Player of the Week
Victor Oladipo, Indiana
The 6-5 junior has kept the Hoosiers in the midst of the Big Ten title chase simply by doing it all. He’s in your face on the defensive end, then cuts to the basket on the other end and throws one down over you. Need a 3? He’ll sprinkle one of those in every so often, too. So Cody Zeller has a two-game stretch that sees him post a combined two baskets and 11 points? No worries. Oladipo scores 21 — and has seven rebounds, six steals and three blocks — to help fend off Michigan State last Saturday, a game after pouring in 19 points, six rebounds and five assists at Penn State. Finally, when his team comes around Thursday night at Purdue, he leads the charge on defense with plays so extraordinary they wind up on SportsCenter — while also scoring 17 points and grabbing six rebounds. How about that 15-for-24 mark from the field, too? Not too shabby. He’s been Indiana’s best player and has entered the picture as a serious contender for the conference’s player of the year.
Keith Appling, Michigan State
The 6-1 junior guard had probably his worst game as a Spartan last Saturday, posting three points, four turnovers, and no assists in just 19 minutes while fouling out in a 75-70 loss at Indiana. But he responded at home Thursday night, going off for 24 points on 7-for-12 shooting, while posting eight rebounds and more importantly seven assists as Michigan State erased a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Illinois 80-75. He was a part of several highlight-reel plays in which he split double teams and found bigs Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne for easy dunks off spectacular passes. He’ll be leaned on even more in upcoming games as backup Travis Trice (head) and sidekick Gary Harris (back spasms) continue to struggle with injury issues.
DeShaun Thomas, Ohio State
After a somewhat-worrisome effort last Saturday against Penn State, Thomas earned his 11th game with 20 points or more this season Tuesday against Wisconsin. Thomas, who scored a season-low 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting at State College, went for 25 against the Badgers, 14 in the second half. He shot 6-of-9 from the field after halftime and was showered with plenty of praise from coach Thad Matta about his defense — which was basically non-existent when he arrived on campus almost three years ago.
Aaron White, Iowa
White played more of a No. 3 role Thursday night in a 76-67 win against Penn State as Melsahn Basabe stepped into the starting lineup, replacing guard Anthony Clemmons. The 6-8 sophomore forward embraced it, scoring a career-high 27 points. White again showed his ability to get the free-throw line, making 10-of-11 as the Hawkeyes took advantage of a quick whistle by making 31-of-39 — 21-of-26 after halftime. White was in attack mode all night — six of his eight field goals were layups, and another was a dunk.
AJ Hammons, Purdue
Well, the freshman center was hot — too bad none of his teammates followed suit Wednesday night against in-state rival Indiana. Hammons scored a career-high 30 points on 10-of-14 shooting, making 10-of-12 from the free-throw line. He also had five rebounds and five blocks. Cody Zeller broke his cold spell against Hammons with 17 points and 11 rebounds, but the 7-footer held his own most of the night.
Tyler Griffey, Illinois
The senior’s minutes have been cut back the past few games (13.6 per game in the last three), but he hasn’t had more than six points in a game since the team’s Big Ten opener on Jan. 2. He remains in a horrific shooting slump — 7-for-32 (21.8 percent) in the last seven games. He’s 0-for-20 from 3-point range during that timeframe. He hasn’t scored in double figures since a Dec. 22 loss against Missouri, when he hit 4-of-7 3-pointers and finished with 14 points.
Reggie Hearn, Northwestern
The 6-4 senior was marginalized in two losses this past week, going just 4-for-19 from the field for a combined 13 points in two losses (at Nebraska and at Michigan). It was the first time this season Hearn has scored in single digits in back-to-back games.
Ryan Evans, Wisconsin
The 6-6 senior forward scored in double figures in each of the Badgers’ first four Big Ten games, but has done it just once in four opportunities since. The Badgers are 1-3 in those games. Evans is in a terrible shooting slump in those last four games — 9-of-39 (23.0 percent), and has three turnovers in each of the last three games. He went just 1-for-10 for two points Tuesday night in a 58-49 loss at Ohio State, while collecting only two rebounds.
Joe Coleman, Minnesota
The 6-4 sophomore continues to struggle finding a rhythm offensively. After scoring in double figures in eight of 13 non-conference games, Coleman has done that just twice in eight Big Ten games. He’s averaged 5.5 points and gone 8-of-24 from the field in the last four games, as Minnesota went 1-3. His scoring average has dropped a full point in that span, from 10.9 to 9.9.
Top Five Rebounders
Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota
The sixth-year senior is back with a force on the glass, collecting double-digit boards in 11 of 21 games. He’s averaging 8.6 rebounds per game, and that’s jumped to 11.0 in Big Ten play. He’s been especially effective on the offensive boards, collecting 4.8 per game in conference games. He has seven double-doubles this season, including a 14-point, 18-rebound performance Dec. 11 against North Dakota State.
Cody Zeller, Indiana
He’s long and athletic, so it’s no surprise Zeller is on this list. He’s improved his overall average nearly two boards per game from his freshman season, now averaging 8.2 in all games and 8.8 in the Big Ten. Zeller has six double-doubles this season, including four in the Big Ten. It seems when his offense is clicking, he’s also more active on the boards. In the five games he’s scored 20 or more points, he’s averaged 9.2 rebounds. He ranks third in offensive rebounds at 3.1 per conference game.
AJ Hammons, Purdue
The freshman 7-footer has shown he’ll be a force in the league for a long time. He’s prone to subpar games just like any freshman, but has two 10-rebound performances in Big Ten play and averages 7.1 per game in conference games, which ranks sixth.
Branden Dawson, Michigan State
Dawson is only 6-6, but that doesn’t stop him from averaging 7.6 per game in Big Ten play, which ranks fourth. His ability to sky over taller guys and tip balls to himself is the reason he’s on this list. He has three double-digit performances in league play, including an 18-point, 11-rebound performance Jan. 22 at Wisconsin.
Ryan Evans, Wisconsin
Evans’ rebounding numbers have risen every year, and he checks in at 7.8 per Big Ten game this season, ranking third. Evans, who’s also 6-6, has two double-digit rebounding games in league play and isn’t afraid to go against bigger guys for loose balls.
— Indiana’s 97-60 win against Purdue on Wednesday night was the Hoosiers’ largest ever in West Lafayette, and second largest ever against the Boilermakers. Only a 41-point blowout in 1992 trumped it. It also was Purdue’s worst home loss in history.
— Michigan had just two turnovers Wednesday night against Northwestern, tying the NCAA low for a game this season with three other teams. Only the Wolverines and Nebraska (Jan. 16 vs. Purdue) did it against Division I teams.
— Wisconsin became just the second Division I team to not attempt a free throw in a game this season Tuesday night at Ohio State. It was the first time that’s happened in coach Bo Ryan’s 12-year tenure in Madison.
— Ray Gallegos had 30 points Tuesday at Minnesota, hitting 12-of-17 from the field, including six 3-pointers.