Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, February 1, 2015

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! With it being Sunday, it's time for me to take a fun look at the week that was in Big Ten men's basketball.

See my weekly recap below.


Biggest surprise: Purdue. No team in the Big Ten is hotter than the Boilermakers, who have won three in a row. And two of those victories were against ranked teams. Matt Painter?s squad has made a big improvement on defense in the last month, helping spark this run and perhaps pulling the season from the brink. It?s difficult to believe this is the same club that lost home games vs. North Florida and Gardner Webb earlier this season.

Biggest disappointment: Maryland. The Terrapins looked like they were primed to show they were the second-best team in the Big Ten, perhaps able to make a run at Wisconsin. But Maryland blew a flat at Ohio State on Thursday, falling 80-56. That?s two losses in three games for the Terps-and the only victory in that stretch was a miraculous home win vs. Northwestern. How good is Maryland? The defense is slipping.

Player of the Week: Michigan State's Branden Dawson. The star senior posted a pair of impressive double-doubles in two Michigan State victories, averaging 18 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 3.5 steals and two blocks. What's more, he shot 71 percent (15-of-21) from the field.

Top stat line: Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell. In Ohio State's easy win over Maryland on Thursday, the freshman sensation shot 50 percent and turned in an 18-point, 14-rebound, six-assist, zero-turnover line.

Hat?s off, as well, to the aforementioned Dawson in both of Michigan State's games, Illinois' Malcolm Hill, who hit 10-of-15 shots-including the game-winner in the dying moments–en route to tallying 27 points in a win vs. Penn State on Saturday, and Denzel Valentine, who flirted with a triple-double (25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) in Michigan State's overtime win over Michigan on Sunday.

Top moment: With only seconds left in a tie game on Saturday, lllinois? Malcolm Hill took matters into his own hands. He made a drive to the hoop, navigating around 7-1 Penn State center Jordan Dickerson and draining a game-winning layup that circled the rim and before dropping to give the Fighting Illini a 60-58 triumph. It was the last of Hill?s game-high 27 points.

Top dunk: Let?s go with throw-downs by Ohio State teammates Sam Thompson and Marc Loving from Thursday?s big win vs. Maryland. Watch both here.



Stock up: Ohio State. The Buckeyes may be asserting themselves as the second-best team in the Big Ten. Ohio State will bring a three-game winning streak into a big game at Purdue on Wednesday. That will be followed by a contest at Rutgers and a visit by Penn State. Can the Buckeyes keep rolling? This much is certain: D?Angelo Russell gives OSU a shot to win each time out.

Stock down: Iowa. The Hawkeyes have lost three in a row-albeit tough games-at Wisconsin, at Purdue, vs. Wisconsin. Things won?t be much easier to open February, as Iowa next goes to Michigan and then welcomes Maryland. At least Aaron White returned from injury suffered at Purdue to play well on Saturday vs. the Badgers.



D'Angelo Russell had another eye-popping all-around game in Ohio State's convincing win vs. Maryland, going for 18 points, on 6-of-12 shooting, 14 rebounds, which matched a career-high, and six assists, to go along with zero turnovers.

Branden Dawson racked up a pair of double-doubles, going for 17 points and 11 rebounds Thursday night at Rutgers and 19 points and 10 rebounds in an overtime win Sunday vs. Michigan. He also shot 71 percent and averaged 3.5 steals and two blocks per game.

Marc Loving erupted for 19 points, his high in Big Ten play, and six rebounds in Ohio State's win over Maryland.

Frank Kaminsky had 24 points and nine rebounds to lead No. 5 Wisconsin to a 74-63 win over Iowa on Saturday.

A.J. Hammons scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds to help Purdue beat Northwestern 68-60 on Saturday, this after going for 11 points, on 4-of-4 from the field, and swatting eight shots in Wednesday's win vs. rival Indiana.

Rapheal Davis scored 19 points to help Purdue down No. 22 Indiana on Wednesday night, and he added 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists in Saturday's win at Northwestern.

Malcolm Hill scored 27 points Saturday, including two on a layup with four seconds left, to deliver a 60-58 win over Penn State.

Denzel Valentine nearly went for a triple-double (25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) in Michigan State's overtime win over Michigan on Sunday, plus he shot 9-of-16, including 4-of-9 from deep, and added two steals.

Zak Irvin had 14 points and 12 rebounds and Michigan took a 58-44 victory over Nebraska on Tuesday.

James Blackmon Jr. scored 20 points Saturday to help send No. 22 Indiana past Rutgers 72-64.



"Teams are winning by 30 and then losing by 20. It's frustrating I bet for fans, media and coaches. As far as we're concerned, I thought there were some bright spots and we got back to our roots. We defended well, we rebounded well and we got on the fast break well." – Michigan State Tom Izzo, after a 71-51 win at Rutgers on Thursday.

"I was just going to take what the defense gave me. I didn't want to just throw up anything." Illinois? Malcolm Hill, after hitting a game-winning layup vs. Penn State on Saturday.

"I thought that we played with more heart today. I thought we played harder, so I saw progress in our demeanor and our effort. You've got guys in tears in the locker room." – Nebraska coach Tim Miles, after a 60-42 loss at Minnesota on Saturday

"Guys just stepped up all over the place.? – Michigan coach John Beilein, after a win over Nebraska on Tuesday with Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton and Mark Donnal out with injury.

"He's had games like this, but can he consistently have these games where you can count on him every single night? He's getting better in that area. We think he's one of the best players in this league. When he plays like this he definitely is." – Purdue coach Matt Painter, on A.J. Hammons after he led the Boilermakers to a 69-60 win at Northwestern

"We're road warriors. We've kind of embraced that mentality throughout the years. We were able to silence the crowd with some shots." – Wisconsin?s Frank Kaminsky, after a 74-63 win at Iowa on Saturday.

"I don't think there's anyone in the locker room going `oh, woe is me.? We didn't deserve to win tonight. This was sloppy, sloppy offensive basketball. This one is not a whole lot of silver lining in my opinion." – Minnesota coach Richard Pitino, after a 63-58 loss at Penn State on Wednesday



Following Purdue's 83-67 win over Indiana on Wednesday, the two rivals haven't played a game decided by single digits since a 78-75 Purdue win on Feb. 4, 2010, a span of nine games. The average margin in the games: 19 points.

With its victory Saturday at Northwestern, Purdue tallied its sixth Big Ten win, one more than it had all last season when it finished in last place.

The last time Iowa and Wisconsin met, ESPN color man Dan Dakich called Iowa center Adam Woodbury "gutless" after Woodbury appeared to poke a pair of Wisconsin players in the eye. Iowa officials said there was extra security for the game. Some Hawkeye fans in the student section chanted at Dakich to start the second half, but he appeared unfazed.

Penn State has played 10 games this season decided by five or fewer points. The Nittany Lions were 6-0 in those close games before the conference season started. But they've gone 1-3 in the Big Ten.

Nebraska fell to 0-5 against the Wolverines since joining the conference before the 2011-12 season.

Six of Minnesota's seven conference losses have been by five points or fewer.

Nebraska's duo of Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields combined to shoot 8 for 23 from the floor in a 60-42 loss at Minnesota on Saturday. They were 5 for 23 at Michigan.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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