Player of the Week
Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota
So that’s why Mbakwe came back for year six. The Gophers stunned No. 1 Indiana 77-73 Tuesday night, and Mbakwe quickly made it clear his team was anything but finished. The forward set the tone by scoring the Gophers’ first three field goals and 10 of their first 14 points. As if that wasn’t enough, he got the Williams Arena crowd on its feet with a monster block of Indiana’s Cody Zeller, closing from Zeller’s left and swatting a dunk attempt with his left hand. It was Mbakwe’s only block of the game, but sent a message to Zeller, who finished with nine points – his lowest scoring total in eight games.
The 6-8 Mbakwe’s point total has been down this season, due largely to the team’s guard-oriented style and talented backcourt. But he put up 21 points Tuesday, and grabbed 12 rebounds. He had a few mistakes when Indiana helped down low — committing four turnovers – but made 8-of-10 from the field and 5-of-7 from the free-throw line. And Minnesota dominated the post, outrebounding the Hoosiers 44-30. Whenever Minnesota needed a spark or even a calming influence, it seemed Mbakwe was there. The Hoosiers held a 34-30 halftime lead, but 46 seconds into the second, two Mbakwe baskets had tied the score. He also scored five straight for the Gophers as Indiana was threatening to go on one of its runs with less than 8 minutes remaining. But above all, Mbakwe was there in a leadership role, and led his Gophers to their biggest win in quite some time.
Dylan Talley, Nebraska
The 6-5 senior has scored at least 16 points in each of the past five games, and is averaging 22.3 over the past three games. In Saturday’s 64-60 win against Iowa, Talley was the spark behind a 19-point comeback. He scored 16 of his 18 points after halftime, making 7-of-11 from the field. This included the game-winning 3-pointer with 9.2 seconds left that gave the Huskers a 63-61 lead. And even though Nebraska lost its other two games in the three-game stretch, Talley poured in a career-high 28 against Michigan State and 21 at Wisconsin. He’s shooting 25-of-54 (.463) in that span, including 8-of-19 (.421) from deep. Talley is eighth in the Big Ten in scoring at 14.2 points per game.
Jermaine Marshall, Penn State
Marshall was a big-time player Wednesday down the stretch against Michigan to help his team to its first Big Ten win. The 6-4 junior scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half. He hit the 3-pointer that tied the score at 74, completing the Nittany Lions’ comeback from a 15-point deficit they met with 10:40 remaining the game. After Marshall drained that 3-pointer, his third in 3 minutes, he then hit two free throws to give Penn State a 76-74 lead. And with his team yet again feeling pressure from the No. 4 Wolverines, leading by one with just more than a minute left, Marshall cut into the lane and got an acrobatic layup to fall in for an 81-78 lead. Penn State has looked better than its record all season, and it was due for a huge win like this. Marshall, who has hit 10 of his last 18 3-point attempts, helped make it a reality. He ranks sixth in Big Ten scoring at 15.4 ppg.
Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
We might be hearing about Dekker’s exploits for quite some time. The rangy, athletic 6-7 freshman tied a career high Tuesday against Nebraska, scoring 19 points on 5-of-6 shooting – 4-of-5 on threes. He’s now scored in double figures in five straight games, averaging 13.6 ppg. And as a Bo Ryan recruit, Dekker doesn’t turn the ball over. He’s had a few freshman-like games (5 TOs at Iowa, four vs. Michigan), but has just one in the past four games, to five assists. Dekker can shoot, yes, but watch out for him on the break (it’s the rarest of rare for the Badgers to do so, I know) – he’ll slam it home. He’s still coming off the bench, at least until next season. You know this guy is good – Ryan doesn’t play many true freshmen.
Terone Johnson, Purdue
The junior went scoreless Wednesday in an ugly 58-48 loss at Iowa, missing all six of his shots. It was Johnson’s first scoreless game since Nov. 18, 2011, in an 86-77 win against Temple. He was averaging 17.8 points in the four games coming into Iowa City, so who knows what’s going on here. The Hawkeyes aren’t exactly a stellar defensive team, ranking eighth in the league in allowing 63.2 ppg.
Christian Watford, Indiana
Watford has been in foul trouble the past two games, hurting the Hoosiers’ cohesiveness. He didn’t get anything going offensively Tuesday’s loss at Minnesota until it was too late, hitting two desperation 3-pointers near the final buzzer and finishing with eight points. He needs to stay out of foul trouble and be the scorer Indiana fans know he can be. He’s scored over 14 points in just three of 15 Big Ten games, going for 20 just once. Tuesday was the first game he’s been held to single digits, though.
Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
The freshman point guard has hit just 9 of his past 33 shots and is shooting just 37.6 percent in his debut year. He’s had five assists in each of the past three games, though, compared to six total turnovers. Ferrell was 2-of-10 from the field Tuesday at Minnesota.
Adam Woodbury, Iowa
The freshman 7-footer continues to be a foul machine and much of a no-factor on offense. This is sort of reminiscent of Meyers Leonard trying to get adjusted to the college game as a freshman in 2010-11, except Woodbury has been thrust into a starting role from day one. Meyers averaged just 2.1 points per game in his first season, totaling 50 fouls to 68 points. Woodbury has 68 fouls to 130 points, but has 10 fouls to four points in the past three games. He’s averaged just 11.7 minutes per game in that span.
Melsahn Basabe, Iowa
Basabe is just 2-for-12 in the past two games, averaging three points per game. His season average remains at 7 ppg, but he also hasn’t gotten much going offensively this season, scoring in double figures in just one of the past seven games. He comes off the bench as the Hawkeyes’ sixth man and often struggles to get into the flow of the game.
Top five bench players
Will Sheehey, Indiana: 22.4 mpg, 9.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.9 spg, .508 FG%
The 6-7 junior has been a model of consistency off the bench the past two seasons for the Hoosiers. He’s your dependable wing player who never seems to take a play for granted on either end, however much that aggravates the opponent. His scoring is up 1.3 points per game this year in the same amount of minutes. He can hit form outside and slash into the lane for a dunk.
Sheehey has scored in double figures in 13 games; four in the Big Ten. His top Big Ten game was a 9-of-9 from the field for 22 points Feb. 16 against Purdue, including 2-of-2 from 3-point range.
Sam Dekker, Wisconsin 22.0 mpg, 9.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.7 spg.
The 6-7 freshman set all sorts of Wisconsin state records coming out of Sheboygan Lutheran High School, so the way he’s been able to put it together down the stretch for the rolling Badgers shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. But for a true freshman to be doing this in Bo Ryan’s system is somewhat of an attention-getter. He’s started three games, joining Devin Harris, Olando Tucker and Josh Gasser as the only true freshmen to start under Ryan.
Dekker has scored in double figures in 16 games; nine in the Big Ten. His top conference game came Tuesday against Nebraska, when he put up 19 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
Joseph Bertrand, Illinois: 23.4 mpg, 8.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.6 apg, 1.0 spg.
The 6-6 junior has shown flashes throughout his career of being able to score in bunches. He likely will pick up a lot more of the scoring slack next year in the absence of Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson. For now, he’s a guy who comes off the bench and plays scrappy. He’s not afraid to battle down low for rebounds, as his athleticism allows him to. Most of his scoring is done off the dribble — he’s had quite a few highlight-reel plays in his three seasons.
Bertrand has scored in double figures in nine games; four in Big Ten. His top conference game came Feb 3 in a loss to Wisconsin, when he shot 8-of-12 from the field for 17 points.
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: 21.5 mpg, 5.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.9 spg.
The 6-5 freshman from Lansing has stepped into the Spartans’ sixth-man role with sophomore Travis Trice dealing with a multitude of injuries. He’s performed admirably in the backup point guard spot, giving some relief to Keith Appling when he needs a breather or is playing poorly. His 1.25 assist-to-turnover ratio could use some work, but it’s clear he’s an up-and-coming leader with great floor vision and solid scoring ability.
Valentine has scored in double figures in six games; two in the Big Ten. His top league game came in a Jan. 31 win against Illinois in which he scored 14 points on 4-of-4 shooting while also tallying two assists to one turnover.
Mitch McGary, Michigan 17.8 mpg, 6.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.9 spg.
The 6-10 freshman has stumbled in Michigan’s past four games, but the energy he’s able to bring off the bench can’t be understated. Sometimes that energy translates into McGary taking a lot of breathers, as his conditioning level still needs to adjust to the intensity of Big Ten basketball. But he’s showing signs of becoming a solid offensive and defensive contributor. He’s tied for seventh in the league in offensive rebounds at 2.3 per game.
McGary has scored in double figures in five games; three in the Big Ten. His top game was a 14-point effort on 7-of-13 shooting Feb. 5 in the Wolverines’ overtime win against Ohio State. He added six rebounds and four steals in that game.
Honorable mentions: Evan Ravenel, Ohio State 18.0 mpg, 5.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.4 spg; LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State 17.2 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.3 spg; Eric May, Iowa 19.3 mpg, 4.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.9 spg, 19.3 mpg; Zach McCabe, Iowa 16.5 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.0 spg, 16.5 mpg.
Indiana senior Jordan Hulls ranks fifth in the nation in 3-point percentage, making 71-of-142 (.500) through Thursday.
Michigan sophomore Trey Burke ranks 10th in the country in assists per game at 6.9. He has the second-highest assist-to-turnover ratio (3.57) in the nation, trailing the ridiculous 6.8 ratio of Gonzaga’s Michael Hart.
Indiana ranks second in the nation in scoring, averaging 82.2 points per game. The Hoosiers trail only Northwestern State (83.7) in that category. By the way, the Demons were 19-7, 13-2 in the Southland through Thursday. Indiana also ranks fifth in field-goal percentage nationally (.497), right in front of Michigan (.495). The Hoosiers are second in 3-point percentage (.426) trailing only Weber State (.428).
Wisconsin sits in a tie for seventh in scoring defense, allowing just 55.3 points per game. Stephen F. Austin of the Southland allows just 50.1 to lead the nation.
Indiana 12-3 (24-4)
Michigan State 11-4 (22-6)
Wisconsin 11-4 (20-8)
Ohio State 11-5 (21-7)
Michigan 10-5 (23-5)
Illinois 7-8 (18-10)
Purdue 6-9 (13-15)
Nebraska 4-11 (13-15)
Northwestern 4-12 (13-16)
Penn State 1-14 (9-18)
Key upcoming matchups (Eastern times)
Michigan State at Michigan, 4 p.m. (CBS)
Ohio State at Indiana, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Wisconsin at Michigan State, 9 p.m. (ESPN)