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Purdue is proving this doubter wrong

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Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for FOXSports.com. Check out his Yardbarker blog. MORE>>
 
   
 

It wasn’t any disrespect for E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson or Purdue coach Matt Painter.

When I dropped Purdue from No. 2 all the way down to 25th in my FOXSports.com Preseason Poll hours after learning Robbie Hummel would miss the season with another torn ACL, it was because I questioned the supporting cast.

I saw how teams defended the Boilermakers down the stretch last season without Hummel in the lineup.

Just worry about Moore and Johnson and that’ll be enough.

But I didn’t give The Big Two enough credit.

Purdue now sits at 22-5 overall and 11-3 in Big Ten play, just one game behind Ohio State for first place in the league following the Boilermakers' victory against the Buckeyes on Sunday afternoon.

"It definitely feels good,” said Moore, who went for a career-high 38 points in the 76-63 win. "A lot of people wrote us off.”

Myself included.

I’m still not sure that Moore and Johnson can carry this group of role guys to the Final Four, but Painter has found a way to get the most out of this group.

Lewis Jackson has improved, Ryne Smith has had his moments. So, too, has Kelsey Barlow, John Hart, D.J. Byrd, Terone Johnson and Travis Carroll.

"I think today we proved we can play with anyone,” Moore said.

Now, even without Hummel, it’s difficult to argue.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: St. John’s – The Red Storm went on the road and took care of Marquette and then returned home to Madison Square Garden and beat a Pittsburgh team that has the inside track to a No. 1 seed courtesy of a Dwight Hardy last-second reverse layup. Steve Lavin’s team is now 17-9 overall, 9-5 in the Big East, and has reeled off four straight – including two on the road and the other two at home against a pair of top-10 teams.

STUD (PLAYER OF WEEK): Jacob Pullen – It hasn’t exactly been the year that Kansas State’s senior guard envisioned, but the Chicago native came up big this past week in a pair of wins against Kansas and Oklahoma to keep the Wildcats' NCAA hopes alive and well. Pullen went for a career-high 38 in a rout of Kansas in Manhattan and then finished with 27 points in the win over the Sooners. Pullen was also 8 of 12 from long distance in the two victories, averaged four assists and 3.5 steals.

SIGNATURE PERFORMANCE: Purdue senior E’Twaun Moore couldn’t miss on Sunday against Ohio State. Moore made 7 of 10 shots from beyond the arc and finished with 38 points in the win against the Buckeyes.

MOST OVERLOOKED: Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried broke Tim Duncan’s mark and became the modern era rebounding king. Faried had a dozen boards in the win at Indiana State and now has 1,576, six more than Duncan hauled down while he was at Wake Forest.

MID-MAJOR TEAM OF WEEK: George Mason – The Patriots went to Richmond and pounded VCU to take control of the CAA. Then Jim Larranaga’s team trailed at halftime for the first time since Jan. 8 against Old Dominion before rallying for its nation-leading 13th consecutive victory. Ryan Pearson had 21 points and 15 boards as George Mason went to 23-5 overall.

CAPTAIN CLUTCH: Hofstra senior guard Charles Jenkins has carried the Pride all year long, but he came up huge Tuesday night in an overtime win over William & Mary. Jenkins sank a 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left to force the extra period and then calmly buried a 35-footer as the buzzer sounded to give Hofstra the victory. Jenkins finished with 28 points as Hofstra moved into a three-way tie with Old Dominion and VCU for second place in the CAA.

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WEEK TO FORGET: Saint Mary’s – The Gaels were in good shape entering the week, 22-4 overall and 10-1 in WCC – two games in front of Gonzaga. But Randy Bennett’s team went to San Diego and lost to the Toreros, who sat at the bottom of the league with just one conference victory. Then the Gaels compounded it with a setback at home to Utah State on Saturday. Now Bennett’s team faces the ‘Zags this week in Moraga in a must-win in order to claim the WCC regular-season crown.

DUD: Coastal Carolina – I’m not sure Cliff Ellis’ team could have secured an at-large bid, anyway, but after a loss to Gardner-Webb (9-19, 4-11) it’ll be nearly impossible now. Coastal is still 25-3 overall and 15-1 in the Big South, but a lack of resume wins and the loss to Gardner-Webb likely means Ellis & Co. will have to win the conference tourney to get into the Big Dance.

WORST LOSS: Baylor’s setback in Lubbock to a Texas Tech team without Mike Singletary. Scott Drew’s team had won three of its last four – including the huge overtime road win against Texas A&M – to put the Bears in decent shape for an NCAA tournament bid. However, then they go out to Lubbock and lose to a Texas Tech team that entered the contest with a 3-8 record in Big 12 play. Now Baylor will need to finish strong and the last four games aren’t full of cupcakes: at Missouri, Texas A&M, at Oklahoma State and home against Texas.

NO ONE HAPPIER THAN..: Arizona second-year head coach Sean Miller. Not only did the Wildcats sweep the Washington schools at home, but Miller and his staff also landed their fourth Top 75 player in the Class of 2011 after San Diego big man Angelo Chol committed to Arizona. Miller will also bring in freshman guards Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson, and New York big man Sidiki Johnson.

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?: UConn sophomore wing Jamal Coombs-McDaniel was close to leaving after spending much of his time in Storrs in Jim Calhoun’s doghouse. However, Coombs-McDaniel scored 25 points in a win against Providence and followed it up with 23 in a victory over Georgetown. He also had 16 in the loss against Louisville. In the last three games, Coombs-McDaniel has scored a total of 54 points; he totaled 114 the rest of the season.

MOST ENIGMATIC: Durrell SummersMichigan State’s senior has stepped up his work ethic and that led just about everyone to peg him, after his terrific performances in last year’s NCAA tournament, as a potential All-American. However, the athletic wing is just 9 of 35 from the field in the last five games and is averaging only 5.8 points in that span.

RETURNS: The one that received all the headlines – and rightfully so – was the return of Pittsburgh’s leading scorer, Ashton Gibbs, who had missed three games. Gibbs came back and scored 26, but the Panthers lost at St. John’s. Another return that went under the radar was that of Vandy junior forward Andre Walker, who had sat out 17 of the past 18 games due to injury. Walker played 11 minutes and had six points in the win over Auburn on Saturday.

WEEK’S TOP MATCHUPS

1) BYU at San Diego State, Saturday at 2 p.m. ET – The Jimmer torched San Diego State for 43 in the first meeting out in Provo, but Aztecs star Kawhi Leonard wasn’t 100 percent in that one.

2) Arizona at UCLA, Saturday at 4 p.m. ET – It’s not exactly like the old days when both programs were loaded and among the nation’s elite, but it’s still a battle between the top two teams in the Pac-10.

3) Florida at Kentucky, Saturday at 4 p.m. ET – The Gators won a close one against the Wildcats in Gainesville, but John Calipari’s team is completely different in Lexington.

4) Purdue at Michigan State, Sunday at 1 p.m. ET – The Boilermakers travel to East Lansing, where Tom Izzo’s team could help cement an NCAA tournament berth with a victory.

5) Missouri at Kansas State, Saturday at 12 p.m. ET – The Tigers have struggled on the road while Frank Martin’s team sorely needs this one to help earn a spot in the Big Dance.

6) Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s, Thursday at 11 p.m. ET – The Gaels won the first round out in Spokane and another victory would secure the WCC regular-season crown for Randy Bennett’s team.

Tagged: Michigan State, Purdue, George Mason, Morehead State, Hofstra, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech, Kansas State, San Diego State, Charles Jenkins, John Hart, Jacob Pullen, Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, Terone Johnson

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