Player of the Week
Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
Hardaway put on a shooting exhibition Tuesday against Ohio State, hitting four straight 3-pointers in a span of 3:18 at one point in the second half. He clearly was in one of his zones, again confirming his reputation as one of the streakiest shooters in the nation. He hit his fifth 3-pointer of the second half 3 minutes later, putting an exclamation point on the 5-for-5 stretch. Hardaway finished with 23 points in the 76-74 overtime win against the No. 10 Buckeyes in Ann Arbor. Hardaway kept the points flowing for the No. 3 Wolverines while he and his teammates largely laid down on defense. The game doesn’t go to overtime without Hardaway keeping the game close in the second half, because Ohio State was getting all sorts of open looks on the offensive side.
Hardaway also scored 18 points in Saturday’s loss at Indiana and has made 15 of his last 30 attempts from the field. His 3-point percentage (.431) remains almost 15 points higher than last season, and his field goal percentage is up nearly 7 points. This is the result of better shot selection and a better supporting cast that finds him in solid scoring situations. This season, 42.5 percent of his shots have been 3s, compared to 46.8 percent last year.
LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State
Ross had the game of his short career Tuesday at Michigan despite the Buckeyes’ overtime loss. He hit 7-of-10 shots for 16 points as Michigan pretty much invited him to beat them. The 23 minutes he saw the floor was his most since Dec. 15 against UNC-Asheville, and his double-figure scoring effort was his first since Dec. 29 against Chicago State. In fact, Ross hadn’t attempted more than five shots in a game in Big Ten play until Tuesday. Ross also added five rebounds for the Buckeyes and showed his shooting ability by draining both of the 3-pointers he attempted. He also got into the lane a few times off the dribble for some easy buckets.
D.J. Richardson, Illinois
Richardson led the charge offensively for the Illini on Thursday night in taking down No. 1 Indiana. With the Hoosiers leading 70-62 with 3 minutes left, Richardson went on an 8-0 personal run, starting with a 3 after a steal by Joseph Bertrand. He added another 3 a possession later and a jumper to tie the score at 70 with 1:21 left. Richardson finished with 23 points, the most since his 30-point game at Nebraska on Jan. 22. He also had three steals on the defensive end, turning up the intensity on Indiana’s guards.
Gary Harris, Michigan State
Harris is solidifying his reputation as one of the Big Ten’s best shooters — and toughest players. Harris has been battling back spasms for a few weeks now, but still has managed to go 13-for-24 from 3-point range in past four games. He’s averaged 14 ppg in that spance, upping his season average to 12.9. Harris hit 4-of-8 3-pointers Wednesday in a 61-50 win against Minnesota, a performance coach Tom Izzo called one of the “guttier” performances he’s seen in his career. Harris is shooting 41.8 percent from 3-point range this season, ranking sixth in the conference, and sits 11th in total made with 41.
Tracy Abrams, Illinois
It was a great game Thursday for the Illini, but not necessarily for Abrams, who didn’t score in just 24 minutes. In the past five games, he’s shot an awful 5-for-38 from the field (13.2 percent!). He’s averaged 7.2 ppg in that span, lowering his season average to 11.0. Illinois is 2-3 in those games.
Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa
Should Marble even be playing at this point? That’s a question that really should be asked based on Marble’s performance after injuring his foot. He returned and shot 8-of-16 in the first two games, but since it’s gone downhill quickly. He is 8-for-44 (18.1 percent) from the field with a 6 ppg average in the last five games, in which Iowa is 1-4. He sat out both overtime periods Wednesday during a 74-70 loss at Wisconsin, just the latest of Iowa’s failed attempts in tense late-game situations. He’s played 17 and 18 minutes the last two games, and it might be time for coach Fran McCaffery to cut the losses with Marble this season. He had a chance to really add to his NBA stock this season, but it has only plummeted as he’s had an abysmal time coping with an ankle and toe sprain, in addition to turf toe. He can come back strong next season and make that his prove-them-wrong campaign.
Top Five Freshmen
Glenn Robinson III, Michigan
Robinson has scored in double figures in seven of Michigan’s 10 Big Ten games. He hasn’t exploded yet, though, unless you count the 20-point effort Jan. 6 against Iowa. But he’s always a threat for an alley-oop highlight on the fast break, and he’s posting solid rebounding numbers in the Big Ten (5.2 per game). His defense is a work in progress, but that’ll improve with time. He ranks third in field-goal percentage in league play (.581) and sixth in minutes played (36.1, most of any freshman), signifying he’s earned coach John Beilein’s trust.
Gary Harris, Michigan State
Harris has really come on as of late as one of the conference’s top shooting guards (emphasis on shooting). Exactly half of his 196 field-goal attempts have come from behind the arc, where he shoots 41.8 percent, including 51.0 percent in Big Ten play (third in the league). He’s tied for the most 3-pointers in Big Ten play with 26. Harris also is turning into a solid defender who averages 1.3 steals per game and has shown a lot of toughness while battling some back issues.
AJ Hammons, Purdue
Hammons has shown glimpses of a promising future as a dominant post player in the Big Ten. He’s scored in double figures in seven of 10 league games and is averaging 21.3 points and 10 rebounds in the past three games.
Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Stauskas has been ridiculously reliable as a freshman starter. Other than the Wolverines’ game at Ohio State in which he didn’t score, he’s posted double figures in every Big Ten game and 21 of 23 games overall. The 3-point extraordinaire has made 48.7 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and is averaging 12.4 points per game for the Wolverines.
Mitch McGary, Michigan
McGary has only recently began to see the floor more with senior Jordan Morgan limited by an ankle injury. It’s resulted in two solid efforts the past two games – 10 points at Indiana and 14 against Ohio State on Tuesday. He played 28 minutes in Bloomington and 29 vs. the Buckeyes after not playing more than 21 in a Big Ten game beforehand. His conditioning is coming along – he’s had to ask out of the game several times – but he possesses a drive that’s evident every time he’s on the floor. He won’t be outworked, and has the talent to become a top player in this conference. He’s averaging six points and six rebounds in 17.2 minutes per game.
Illinois beat a No. 1 team for just a second time Thursday night, beating Indiana on a last-second layup by Tyler Griffey off an inbounds play. The Illini’s only other win against a top-ranked team was against Wake Forest in 2004.
Michigan State’s Keith Appling had his shoulder pop out of place Wednesday while battling Minnesota’s Joe Coleman. He expects to play Saturday at Purdue. That’s good, because backup Travis Trice hasn’t been cleared following a head injury, and Gary Harris is battling through back issues.
Trey Burke is an outstanding player, but he and coach John Beilein need to execute better on final possessions. It’s understandable Burke wants to be the guy to hit a dagger at the buzzer, especially against his hometown team that passed him over — and he certainly can — but again this past week, Burke simply went one-on-one at the top of the key and fired off an off-balance 3-pointer that was close, but didn’t fall. I count at least three or four times this season in which this “play” was called at the end of games. Why not get Burke into the lane where he can do more to draw defenders and pass to one of his more-than-capable teammates? It’s pretty mind-boggling that a team as good as Michigan doesn’t execute very well in the final 30 seconds.
Same with Ohio State. Why was Aaron Craft taking the Buckeyes’ most crucial shots of the game Tuesday? Where was Deshaun Thomas? Come on, coaches.
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