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Archive - Dec 18, 2011

Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week

Christian Watford, Indiana

Christian WatfordChristian WatfordThe Hoosiers played only one game this past week, but that’s all junior forward Christian Watford needed to make Indiana history. Watford’s 3-pointer from the left wing Saturday off a brilliant pass by Verdell Jones III hit nothing but net at the buzzer, and Indiana basketball jettisoned back to prominence with a 73-72 win over No. 1 Kentucky. Relive the shot here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPXImXAMStc

Watford scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half as Indiana staved off the Wildcats after blowing a 10-point lead in the second hald. The 6-9 junior who has endured the Hoosiers’ painful rebuilding process under coach Tom Crean took it inside as well as hitting four 3-pointers.

It likely will end up being the game of the Big Ten non-conference season, and Watford displayed the conference’s depth and talent level. He’s the Hoosiers’ fourth-leading scorer after nine games, but one of five on the team averaging double figures. Watford is a well-rounded player and a team leader who could help the Hoosiers into the NCAA Tournament.

Who’s Hot

Evan Smotrycz and Trey Burke, Michigan

The Wolverines have won three straight games since their puzzling loss at Virginia, and mostly have been led by 6-9 sophomore Evan Smotrycz. He’s hit 7-of-9 from long range the past two games and 11-of-14 overall while averaging 18 points per game. He’s not the most physical player down low but presents match-up problems on the perimeter. He had 20 points and nine rebounds against a dangerous Oakland team on Saturday in Auburn Hills, then 16 and eight in a 63-50 home win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Tuesday. He’s also stepped up on the defensive end, totaling five steals in the two wins.

Burke simply has anchored the Wolverines’ backcourt. The freshman from Columbus, Ohio, has led the team in minutes the past two games, and has averaged 17.5 points and eight assists while playing a team-high 37.5 minutes. He’s been able to get into the lane while also stroking it from the 3-point line (6-of-11 in his past two games).

Draymond Green, Michigan State

Green’s 34-point performance in a 74-67 win at Gonzaga this past Saturday was the conference’s second-highest scoring output this season behind Northwestern forward John Shurna’s 37. Green shot 11-of-13, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. He didn’t get his usual rebounding numbers but had three steals as the Spartans got an impressive road win to get the attention of AP voters.

Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State

Deshaun Thomas did his best to fill in for fellow sophomore Jared Sullinger on Saturday at Kansas. The 6-7 forward averaged 21 points in the past two games, in the Buckeyes’ loss against the Jayhawks and win against South Carolina Upstate. He’s shot a combined 17-of-29 from the field, including 5-for-12 from 3. He’s also turned it over just twice in that span while dishing out four assists and collecting seven rebounds. Thomas needs to get to the free-throw line more often, though. He went 3-of-3 in the past week.