All about the Big Ten: Purdue’s dynamic duo

An offseason injury to Purdue’s Robbie Hummel will prevent the top trio in college basketball from ever taking the court in 2010-11. As a consolation prize, the Boilermakers can still say they tout the best duo.

Or at least one of the best.

With 20.4 and 19.9 points per game, respectively, E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson are among the top five scorers in the Big Ten. Both players shoot above 48 percent from the field and have dramatically improved their rebounding for a Purdue squad that is 13-1 and ranked No. 11 in the country.

E'Twaun Moore is playing a smart brand of basketball for Purdue this season.
(Michael Conroy / AP)

“They get more cracks at it, they get more shots [with Hummel out],” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Monday. “We had a great balance with those three guys. Now they’re more of a one-two punch, an inside-out tandem. So far it’s gotten us 40 points a night.”

Frustrated as they are about playing without Hummel, it’s not as if Moore and Johnson haven’t been in this situation before. A February knee injury forced Hummel to miss the end of last season, as well, but Purdue managed to regroup and make the Sweet 16.

That’s why Painter said he isn’t shocked at Moore and Johnson’s success this season. As much as he’s been impressed by their gaudy scoring statistics, Painter is even more pleased with the smart brand of basketball that Moore, a 6-foot-4 guard, and Johnson, a 6-10 forward, are playing.

“We want them to be aggressive,” Painter said, “but with both of them, we also emphasize making the right decisions. If you shoot 20 times a night, great. If you shoot 10 times a night, great. Let’s just don’t take bad shots. Take as many good shots as you can.”

Moore and Johnson have been doing exactly that.

The result has been eight straight victories for the Boilermakers, including seven by double digits. Purdue will be heavily favored in its next two games against Penn State and Iowa before back-to-back road contests at Minnesota and West Virginia.

Asked about playing a non-league game against a tough Mountaineers squad in the middle of the Big Ten season, Painter said: “It’s a positive. Last year Ohio State went (to Morgantown) and was up 10 at halftime. They ended up getting beat, but it made them a better team.”

Painter said he hopes the same thing happens with his club.

With Moore and Johnson, though, Purdue is already pretty darned good.

LEAGUE RANKINGS

(Last week’s rank in parenthesis.)

1. Ohio State (14-0, 1-0) – Jon Diebler is shooting 51.2 percent from beyond the arc. (1)

2. Purdue (13-1, 2-0) – The Boilermakers lead the league in field goal percentage defense. (4)

3. Illinois (12-3, 2-0) – Senior forward Bill Cole has made 15 of his last 25 3-pointers. (6)

4. Michigan State (10-4, 2-0) – Rebounding has been a surprising weakness for the Spartans, who rank seventh in the conference. (3)

5. Wisconsin (11-3, 1-1) – Jordan Taylor isn’t the league’s top point guard, but he certainly belongs in the conversation. (5)

6. Minnesota (11-3, 0-2) – The Gophers outscored Michigan State and Wisconsin 70-30 in the paint. (2)

7. Northwestern (9-3, 0-2) – Not a good conference start for a team hoping to make its first NCAA tournament appearance. (7)

8. Michigan (11-3, 1-1) – Wisconsin, Kansas and Ohio State are next. (8)

9. Iowa (7-6, 0-1) – Staying out of the Big Ten cellar will be a challenge for the Hawkeyes. (9)

10. Penn State (8-5, 1-1) – The Nittany Lions’ next five games are against ranked opponents. Ouch. (10)

11. Indiana (9-6, 0-2) – A lack of quickness and athleticism is killing the Hoosiers on defense. (11)

WHO’S HOT?

Big man Draymond Green is quietly having a big season for Michigan State.
(Rick Osentoski / US Presswire)

Draymond Green, Michigan State – All the talk about the Spartans’ struggles has overshadowed a fine first half of the season for Green, who leads Michigan State in rebounds, blocks and steals. Green’s offensive rebound and put-back of Kalin Lucas’ missed free throw Monday proved to be the biggest shot in Michigan State’s victory over Northwestern.

Ohio State’s inside-out game – When Indiana focused its defense on stopping forward Jared Sullinger, the Buckeyes responded by swishing 13 3-pointers in Friday’s 85-67 victory. Not many teams in the country are as versatile as OSU, which explains why they’re undefeated and ranked No. 2.

The new Mike Davis – The Illinois forward snared 14 rebounds against Wisconsin after combining for only 12 in his previous three games. Davis – who led the Big Ten in rebounding last season but ranks only 10th this season – said coach Bruce Weber threatened to bench him if he didn’t improve his production on the boards.

WHO’S NOT?

Devoe Joseph, Minnesota – Gophers coach Tubby Smith announced Monday that Joseph has been suspended for the second time this season because he’s “working on some things that he needs to work on.” Joseph, who averaged 11.3 points and 3.5 assists, missed six games earlier this season for a violation of team rules and academic issues. Joseph won’t play against Indiana on Tuesday, and Smith said the suspension could last longer than one game.

Northwestern’s John Shurna vs. MSU – Shurna, the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 22.2 points per game, missed 10 of his 11 field goal attempts in Monday’s 65-62 home loss to the Spartans and finished with 11 points. Shurna has been slowed by a sore ankle.

Indiana’s schedule – As if losing four in a row wasn’t bad enough, things are about to snowball for Tom Crean and the Hoosiers, who play four of their next five games away from home beginning with Tuesday night’s tilt at Minnesota.

THREE TO WATCH

Northwestern at Illinois, Wednesday – The Wildcats are going to have to steal a few games on the road if they want to be in the NCAA tournament hunt.

Kansas at Michigan, Saturday – This is a mismatch on paper, but Kansas has struggled to put away inferior opponents.

Minnesota at Ohio State, Sunday – The Gophers have already lost to Michigan State and Wisconsin on the road.

Jason King is a college football and basketball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Jan 4, 2011