open up a very unimpressive 16-8 lead, but the Illini showed their explosiveness rarely throughout. They had put on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 25-25 going into the first half, but failed to build off it in the second. They lost 57-55 on 19-46 shooting and committed 17 turnovers. On Saturday, they went into Madison and simply brutalized the rims. They shot 16-53 from the floor and 4-16 from three. If not for Demetri McCamey’s ability to get to the line (17-21 from the line), Illinois would not have even been able to keep the game close. It was an especially difficult week for D.J. Richardson who had been averaging 11.6 PPG on the season, which was good for second on the team. The sophomore was 0-8 shooting on the week and struggled through foul trouble against the Badgers.
Top 5 Freshman Performers in Conference Play
1. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State- 17.8 PPG (4th in conference), 9.2 RPG (3rd in conference), 59.6 percent shooting (7th in conference), and 77.1 percent from the free throw line (16th in conference)
2. Aaron Craft, Ohio State- 9.6 PPG, 5.2 APG (3rd in conference), 2.17 assist/turnover ratio (7th in conference), and 8-17 from three (15th in conference)
3. Melsahn Basabe, Iowa- 12.0 PPG, (24th in conference) 8.6 RPG (5th in conference), 1.6 BPG (7th in conference), 55.3 percent shooting (13th in conference), and 81.8 percent from the free throw line (11th in conference)
4. JerShon Cobb, Northwestern- 11.3 PPG (30th in conference), 1.0 SPG (15th in conference), 3.5 RPG, and 2.2 APG
5. Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan- 10.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.4 SPG (8th in conference)
The week in Big Ten Social Media
Illinois played Wisconsin without freshman Jereme Richmond who missed practice on Thursday and Friday to return home to Waukegan to attend to “personal matters.” Big Ten Network analyst Jim Jackson tweeted (@ BTNJIMJACKSON) on Saturday “Illini fans may not want 2 hear this, but rumor has it the frosh jereme richmond may transfer. He supposedly didn't travel w/ team 2 Wisco,” but followed it up shortly after by clarifying that “But met them there. Keep u updated” He later continued to tweet “My sources r telling me this, its not etched n stone or anything, all rumor @ this point” and “I will re-tract my earlier comment about jereme richmonds possible transfer, jumped the gun 2 soon, apologies 2 all illini fans!!!!”
Minnesota’s emergent star forward Trevor Mbakwe had a rather eventful week on facebook. Mbakwe was arrested on Monday evening for violating a no contact restraining order with an ex-girlfriend. The story came out as Mbakwe had gotten together with a mutual friend and sent the woman a message on Facebook. The message that caused all the trouble read was eventually released and read: "I know we haven't talked in forever and trust me I'm not trying to start any drama with nobody in your life or anything. I just wanted to wish u the best with everything and I hope all has been well with you and your family. I am still disappointed how everything played out and I do wish that in the future we could be cool again. Idk how u r going to take this msg hopefully its not bad but I just wanted to wish u a happy new year and send out a congrats for graduating. I've been well I'm finally playin bball again in everything down in miami finally got taken care of thank god. Well idk if u will respond or not but best wishes for 2011." Mbakwe was not suspended, but was benched for the incident. The benching lasted all of 3:44 and 9 points by JaJuan Johnson against Purdue. Mbakwe finished with 7 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal in the upset win over Purdue. He came off the bench against Iowa as well, but still played 35 minutes and had 16 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals in leading the Gophers to a 69-59 win.
After Sunday’s games, Jordan Taylor emerged as the Big Ten’s leading scorer in conference play with 20.8 PPG.
Purdue dropped a pair of tough road games this week to Minnesota and West Virginia, but JaJuan Johnson had two of his best offensive performances scoring 29 points against the Gophers and 26 points against the Mountaineers. Over the past twelve games, Johnson is averaging 22 PPG on 52 percent shooting from the field and 84 percent from the line. He is also pulling down 8.1 rebounds and blocking 2.3 shots over that span.