Because there are so many good basketball recruits in the state of Indiana, many of the top colleges scout area and thus players are seen playing with teams all around the country. That is especially true of Big Ten schools as their proximity to the state of Indiana makes the player feel like they are never too far away from home.
Well quite a few of those players did return home this weekend and have played an important part in their team’s success in the Big Ten Tournament. Whether it was great play during crunch time or the game-winning shot, former Hoosiers definitely felt at home on Thursday.
#8 Michigan 72, #9 Northwestern 70 (OT)
Even though Michigan was the team fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, Northwestern looked like the more focused team for the majority of the game. Every time it seemed that the Wolverines had seized control of the game, the Wildcats made a run to make it close. Then Michigan would proceed to go on a run to seemingly put the Wildcats away. It was a constant cycle until the Wildcats finally took a 55-54 lead with 3:30 remaining.
Michigan would retake the lead when Derrick Walton Jr. scored his only points of the game as his two free throws put the Wolverines up 56-55. Again it seemed Michigan had taken control when senior center Alex Olah (who had 20 points and 13 rebounds) hit his fifth three-pointer of the season to make Michgan’s lead just 59-58. Then Michigan burned its last two timeouts trying to inbound the ball and when the Wolverines finally got it in to Duncan Robinson, Northwestern trapped him in the corner and forced him to travel. Yet to Northwestern Head Coach Chris Collins dismay the referees called a foul instead. Robinson, a 92% free throw shooter, proceed to split the pair and an Olah tip-in with 0.1 seconds left sent the game to overtime.
Yet again it looked like Michigan had put the game away up 72-70 after Zak Irvin’s clutch pull-up jumper from the elbow with three seconds left in overtime. Yet what should have been a game-ending steal on the Wildcats’ in-bound pass turned into a turnover when Walton Jr. stepped on the baseline with 0.6 seconds left to give Northwestern one more shot. Nathan Taphorn was able to get open but the three-pointer was short as Michigan survived, but the Wolverines won’t survive against Indiana if they play like they did today.
#12 Illinois 68, #5 Iowa 66
Iowa’s late-season slump didn’t end when it beat Michigan last weekend, it was merely taking a break. The Iowa team that had lost five of its last seven showed up in full force as the Hawkeyes went one and done in the Big Ten Tournament by losing to Illinois 68-66.
The Hawkeyes got major contributions from their stars as Peter Jok scored a game-high 29 points while Jarrod Uthoff added 21 points. It was the rest team that prevented Iowa from winning back-to-back games for the first time since the first week of February. While Uthoff and Jok combined for 50 points on 19/32 (59.4%) shooting, the other seven Hawkeyes to see the court combined for 16 points on 6/30 (20.0%) shooting and were also responsible for 13 of the team’s 18 turnovers. In fact, the Hawkeyes went 22:18 of in-game time between having a Hawkeye other than Jok or Uthoff score a single point.
Meanwhile Illinois is starting to play up to the potential many have been waiting to see from this team. Former Indianapolis native Jalen Coleman-Lands led the Illini with 17 points, 14 of which came in the second half. The Illini got a big boost early from Maverick Morgan, who had 12 of his 14 points in the first half.
Iowa looked dead with 7:02 left in the second half as the Haweyes trailed 63-52. Yet the pressure to closeout became too much for Illinois as the Illini started playing not to lose instead of trying to win. As a result, Iowa went on a 14-3 run to tie the game at 66 with 1:33 left. A Malcolm Hill 18-footer with 1:15 left proved to be the game-winner as it ended up being the last points of the game. Iowa had multiple chances to tie or take the lead, even getting a jump ball in its favor, but a turnover with four seconds left sealed the Hawkeyes’ fate as they head to the NCAA Tournament having lost six of their last eight.
#7 Ohio State 79, #10 Penn State 75
Yet another Indiana High School standout shined in Indianapolis as JaQuan Lyle finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists as Ohio State was able to fend off Penn State 79-75. Marc Loving led the Buckeyes with 24 points, but it was Lyle who helped Ohio State overcome a 37-34 halftime defecit as he scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half.
Shep Garner led all scorers with 25 points as the Nittany Lions took a three-point lead into halftime thanks to excellent three-point shooting. Penn State went 7 of 12 from deep in the first half, but faltered in the second half by going just 2 of 10. The Buckeyes also accumulated a massive free throw advantage, taking 39 fouls shots to Penn State’s 21.
Ohio State now has a must-win matchup on Friday with the Michigan State Spartans if the Buckeyes want to keep their hopes alive for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.
#11 Nebraska 70, #6 Wisconsin 58
I asked during my Big Ten Tournament Preview if a double-digit seed could win multiple games. The answer is yes as Nebraska joined Illinois as a double-digit seed in the quarterfinals. The Cornhuskers advanced after defeating Wisconsin 70-58.
Shavon Shields led the way with 20 points and just like against Rutgers he had help from the role players. Glynn Watson Jr. (8.4ppg) scored 16 points while Benny Parker (4.7ppg) added 12 points for the Cornhuskers. They also stifled the Badgers offense limiting them to 30.2% shooting on the game.
In addition to shooting a terrible 30.2% overall, Wisconsin only hit 4 of 20 (20.0%) three-point attempts. Vitto Brown carried the Badgers in the first half (13 of the team’s 21 points) but only scored three in the second half. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Ethan Happ led Wisconsin with 17 points (13 in the second half) but also committed a game-high five turnovers. Even the reliable Nigel Hayes had a disastrous game, hitting only 2 of 15 from the floor.
Unlike Iowa, this loss by Wisconsin looks more like a fluke than a sign of trouble, especially considering that the Badgers had won 11 of their last 13 games. Still, that doesn’t take away the disappointment of trying to defend their title of reigning Big Ten Tournament Champions.
#1 Indiana vs #8 Michigan – 12pm EST (ESPN)
#4 Purdue vs #12 Illinois – 2:30pm EST (ESPN)
#2 Michigan State vs #7 Ohio State – 6:30pm EST (BTN)
#3 Maryland vs #11 Nebraska – 9pm EST (BTN)