Player of the Week
Robbie Hummel, Purdue
Hummel led the Boilermakers to back-to-back wins with two of his finest performances of the season. After struggling with his shot most of the Big Ten season, Hummel could be getting in a groove just as the most important month of the college basketball season approaches.
How’s this for a stat: Hummel had hit just 33.8 percent of his shots in Big Ten play before going 13-of-23 (56.5 percent) in the last two games. He put up a season-high 27 points and nine rebounds in an 87-77 win Sunday against pesky Northwestern, then followed that up with his fourth double-double of the Big Ten season by posting 19 and 11 in a win against Illinois on Wednesday. The Boilermakers had to turn to Hummel in the clutch in both games and he came through like the Robbie Hummel of old.
They’ll need him to carry the team forward as it deals with the loss of junior guard Kelsey Barlow, who was dismissed from the team Friday. Sophomore Terone Johnson likely will start in Barlow’s place, though he gives up 3 inches (Barlow was 6-5, Johnson is 6-2) and is a 35.3 percent free-throw shooter.
Three of Purdue’s final five Big Ten games come against ranked opponents — starting Sunday against No. 7 Michigan State at Mackey Arena. The Boilermakers (17-9, 7-6 Big Ten) still must prove themselves worthy of an NCAA Tournament bid. They currently sit sixth in the conference, a half-game back of Indiana, which they meet March 4 in the regular-season finale.
Ryan Evans, Wisconsin
The 6-6 junior from Phoenix has scored 17 points in the Badgers’ past two games and averaged nine rebounds. He shot just 11-of-28, though, and is shooting just 43.3 percent from the field for the season. But his numbers have noticeably increased in year three, going from 2.8 points per game to 10.5 and 2.3 rebounds to 6.8. He’s also averaging more than 18 more minutes this year as Wisconsin (19-7, 8-5 Big Ten) has won seven of its last nine games.
Evans has scored in double figures in five consecutive games and had at least five rebounds in each of those games. He’s hit the double-figure mark in eight of 13 Big Ten games this season after doing that just twice last season during the Big Ten slate.
Aaron White, Iowa
The freshman continues to impress in a starting role the past five games as the Hawkeyes have begun to falter a bit, losing two straight games and five of their past seven. He’s averaged a double-double — 16.7 points and 10.3 rebounds — in the past three games while shooting 18-of-30 from the field, including 7-of-10 from 3-point range. The 6-8 forward poses matchup problems with his shooting prowess and ability to find a shot off the dribble. He ranks second among Big Ten freshmen at rebounding at 5.5 per game and third in scoring at 10.5 points.
Coach Fran McCaffery certainly is impressed, telling the Des Moines Register about the softly-recruited White, “I don’t care who else is recruiting him. I mean, some of the best players I’ve recruited didn’t have much. And sometimes we’ve gotten great recruits that didn’t amount to much. I feel pretty confident that if I go watch Aaron White play, I can tell if he can play in the Big Ten. I mean, he can play in the NBA. So he certainly can play in the Big Ten.”
Mike Bruesewitz, Wisconsin
The 6-6 junior from St. Paul, Minn., had his second straight poor outing Thursday in a 69-55 loss at Michigan State, shooting just 1-of-6 — including 0-for-4 from 3-point range — and scoring four points while fouling out. A week before, he shot just 1-of-8 (1-of-5 from 3) for three points but had nine rebounds in an overtime win at Minnesota. His shooting percentage (.401) is down 7 percent from last season and he’s shooting just 8-of-28 (28.6 percent) in the Badgers’ last four games.
Zach McCabe, Iowa
Foul trouble has kept the sophomore from being too effective in the past four games, in which he’s been whistled for at least four. The 6-7 forward has just two points in the Hawkeyes’ last two games, both road losses. A starter, McCabe was averaging 8.5 points per game before the last pair. He averages 3.8 fouls per game, the most in the Big Ten.
NCAA Tournament glance
In/fighting for seeding
Michigan State (19-5, 9-3)
RPI: 4; SOS: 3; Key games left: @PUR, @IND, OSU
Ohio State (22-4, 10-3)
RPI: 8; SOS: 22; Key games left: @MICH, WIS, @MSU
Michigan (18-7, 9-4)
RPI: 14; SOS: 11; Key games left: OSU, @NW, @ILL
Indiana (20-6, 8-6)
RPI: 15; SOS: 25; Key games left: @ MIN, MSU, PUR
Wisconsin (19-6, 8-4)
RPI: 24; SOS: 26; Key games left: @OSU, MINN, ILL
On the bubble
Northwestern (15-10, 5-8)
RPI: 44; SOS: 9; Key games left: MINN, MICH, OSU
Purdue (17-9, 7-6)
RPI: 46; SOS: 30; Key games left: MSU, @MICH, @IND
Illinois (16-10, 5-8)
RPI: 59; SOS: 21; Key games left: @OSU, @MICH, @WIS
Minnesota (17-9, 5-8)
RPI: 65; SOS: 48; Key games left: @NW, MSU, IND, WIS
Wait until next year
Nebraska (11-13, 3-10)
RPI: 127; SOS: 41
Penn State (11-15, 3-10)
RPI: 130; SOS: 34
Iowa (13-12, 5-7)
RPI: 131; SOS: 74
* Purdue coach Matt Painter dismissed junior starter Kelsey Barlow from the team and suspended starting forward D.J. Byrd for a game after Byrd was arrested for public intoxication early Friday morning after an altercation at a bar in West Lafayette. Byrd has come on strong lately for the Boilermakers, more than doubling his season scoring average the past five games while averaging 16.8 points as Purdue has gone 3-2. Barlow had started 22 of 26 games and was the team’s fourth-leading scorer at 8.3 points per game.
* Iowa senior point guard Bryce Cartwright could miss Sunday’s game against Indiana with a right high-ankle sprain he suffered in practice. He dressed for the Hawkeyes’ Thursday loss at Penn State but didn’t play.
* Michigan State freshman Travis Trice, a reserve point guard, is out indefinitely with an ankle injury he suffered at Ohio State. Trice, who wore a walking cast on the bench Thursday, is averaging 5.2 points in 18.5 minutes per game.