Moore emerges as star for No. 4-ranked Purdue

It’s rare that a team’s top scorer for three straight seasons

isn’t considered the star, but that’s been the case for E’Twaun

Moore ever since he arrived at Purdue.

Two years ago, Robbie Hummel played his way into being

considered the best player in coach Matt Painter’s highly touted

freshman class. The forward turned a strong rookie campaign into a

Big Ten preseason player of the year honor before the next season,

but he suffered a back injury that allowed center JaJuan Johnson to

emerge as an All-Big Ten performer.

All along, Moore has quietly put up more points than any

Boilermaker. He’s at it again, and finally, he’s getting some

respect. The junior guard is averaging a team-best 17.2 points per

game for the No. 4 Boilermakers.

How he gets those points is the difference between the

up-and-down freshman from two years ago and steady, silky-smooth

star who is dominating the Big Ten. His field goal percentage, 49

percent, is considerably higher than in years past, and his assist

totals are similar to those of the previous two seasons.

“I think the biggest thing with him is, when he was a freshman,

it was all fast-paced,” Purdue senior guard Keaton Grant said.

“He was just going off what he did in previous years in high

school. Now he understands, learns, sees loopholes, knows when to

hesitate and take off instead of going just one speed. He’ll walk

through, and then go.”

Moore’s ability to control games late has helped Purdue take an

eight-game winning streak into Saturday’s home game against

Illinois. In the second half at Michigan State on Feb. 9, the

Spartans had trimmed Purdue’s lead to 65-62 before Moore drained a

3-pointer with 4:15 left.

“We got it down to three, and E’Twaun Moore hit a tough shot

behind that ball screen,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

“That’s what they do, and that’s the way he plays, and he played

well.”

Moore then assisted on a basket by Hummel and followed that with

a layup that gave the Boilermakers a 10-point lead in the 76-64

win. Moore finished with 25 points as Purdue won at Michigan State

for the first time since 1998.

“He is a very confident player, and when he lets the game come

to him, he can quietly score 25 points,” Painter said afterward.

“He has worked on his game and has come a long way, which has put

him in a good position.”

Moore is exceptional at breaking defenses down, yet he shoots 38

percent from 3-point range and he’s a solid perimeter defender.

“I think he’s just improved at all the things he’s always

done,” Hummel said. “He’s made tremendous strides in every facet

of his game.”

Moore hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed – he was a second-team

All-Big Ten pick both his freshman and sophomore years. His first

big step this season came when he scored 22 points on 8-for-16

shooting against then-No. 9 Tennessee in the Paradise Jam final on

his way to tournament MVP honors.

Moore doesn’t celebrate after baskets, and generally changes his

facial expression only when he disagrees with a foul call or makes

a mental error. Even then, it’s temporary, and he almost

immediately goes back to being the most relaxed player on the

court.

“Just experience playing the game,” he said. “I’ve played in

a lot of big games the last few years. I try to stay under control,

stay poised and never get rattled.”

Hummel said the 6-foot-4 Moore from East Chicago, Ind., has been

that way since junior high.

“When we were in seventh grade, playing East Chicago in AAU

tournaments, they always had this one guy that was just taking big

shots, making big shots. It was like ‘why can’t we stop this

guy?”’ he said. “Then, freshman year of high school, he was

averaging 18 points a game. That’s why we couldn’t stop him. He was

a beast.”

Painter said Moore deservedly gets more freedom than his

teammates, but he’s at his best when he plays within Purdue’s

system. Moore agreed and said his breakout season is a result of

figuring out how to make the system work for himself and the

team.

“Just being smarter on the court, knowing when to attack, when

not to attack,” he said. “Just being decisive in my moves, taking

it to the hole, being aggressive.”