Player of the Week
Matt Gatens, Iowa
In two games, the senior guard has taken the Hawkeyes from looking like the Big Ten’s cellar-dwellers to the middle of the pack and a shot at an NCAA Tournament berth. He’s played for three coaches in four years and never has experienced a winning season in Iowa City, but the hometown kid brought the Hawkeyes a step closer with 30 points Sunday against No. 18 Indiana and 33 in a win vs. No. 16 Wisconsin — each at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Each were career highs.
How did he follow up a 10-for-18, 7-for-10 performance from 3 vs. the Hoosiers? Went 12-for-18 and matched the 7-of-10 to lead the Hawkeyes to a sweep of the Badgers for the first time since the 1994-95 season. Gatens had never made more than nine field goals or five 3-pointers in a game before the last pair.
But this is what was most impressive about the past two wins for Iowa (15-13, 7-8 Big Ten): Gatens hit 12 consecutive shots from downtown, three short of the NCAA Division I record of 15 set by Northwestern’s Todd Leslie in 1990. In the last four games, he’s 22-of-32 from 3-point range (68.8 percent). Iowa now sits in seventh place in the Big Ten, and on the NCAA Tournament bubble with two wins apiece over the Badgers and Minnesota, and victories over ranked foes Indiana and Michigan. It finishes the season with games at Illinois and Nebraska before hosting Northwestern.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
The sophomore averaged 22 points and nine rebounds while shooting 14-of-21 (5-8 from 3) from the floor as the Buckeyes lost at Michigan and beat Illinois at home this week. How about a pass, though? Thomas has just four assists in the Buckeyes’ past nine games.
Robbie Hummel, Purdue
He averaged 26.5 points in Purdue’s first two games without Kelsey Barlow this past week, including a 29-point performance in an 83-65 blowout against Nebraska at home. In his last four, he’s averaging 24.8 points and 10.5 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the floor. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on Hummel to continue this streak into March. Can he take on the challenge?
Bo Spencer, Nebraska
The Cornhuskers (12-14, 4-11) went 1-1 this week, drubbing Illinois 80-57 at home and getting drubbed 83-65 at Purdue. Spencer averaged 23 points and 4.5 assists while shooting 17-of-25 (68 percent), including 8-of-12 (66 percent) from 3-point range. The 6-foot-2 senior is Nebraska’s leading scorer at 15.6 points per game.
Brandon Paul, Illinois
Paul, Illinois’ leading scorer at 13.1 per game, had his worst game of the Big Ten season Saturday at Nebraska, where he went 1-of-7 from the field and scored just two points in the 23-point blowout. He followed that up with a 2-for-9 performance and nine points in a 16-point loss at Ohio State. The Illini have lost six straight games and have all but played themselves out of any shot for an NCAA bid.
Drew Crawford, Northwestern
The junior’s scoring has dipped dramatically in the past few games, scoring just six in an overtime loss against Michigan on Tuesday and 11 in a win vs. Minnesota last Saturday. He hadn’t attempted less than 10 field goals since Jan. 1, which he did in each (4-of-8 vs. the Gophers, 2-of-5 vs. the Wolverines). Once second in the conference in scoring behind teammate John Shurna, he’s now fifth at 16.2 points per game. Crawford has made only five of his last 24 3-point attempts.
Ralph Sampson III, Minnesota
The 6-foot-11 senior hasn’t scored in double figures in five straight games, in which the Gophers are 1-4. He’s also only averaging four rebounds in that span and 3.4 fouls. Before the past five, he was averaging 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds.
Evan Smotrycz, Michigan
Michigan went 2-0 this week but the sophomore didn’t do much of anything offensively, scoring two points apiece in victories over Ohio State and Northwestern. He shot 2-for-6 and collected three fouls in each. He did grab five rebounds in each game, and with the Wolverines winning, maybe it’s not on Smotrycz to score like he did heading into the Big Ten season.
Top five single-game performances
1. Illinois’ Brandon Paul’s 43 points on 11-of-15 shooting (8-of-10 from 3) against Ohio State on Jan. 10 in a 79-74 win. Absolutely unstoppable. He also grabbed eight rebounds.
2. Iowa’s Matt Gatens’ 33 points against Wisconsin on Thursday. He couldn’t miss in the first half in the midst of his 12 straight 3-point made streak and sealed the win at the end with two free throws.
3. Michigan State’s Draymond Green’s 14 points and 16 rebounds against Michigan on Feb. 5. Green outrebounded the entire Wolverines team 16-15, willing his Spartans team to victory while getting revenge on their in-state rival 64-54 at the Breslin Center.
4. Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas’ 30-point performance after Jared Sullinger went out with an injury Dec. 17 at South Carolina. He hit 13-of-16 shots and grabbed six rebounds. It was sort of a coming out party for Thomas, who had scored consistently up to that point but really turned some heads with this performance.
5. Northwestern’s John Shurna scored 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting, including 9-of-12 from 3-point range, in 87-72 win against Eastern Illinois on Dec. 18. He also had five rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
-Iowa’s Matt Gatens was the first player to score more than 30 points in consecutive games against Top 25 teams since Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell in 2009.
-Wisconsin reached six Big Ten losses for the third time in coach Bo Ryan’s 11 seasons by losing to Iowa on Thursday. The Badgers lost eight in 2008-09 and seven in 2005-06.
-Purdue’s Robbie Hummel has 99 points since Feb. 12, the most in Division I in that span.
-With its 21 st win Wednesday, Indiana has improved its win total by nine since last season, its largest since a record 11-game improvement in 1990-91.
-Michigan State is now 10-0 when Draymond Green posts at least five rebounds and five assists in the same game.
-Michigan’s 11 Big Ten wins are its most since 1997-98, which has been vacated because of NCAA sanctions.