Purdue seeks separation atop Big Ten; Wisconsin hits road
A look at things to watch this week in the Big Ten:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 14 Purdue (23-5, 12-3) at Michigan (17-10, 7-7), Saturday. This is one of several matchups on the weekend schedule that could impact postseason hopes. But the front-running Boilermakers have a chance to potentially get a little separation from Wisconsin atop the Big Ten standings with the Badgers hitting the road for games at Ohio State and Michigan State. Purdue has won six in a row. Michigan could use another victory over a ranked opponent to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume.
LOOKING AHEAD: Northwestern can set the single-season school record with 21 wins by beating Indiana on Saturday night. The Wildcats are coming off a second loss this season to Illinois, two games that don’t look good on what otherwise should be a resume good enough for the school to make its first-ever NCAA tourney. After Indiana, Northwestern finishes the regular season by hosting Michigan and Purdue. … Last-place Rutgers had just two Big Ten wins entering the week but does finish the season with home games against Maryland and Illinois.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: With two steals against Maryland, Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes became the league’s career active leader in steals with 131. The senior and three-year starter was also the Big Ten’s active career leader in points and rebounds entering play this week. … Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh entered the week with 515 career assists, 13 shy of tying the school record of 528 held by Michael Thompson (2008-11). … Iowa’s Peter Jok leads the league in scoring (21.0 points per game) and free-throw shooting (92.1 percent).
PLAYER TO WATCH: Wisconsin guard Bronson Koenig returned from a one-game layoff for a left calf injury to play 31 minutes off the bench in the critical win last week against the Terrapins. The savvy senior is the Badgers’ best outside shooter. A consistent jump shot from Koenig can make opponents think twice about double-teaming Hayes or Ethan Happ in the post.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: No. 2 Maryland (26-2, 14-1) and No. 12 Ohio State (24-5, 14-1) are tied atop the standings going into the final weekend of the regular season after the Buckeyes beat the Terrapins on Monday. Maryland finishes up at home on Sunday against Minnesota, while Ohio State ends its season at Rutgers. … The Big Ten has four active 2,000-point scorers for the first time in women’s basketball history after the Terps’ Shatori Walker-Kimbrough joined the club with 29 points against the Buckeyes. Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell, Northwestern’s Nia Coffey and Michigan State’s Tori Jankoska are the other active 2,000-point scorers.
Compiled by AP Sports Writer Genaro C. Armas in Milwaukee.
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