Player of the Week
Wisconsin had their chance to show their worthiness by beating Ohio State a week ago. Purdue did them one better by beating both the Buckeyes and Badgers in the same week, and ETwaun Moore led the way. He was a part of a three-man offensive attack against Wisconsin. Moore, JaJuan Johnson, and Lewis Jackson combined for 57 of the team’s 70 points. Purdue was able to get a lead midway through the first half and never gave it up. The win over Wisconsin marked the 102nd win for Johnson and Moore moving them past Keaton Grant as program's all-time victory mark for players. In their Saturday game against Ohio State, the Buckeyes led by a small margin for much of the first half with a heavy dose of Jared Sullinger inside. When he picked up his second foul and went to the bench with 5 minutes to go, the opportunity for Purdue to seize control was there. Moore scored 13 points in the final 3:49 of the first half to give the Boilermakers a 4 point halftime lead. In the second half, whenever it looked like Ohio State was making a run, Moore came through with a play. Whether it was a steal, assist, or shot, he came through to make sure the Buckeyes did not get too close. Overall, it was another banner day for Moore. His career-high 38 points was the most points by a Purdue player in Mackey Arena since Glenn Robinson scored 49 points against Illinois in 1994. He also tied a career high with seven 3-pointers, moved into sixth place in Purdue's career steals list with a total of 158 steals, and became the fifth player in school history to surpass 2,000 points as well as the first since 1988. By getting his 2,000 point, he also becomes only the fourth player in Big Ten history with 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 350 assists for his career.
The cumulative numbers are impressive on their own. In two games, Battle put in 51 points on 14-27 from three. Fourteen of his fifteen field goals were from three. Against Minnesota, Battle hit the biggest of his 28 points with 1:15 left when he hit a three to give Penn State the lead for good. After a first half at the Kohl Center where the Nittany Lions were only able to muster 19 points, Battle put in 20 on his own after halftime trying to get Penn State back into it. While his effort was not successful, it was still impressive.
Penn State’s Thursday night game at Northwestern will probably be the determining game as to whether the Nittany Lions finish the year with a winning record. With Ohio State and a road game in Minnesota left to close out the season, it is certainly the most winnable game left for the 14-12 team.
Illinois trades in one concern for another
Last week, the narrative around Illinois was the concern about the performances of their seniors. Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale were benched prior to the Minnesota game. Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther commented "we've got a senior class that probably hasn't played to their potential" while talking about the state of the program. The talk of the broadcasters during games were about the potential of Jereme Richmond, D.J. Richardson, Meyers Leonard, and Brandon Paul to step in and right the ship. A week goes by, and the four Illini seniors carried them. The four seniors were 15-33 shooting for 38 points of the team’s 57 points while adding 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals, and 5 blocks against Michigan State. They were also 17-35 for 41 points, 22 rebounds, and 7 assists against Michigan. The problem was that the underclassmen shot 13-43 for the week. Such is the life of bubble teams, they never seem to have everything click at the same time. With two road games left at Ohio State and Purdue as well as a pair of home games against Indiana and Iowa, it seems inevitable that the Illini will enter the Big Ten tournament with a 9-9 conference record and get placed in the 4-5 game.
Top 5: Big Ten Players on Aran Smith’s Most Recent Big Board
1. Jared Sullinger, 4th – A rock solid horse as a college big man who will likely carry Ohio State deep into March. Teams cannot guard him with one man, and the only proven way to stop him is to send him to the bench with foul trouble as Purdue was able to do. As soon as he adjusts to the size and speed of the NBA game, he is going to be a rock solid power forward there as well.
2. William Buford, 29th – Sullinger casts a big shadow over Ohio State, and deservedly so, but the rest of the team is also exceptional. Buford is the best of that bunch. He is eleventh in the Big Ten in league play scoring at 14.5 points per game and shooting a league best 52.5 percent from three. He has prototypical NBA shooting guard size, is a solid athlete, and a quality defensive player.
3. JaJuan Johnson, 31st – Johnson probably showed as much if not more growth as a player over his four years than anyone in the country. It is an incredible accomplishment for him to get where he is as a player, but it is still difficult for players with that slight a build to successfully translate to the NBA.
4. Jereme Richmond, 47th – Richmond has spent much of his freshman year playing out of position at the power forward spot. Part of that has been out of Illinois needing his length, athleticism, and activity inside, but also due to Richmond really needing to develop his perimeter shot.
5. Trevor Mbakwe, 50th – Mbakwe has been a tremendous addition for the Minnesota frontline, and has been their best player all season long. He has many of the same desirable traits as a tremendous athlete who is an active rebounder and defender as Kenneth Faried, but unlike Faried is possesses greater physical strength.
The Big Ten and Big East both have three teams in the top twelve in most recent coach’s poll.
Tim Hardaway Jr. continued his stellar play for Michigan as they try to mount a late tournament run. He had 30 points on 9-14 shooting in their 75-72 win at Iowa.
Demetri McCamey is seven assists away from becoming the second player in school history and fourth in Big Ten history to reach 700 career assists. McCamey is the active NCAA leader in career assists with 693.