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One team continues to prove critics and writers wrong. Matt Painter’s Purdue Boilermakers continue to prove that they are surviving just fine without Robbie Hummel. In fact, it becomes scary to consider how good the Boilers could be with Robbie Hummel. Bloggers and writers (myself included) scoffed at seemingly radical Purdue fans that claimed the Purdue offense wouldn’t miss a beat and would even be better without Hummel. Now with just two weeks remaining in conference play, the Boilermakers are just a game out of first place and tied with Wisconsin for the league’s best efficiency margin. That Purdue offense that was ripped in the pre-season is averaging 1.13 points per trip, .08 more than last year’s iteration. Sure, E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson – both likely First Team All Big Ten performers – are a nice fall back plan to Hummel but Matt Painter should be the favorite for the Big Ten Coach of the Year Award.
The middle of the the Big Ten remains muddled. Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Michigan, and Penn State are all tough to pick apart and are apparently in the thick of this week’s bubble talk. Illinois remains the most efficient of the bunch but still has to play road games at Purdue and Ohio State. There will be plenty of opportunity to settle the differences over the final two weeks of the regular season. – Dylan Burkhardt
Surprise of the week: Northwestern beating Indiana at Assembly Hall (box). This is no disrespect to the Wildcats, but Assembly Hall is always an extremely tough place to play and Northwestern has only won there twice in the school’s history. Now, it’s true Indiana had hit a rough patch before this game, losing to Iowa at home before dropping games against Purdue and Michigan on the road, but if you’re a Hoosier fan you have to expect to beat Northwestern at home even given those circumstances. Northwestern itself was coming off a stretch of losses to Michigan and Penn State before beating Iowa at home. The Wildcats held a 10-point lead at halftime and from that point had to stave off numerous runs from Indiana. But it wasn’t enough for the Hoosiers, who managed to tie the game but never could regain the lead. Michael Thompson had 22 for Northwestern and Jon Shurna had 19. – Joe Stapleton
Disappointment of the week: Minnesota losing at Penn State (box). I wouldn’t categorize this as a total surprise, Penn State is 6-2 at home this season, but this was a win that Minnesota could have really used. The Gophers, playing without injured point guard Al Nolen, have lost four of their last five games and are scrambling down the stretch. Minnesota really struggled offensively in the first half and Penn State opened up a 10-point lead about halfway through the second half. The Gophers clawed their way back into the game, but a late 8-0 run by the Nittany Lions that included a Talor Battle 3-pointer put the game away. – Joe Stapleton
Unsung hero: It will probably get lost in the shuffle this week, but Kalin Lucas’s 25-point performance against Illinois was pretty impressive (box). He got next to no help from his teammates (not one other Spartan registered double digits) and even though he took quite a few shots (19), he carried Michigan State. Whenever it seemed like Illinois would take control, the senior seemed to hit a big shot and take away their momentum. Lucas was the reason the Spartans won that game against the Illini at home, a game they couldn’t afford to lose. A vintage Lucas performance against Illinois provides hope for Michigan State fans and Tom Izzo, who called the last three weeks Lucas’ “best overall stretch” since arriving in East Lansing. – Joe Stapleton
Stat Line: The Michigan side of me would love to go with Tim Hardaway Jr., but E’Twaun Moore wouldn’t allow it (box). The senior guard simply dominated Ohio State, hanging 38 points on the Buckeyes while turning the ball over only three times. Moore hit seven 3-pointers and hit big shot after big shot. He was just in a zone all night, and the No. 2 team in the country couldn’t stop him. There are two really remarkable things about what Moore did, besides just the point total: one, he scored 38 points on 18 shots. 18 shots. Second, he scored the vast majority of them on David Lighty, one of the best defensive guards in the Big Ten. Just a masterful performance by Moore to cap what was quite a week for the Boilermakers, who beat Wisconsin and Ohio State in a seven-day span. – Joe Stapleton
Game of the week: It may not have been pretty at times, but Michigan’s game on the road against Iowa was a heck of a game. These were two teams that know each other very well going at it, with the road team down two at the end of regulation and sending a 53 percent free throw shooter to the charity stripe to force overtime. And while the first half was about as ugly as it gets, we’ve all seen the entertaining plays made by Jordan Morgan and Tim Hardaway Jr. in the second half. – Joe Stapleton