Indiana Overcomes Cold Shooting, Still Decisively Beats Ohio State

“I thought we got our head out of the mud after Wednesday (against Northwestern). We were fortunate to win Wednesday, but we got our attitude, we got our heads together and guys were ready to go today.”

Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller was not afraid to admit that his Hoosiers needed to come together and improve if they wanted to survive in the Big Ten this season, and that’s exactly what they did on Saturday during IU’s 66-54 win over Ohio State.

It was a resounding win after a couple week stretch that saw Indiana continuously struggle in conference play, which culminated in just narrowly avoiding a home loss to the worst team in the conference. Though the Hoosiers did ultimately come up with the win against Northwestern, it still brought up questions about whether this team can compete consistently in the Big Ten. Indiana presented their evidence on Saturday and things now look much brighter as they improved to 13-3 overall and 3-2 in conference games.

Facing a talented Buckeyes team that had lost three straight and were looking to right the ship and get back on track, the Hoosiers ended up looking like the team that returned to form as they held Ohio State to just 32.7% shooting (17-of-52) and an ice-cold 21.4% (6-of-28) during the second half.

Indiana secured its second win against a ranked team, but unlike the Florida State win which saw Devonte Green explode for 30 points and saw the Hoosiers outrebound the Seminoles 35 to 25, IU was actually slightly outrebounded by the Buckeyes 36 to 35 and while Green was again the leading scorer for the Hoosiers, it was a much tamer 19 points.

In fact, this game was a far cry from your typical upset as the Hoosiers were far from perfect. Indiana faced multiple extended stretches without making a field goal, including a ridiculous stretch of 11:17 that included the last 9:57 of the first half. Yet the Hoosiers’ defense minimized the damage and the offense made just enough foul shots as Ohio State only outscored Indiana 18-6 during the run and the Buckeyes led just 34-31 at half.

Thankfully the Hoosiers had built a big enough cushion to withstand such a long drought in large part thanks to Rob Phinisee, who started for Green and hit three three-pointers in the first three and a half minutes to help Indiana sprint out to an early 13-5 lead. The Hoosiers would build that lead to 25-16 before the shots stopped falling.

“He came out hot, and that really set the tone for the rest of the team going forward during the game,” praised IU forward Justin Smith. Green added that Phinisee’s hot start also provided energy for both the crowd and the team.

The Hoosiers briefly found a rhythm to start the second half and reclaimed the lead on an 8-0 run before again going a long period without a field goal, this time for five and half minutes. Yet again the defense held serve as Ohio State managed only an 8-1 run during that span and held a 42-40 lead before Green took over the game.

The senior guard ended the field goal drought with a huge three to give Indiana back the lead, and even though Buckeye freshman D.J. Carton answered with a three of his own, it would be the last field goal for the Buckeyes for nearly six minutes as Green would lead Indiana on a 14-3 run that put the game away.

While the Hoosiers did earn a huge win on Saturday, Miller acknowledges that the grind of the Big Ten is only going to get tougher.

“In this league it just becomes such a slugfest, you need a jolt of energy. We got a good jolt of energy (today). Now you’ve got to have some humility and figure out a way to go on the road and compete against Rutgers. It’s going to be 50 times harder than it was (Saturday), and each game that goes by is going to be 50 times harder than that one. We’ve just got to keep raising our level of intensity and we’ve got to stay with it, and I think this team has a chance.”

Langford Helps Indiana Cross Finish Line Against Northwestern In His Big Ten Debut

Juwan Morgan ended up leaving Indiana’s Big Ten opener against Northwestern with a leg injury and it became apparent that the Hoosiers would have to overcome their three-point deficit during the final three and a half minutes without their senior leader, who had accumulated 17 points and 12 rebounds to that point.

Naturally the responsibility would fall upon Indiana’s star freshman Romeo Langford, but considering the responsibility was thrust upon him in the closing minutes of his first ever Big Ten game and with his team trailing, it would be understandable if he faltered.

Yet he didn’t.

Instead, Langford scored a team-high 20 points, including the go-ahead basket on a running floater with 39 seconds left to give the Indiana Hoosiers a 68-66 win over the Northwestern Wildcats to start Big Ten conference play.

“I feel like (it) was already stated without saying,” said Langford about if Indiana Coach Archie Miller asked him to step up in Morgan’s absence. “We just knew that it was crunch time and we still gotta do what it takes to win, and Coach (Miller) drew up a play and we executed a play down low.”

It wasn’t the only time last year’s Mr. Basketball for the state of Indiana took over when the Hoosiers needed him.

IU took a quick 9-4 lead over Northwestern, but the Wildcats made it known right away that the whole game would be a dogfight as they quickly tied it less than four minutes later and took the lead midway through the first half.

It was then when Langford took over scoring duty for the Hoosiers, as he scored seven straight points for his team during a four-minute stretch and followed it up with a big assist on an Evan Fitzner three that, combined with Rob Phinisee’s steal and layup, tied the game at 31 with three and a half minutes left in the first half.

Langford did more than just score as he also finished with five rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. He also shot 8-of-13 from the floor and made all three of his free throws.

“The guy’s absolutely a heck of a guy to be around everyday,” praised Miller, “He works hard. Doesn’t say much. Continues to get better. (He) had his best all-around game tonight without question, offensively and defensively.”

While the severity of Morgan’s injury is currently unknown, at the very least the Hoosiers know they can start relying on Langford more and that his star is ready and willing to shine bright.

How Two Huge Runs Helped The Hoosiers Beat Iowa

Scoring runs, especially in a sport like basketball where you score often, are one of the most exhilarating experiences for both players and fans. They also demoralize your opponent and change their mindset from “trying to win the game” to “trying to stop the bleeding”.

The Indiana Hoosiers needed two of them on Monday night to get their 77-64 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Hoosiers got a 17-1 run right before halftime and then, after allowing the Hawkeyes to go on a 16-2 run of their own, the Hoosiers regained control with an 18-0 run during the middle of the second half to put the game out of reach.

“I was really pleased, for the most part, other than the lack of responsibility coming out of halftime,” said Indiana Coach Archie Miller. “That just can’t happen, especially at home. (But) we ended up digging ourselves back out of that hole and were able to finish the game off.”

Here is a breakdown of what transpired during the two key runs that helped Coach Miller earn his first Big Ten Conference victory:


Iowa 19, Indiana 17 (9:08-1st half)

The first IU run started with De’Ron Davis splitting a pair of free throws. Josh Newkirk would then take a rebound coast-to-coast for the go-ahead layup with 8:03 left. Two minutes later Jordan Bohannon split a pair of free throws to tie the game. (20-20, 6:25-1st half)

Indiana grabbed the missed free throw but was unable to get anything on the fast break. The Hawkeyes’ defense stifled the Hoosiers during the offensive possession, almost forcing a shot clock violation. Yet Devonte Green threw up a fadeaway three-pointer with one second on the shot clock and, like his two half court shots last season, he somehow made it. (IU 23-20, 5:54-1st half)

The Hoosier defense went into lockdown mode over the next 83 seconds, forcing three consecutive Hawkeye turnovers. On the offensive end, a Robert Johnson steal led to a Juwan Morgan layup and a Collin Hartman steal led to another difficult jumper by Green. The third turnover had Green making a great pass to Johnson for three more points. (IU 30-20, 4:33-1st half)

After a quick timeout, Iowa committed its fourth consecutive turnover as Josh Newkirk got the steal and while he missed the layup, Green was there to clean it up. (IU 32-20, 4:11-1st half)

The Hawkeyes finally got off their first field goal attempt in five possessions but missed the shot. Hartman got the rebound and Johnson was sent to the foul line, where after the TV break he hit both free throws. (IU 34-20, 3:43-1st half)

Stats during the 17-1 run:
6-of-9 shooting (66.7%)
2-of-3 from three (66.7%)
3-of-5 from the foul line (60.0%)
7 rebounds
1 assist
4 steals
2 turnovers
Iowa shot 0-of-7 (1-of-2 from the foul line) and had 6 turnovers


Morgan, who finished with a double-double (15 points and 10 rebounds), wasn’t a huge factor in either of the Hoosiers’ big scoring runs but deserves credit for helping end Iowa’s large run.

After Iowa had cut it to 43-42, Morgan rebounded a missed Green layup and drew the foul, making both free throws. The Hawkeyes would again cut the Hoosier lead to one point when Morgan again came up with a clutch rebound, this time drawing the foul and making the bucket for a three-point play.

Thanks to his two huge offensive rebounds and five straight points, Iowa never had the ball with a chance to take the lead away from Indiana and thus let the Hoosiers hang around long enough to recover and go for the kill.

Indiana 53, Iowa 50 (13:05-2nd half)

Iowa would score their last points for six and a half minutes on a Cordell Pemsi layup where he was fouled. Pemsi would miss the foul shot, with the ball rebounded by Hartman. The newly entered Davis then went to work as he converted a layup on a pass from Hartman and then blocked Dom Uhl on the other end. (IU 55-50, 12:21-2nd half)

Iowa retained possession but missed another layup that was again rebounded by Hartman and led to a three-pointer in transition by Newkirk. Uhl would then commit a turnover that would take the game to the under-12 timeout. (IU 58-50, 11:41-2nd half)

Out of the timeout, Hartman would connect with Davis again in the paint for two. Davis then stole the ball on the next Iowa possession and got fouled but he ended up missing both free throws. The Hawkeyes couldn’t take advantage as they continued to miss shots, missing six in a row at that point. Meanwhile Johnson and Davis scored on layups while Hartman hit a three-pointer that forced Iowa to call a timeout. (IU 67-50, 8:59-2nd half)

Even with Johnson, Davis, and Hartman now all on the bench coming out of the timeout, the run continued. Iowa would miss three more shots as Morgan added a layup and Zach McRoberts added a running jumper to cap off the run and seal the game for the Hoosiers. (IU 71-50, 7:15-2nd half)

Stats during the 18-0 run:
8-of-10 shooting (80.0%)
2-of-3 from three (66.7%)
0-of-2 from the foul line (0.0%)
9 rebounds
6 assist
2 steals
1 block
1 turnover
Iowa shot 0-of-9 and had 3 turnovers

Michigan State Earns Big Ten Tournament Championship Through Perseverance (B1G Tournament Recap Day 5)

Michigan State 66, Purdue 62

For the second straight day, the Michigan State Spartans took a comfortable lead into halftime only to hold on for dear life. It doesn’t matter though because the Spartans leave Indianapolis as Big Ten Tournament Champs after a 66-62 victory over Purdue on Sunday.

The Spartans led by as many as 13 points but the Boilermakers starting making shots and soon that lead was down to four after an 11-2 run by Purdue. Yet despite Purdue’s best effort, the Boilers could never wrestle away the lead.

There were multiple chances in the final three minutes when the Spartans made a potentially huge mistake but Purdue couldn’t capitalize. A terrible turnover by Denzel Valentine led to two good looks for the Boilers down by one but they hit neither. Valentine then redeemed himself  by converting on a breath-taking 15-foot jump shot where he adjusted in mid-air to avoid the block attempt. The other one came when Purdue was down two points and Caleb Swanigan took an ill-advised three-point attempt that barely hit the rim.

Yet at the end of the day, it was all about Michigan State persevering. Matt Costello missed a huge free throw with 19 seconds left which Purdue rebounded down two points. Johnny Hill got great penetration for the game-tying layup but at the last moment Costello came from behind and blocked it. Bryn Forbes would then hit two free throws to ice the game.

Valentine won the most outstanding player of the tournament as he finished just one assist short of a triple-double (15 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists).

Maryland Shows Promise And Michigan On The Fence (B1G Tournament Day 4 Recap)

Michigan’s upset win over Indiana on Friday seemed to breathe new life into the Wolverines’ NCAA Tournament chances, but a blowout loss to Purdue now has them even more uncertain of their fate. Meanwhile Maryland may have lost but can at least feel good about the fact that the team is back to playing great basketball. Here are the recaps of how the two teams were bounced from the Big Ten Tournament.


#4 Purdue 76, #8 Michigan 59

A.J. Hammons showed why playing four years in college can make you a better basketball player. He’s been considered a 1st round NBA talent ever since his freshman year but he kept coming back to Purdue every year and now in his senior year he has lead his team to the Big Ten Championship Game after the Boilermakers beat the Michigan Wolverines 76-59.

Hammons finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks while causing Michigan Head Coach John Beilein a migrane all day by constantly adjusting to every defensive strategy thrown at him. Hammons dominated this game and showed just how much he has improved when Purdue needed him most. When Michigan narrowed Purdue’s lead to 60-54 with 7:35 left, Hammons scored five straight points to stretch Purdue’s lead to 11 and it never got below single-digits again. This stretch demonstrated his maturity from his first few seasons to becoming a senior leader on a team that has the potnetial to head to the Final Four. But first, there’s the Big Ten Championship Game.

As for the Wolverines, they have to play the waiting game as they hope that their win over Indiana on Friday was enough to convince the NCAA Selection Committee to place them in the field of 68. Michigan has only four top 100 RPI wins but all four are against teams with RPIs in the top 30. It may depend on if any other mid-major regular season champs steal an automatic bid . For now, Michigan can only sit back and hope that the committee favors them.


#2 Michigan State 64, #3 Maryland 61

Unlike Iowa, it seems Maryland has turned things around as they almost beat the red-hot Michigan State Spartans but ultimately fell 64-61.

The Terrapins took a haymaker from the Spartans as they trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half and went into halftime trailing 41-33. Then the Maryland defense took it up a notch, holding the Spartans to 28.6% shooting in the second half and eventually tying the game at 53 with 10:27 left.

That’s when things stalled as over the course of the final 10 minutes of the game, Maryland had nine offensive possessions with a chance to take the lead (with the Terrapins either tied or down one point) and only once during those nine possessions did the Terrapins succeed in taking the lead, when Robert Carter (who finished with a team-high 18 points) hit two free throws to put Maryland up 57-56 with 6:55 left. Yet on the next Spartans possession Deyonta Davis slammed in a pass from Matt Costello to take the lead 15 seconds after losing it.

Denzel Valentine had a magnificent game (18 points, 7 rebounds, and 10 assists) but missed a crucial free throw with 10 seconds left that gave Maryland a chance to win down 62-61, but Melo Trimble’s contested layup wouldn’t go and didn’t generate a contact foul as the Spartans rebounded the ball and Valentine redeemed himself by sinking both free throws.

Even though they won’t be playing on Sunday for the Big Ten Championship, the Terrapins should be encouraged after going toe-to-toe with possibly the best team in all of college basketball.


Sunday’s Game (Big Ten Championship Game):

#4 Purdue vs #2 Michigan State – 3pm (CBS)

Not only is the final Big Ten game of this college basketball season set to be a great contest between two talented teams, but it may also have big implications for how the NCAA Selection Committee will seed those two teams.

I wrote about in my tournament preview that Michigan State needed to win the Big Ten Tournament to have a shot at a 1-seed, and while they could win on Sunday and still end up a 2-seed, they would have zero chance at a 1-seed if they lost, especially with many other deserving teams not far behind.

Meanwhile Purdue looked to be a lock for a 4 or 5-seed before this week but after two dominant wins, the Boilermakers may be a win over Michigan State away from propelling into a 3-seed, which would help them potentially avoid a 1-seed until the Elite Eight.

Either way, if you are a fan of college basketball you will not want to miss this game.

Clock Strikes Midnight On Illinois and Nebraska (B1G Tournament Recap Day 3)

So far during the Big Ten Tournament, the main story has been the upsets as both Wednesday winners also won on Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals. Sadly, #11 Nebraska and #12 Illinois saw their chances at a magical championship run end on Friday. While Michigan is still in the tournament for everyone wanting to root for an underdog, the Wolverines may get into the NCAA Tournament without winning the Big Ten Tournament, which was not the case for the Cornhuskers or the Illini.


#8 Michigan 72, #1 Indiana 69

After playing a mediocre game against Northwestern, Michigan came to play on Friday as a back-and-forth contest (no team led by more than six points) ended with the pendulum swinging in the Wolverines’ favor as a Kameron Chatman corner three-pointer with just 0.2 seconds left gave Michigan a 72-69 win over number one seed Indiana.

Michigan had missed all 10 of its second half three-point attempts, but made its last two when the team needed them most. After Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell split a pair of free throws, Zak Irvin drove the basketball and kicked it out to Duncan Robinson who made a three-pointer to tie the game at 69 with 46 seconds remaining. He was 0 for 5 before he hit the game-tying shot from the right corner.

Then Michigan was gifted the ball on an OG Anunoby turnover when he tried to drive to the basket with 21 seconds left. It was the only time Anunoby played like a freshman as the rest of the game he did everything to keep Indiana hanging with the Wolverines, finishing with 13 points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals, and three blocks.

Derrick Walton Jr. again failed to make a field goal but finished with 12 assists, none bigger than his great pass to Chatman in the left corner for the game-winner. Irvin led the Wolverines with 17 points while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman added 15 points. The Hoosiers were led by Troy Williams who finished with 16 points. Thomas Bryant scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds while Ferrell added 14 points and eight assists.


#4 Purdue 89, #12 Illinois 58

Having lost to them earlier in the season, Purdue did not take Illinois as lightly as Iowa might have done. Add that with a thirst for revenge and the Boilermakers steamrolled the Illini 89-58 to advance to the Big Ten semifinals.

The Illini won their first two games of the Big Ten Tournament because of their explosive three-point shooting, but the long ball didn’t fall on Friday as Illinois hit only 4 of 18 from deep. Meanwhile the Purdue pounded the Illini into submission by grabbing 42 rebounds to Illinois’ 24.

The Boilkermakers received great contributions from all three of their talented big men. Isaac Haas led the team with 16 points, Caleb Swanigan recorded a double-double (11 points and 12 rebounds) and A.J. Hammons just missed on another double-double (10 points and eight rebounds). The Illini were led by Maverick Morgan (17 points) and Malcolm Hill (16 points).


#2 Michigan State 81 #7 Ohio State 54

Unlike their archrivals (Michigan), the Ohio State Buckeyes saw their NCAA Tournament chances end gruesomely as the Michigan State Spartans destroyed them 81-54. Big Ten Player of the Year Denzel Valentine was his usual magnificent self as he fell just short of a triple-double finishing with 19 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.

The Buckeyes had a lot of things go wrong but probably the biggest was outside shooting the team went 1 of 11 from deep. They also went to the free throw line 11 times after going there 00 times against Penn State.

JaQuan Lyle was the only Buckeye to score in double-figures but only scored 10 points and also had five turnovers. Deyonta Davis had 12 points and seven rebounds for the Spartans as Tom Izzo’s team continues its quest for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.


#3 Maryland 97, #11 Nebraska 86

Nebraska’s quest for five wins in five days ended on Friday when the Cornhuskers lost to Maryland 97-86 but not before they made one last charge. Down by as many as 25 points with 15:46 left in the second half, the Cornhuskers cut it to 92-86 with 1:40 remaining but back-to-back fouls let Maryland end a 18-4 run and hold on to advance to the conference semifinals.

The Terrapins built a huge lead early thanks to pinpoint three-point shooting. Maryland shot 90.0% (9 of 10) from behind the arc and 71.4% overall in the first half. Jake Layman (who scored a game-high 26 points) made 6 of 9 from deep while Melo Trimble made 4 of 8 from long-range.

Trimble finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists. Diamond Stone also played well, adding 23 points and eight rebounds. For Nebraska, Andrew White III scored 25 points while Shavon Shields poured in 19 points in his last Big Ten game.


Saturday’s Games:

#8 Michigan vs #4 Purdue – 1pm EST (CBS)

#2 Michigan State vs #3 Maryland – 3:30pm (CBS)

Former Indiana High Schoolers Shine In Indianapolis (B1G Tournament Recap Day 2)

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.


Friday’s Games:

#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)

Minnesota And Rutgers End Season On Different Notes (B1G Tournament Day 1 Recap)

Considering that Rutgers and Minnesota went a combined 3-33 in conference play (with two of those wins coming against each other), it should come as no surprise that the Scarlet Knights and the Golden Gophers were the first two eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament.

What is a little surprising is how differently those two teams played in their losses.


#12 Illinois 85, #13 Minnesota 52

While Minnesota has been the far more competitive of the two (even earning an upset win over Maryland), the recent injury to Joey King along with the suspensions of Nate Mason, Kevin Dorsey, and Dupree McBrayer has turned the Golden Gophers into a junior varsity team, with the remaining players losing to Rutgers 75-52 to end the regular season.

It’s hard to have an uglier performance than losing by 20+ points to Rutgers, but the Golden Gophers somehow pulled it off on Wednesday when Illinois literally ran Minnesota off the floor on the way to an 85-52 Illini win. The 33-point scoring margin was more than twice as much as Illinois’ previous largest win of the season (16-point win over Rutgers).

For the Illini it was a great confidence booster for a team that has been mediocre at best this season. What was really encouraging was the three-point shooting as Illinois’ four main perimeter shooters Jalen Coleman-Lands, Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn, and Michael Finke went a combined 12 for 20 (60%) from deep. This isn’t just some fluke either as those four players went a combined 9 for 14 (64.3%) went they upset Purdue 84-70 earlier in the season. If the Illini can continue to have those four players shoot above 50% from behind the arc, they’ll have a legit chance to advance on Thursday when they face a slumping Iowa team that has lost five of its last seven games.


#11 Nebraska 89, #14 Rutgers 72

After beating Minnesota to avoid going winless in Big Ten play, Rutgers seemed to have renewed confidence as they gave Nebraska a lot of trouble in the first half. There were 12 lead changes and every time it seemed Nebraska was going to pull away Rutgers had a response.

However, Nebraska’s extra possessions just became too much for the Scarlet Knights to overcome. The Cornhuskers forced 17 Rutgers’ turnovers which turned into 27 points. They also grabbed 17 offensive rebounds as Tim Miles’ team ended up with 14 more field goal attempts than Rutgers.

While Shavon Shields (20 points) and Andrew White III (16 points) did their usual offensive heavy lifting, the Cornhuskers also received huge contributions from role players Tai Webster (18 points) and Michael Jacobson (14 points). If Nebraska wants to have a shot at upsetting Wisconsin, it will need players like Webster and Jacobson to help Shields and White III on offense.


Thursday’s Games:

#9 Northwestern vs #8 Michigan – 12pm EST (BTN)

#12 Illinois vs #5 Iowa – 2:30pm EST (BTN)

#10 Penn State vs #7 Ohio State – 6:30pm EST (ESPN2)

#11 Nebraska vs #6 Wisconsin – 9pm EST (ESPN2)

 

The Ten Biggest Storylines Heading Into The Big Ten Tournament

Originally when I first received my credentials for the Big Ten Tournament, I thought my access was going to be restricted to just the team I cover (being the Indiana Hoosiers). However, after learning that I have access to all 13 games, I decided I may as well cover the tournament as a whole.

For the next five days I will be publishing daily recaps of the day’s events and I will also live-tweet all 13 games. You can follow me on Twitter @QTipsForSports for all the fun.

So before the fun begins, let’s take a quick look at the ten biggest storylines heading into the Big Ten Tournament:

  1. Michigan State Tries To Earn A 1-Seed: During a season of chaos and upsets, Tom Izzo’s squad is as close to a championship contender as any other team in the country. Yet despite having a winning record against the RPI top 25 and 11 wins overall against RPI top 100 teams, the Spartans are far from a lock as a 1-seed. That’s because not only did Michigan State not win the Big Ten, but finished two games behind champion Indiana. A conference championship is really the only thing missing from the resume and the Spartans can still claim the conference tournament championship this week, which should satisfy that last requirement for a 1-seed. Now it’s up to Izzo on whether or not grabbing a 1-seed is worth pursuing.
  2. Indiana Tries To Win Its First Big Ten Tournament: Even though the Hoosiers are tied for the most regular season Big Ten titles (22), did you know Indiana has never won a Big Ten Tournament? Granted the Big Ten was one of the last conferences to adopt a postseason tournament ( the first one being in 1998), but it’s still hard to believe the Hoosiers have yet to win one especially since roughly half of them have been in Indianapolis, which is practically a second home for the Hoosiers. After a 15-3 record against the conference this year, you’d think this would be the year they’d have the best chance to get their first.
  3. Does A Big Ten Regular Season And Tournament Championship Earn Indiana A 1/2-Seed?: Indiana might also need to win the Big Ten Tournament to grab a 1 or 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament, which in itself is pretty incredible when you realize this team was very much on the bubble at the beginning of February. Four more wins against the RPI top 50 later and the Hoosiers are almost a lock for a top-4 seed. How Tom Crean’s group does this weekend will determine if they move up even more before Selection Sunday.
  4. Can Either Maryland Or Iowa End Its Late-Season Slump?: While Indiana has seen its stock rise, both Maryland and Iowa have seen its stock plummet over the last few weeks. The Terrapins have lost four of their last six games while the Hawkeyes have lost five of their last seven games. Both have shown to be very talented teams capable of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, but that would likely require them to play well in the Big Ten Tournament to turn momentum in their favor. If either lose right away in Indianapolis, you’d be smart to avoid picking them when filling out your March Madness brackets.
  5. Ohio State And Michigan Both Need Multiple Wins To Help NCAA Chances: Even though Iowa and Maryland have struggled down the stretch, both are locks for the NCAA Tournament. That is not the case for Ohio State and Michigan. The Buckeyes have gone 4-4 in their last eight games while the Wolverines have gone 3-5 in their last eight games. In addition to not finishing the season strong, both have just three wins against the RPI top 100 and a ton of losses (Ohio State has nine vs RPI top 100 while Michigan has 11 vs RPI top 100). With the pool for the at-large bids getting crowded with all of the mid-major conference leaders who lost in their postseason tournaments, the Buckeyes and Wolverines will need to win multiple games during the Big Ten Tournament just to stay on the bubble come Selection Sunday.
  6. Will A Double-Digit Seed Win Multiple Games?: Upsets have been the norm in college basketball this season and some of the more surprising ones have happened in the Big Ten. Penn State has wins over both Iowa and Indiana, Illinois has a win over Purdue, Nebraska has a win over Michigan State, and Minnesota has a win over Maryland. All four of those teams are double-digit seeds and would have to beat teams of similar caliber to win multiple games this week. They’ve all done it before so it’s not out of the question it could happen again.
  7. How Will Wisconsin Respond To Starting The Big Ten Tournament A Day Earlier Than Usual?: Even though Greg Gard didn’t lead Wisconsin to yet another top four finish in the Big Ten, he’s done a great job taking over for Bo Ryan and deserves to be named the permanent head coach. That being said, after years of having off until Friday, how will the team react having to win one extra game? Will the fans remember to come root for their team on Thursday or will they forget out of habit? All joking aside, if the Badgers get to at least the semifinals  they might move up to a 6-seed, which is incredible for a team that had home losses to Western Illinois and Milwaukee to begin the season.
  8. Potential Indiana-Purdue Rematch In Indianapolis: There are plenty of great potential matchups in this year’s Big Ten Tournament, but when considering the location of the tournament (Indianapolis) and the likeliness of the matchup (both teams only need to win one game), an Indiana-Purdue rematch becomes the most intriguing. Due to unbalanced schedules caused by league expansion, the in-state rivals are no longer guaranteed to play each other twice a season. Recently both programs haven’t been good at the same time so the lack of a home-and-home likely prevented one team from sweeping the other. That wasn’t the case this year as both are ranked in the AP top 25 and are real threats in the NCAA Tournament which made the fact that they only played once this season a shame. That could be corrected if both win their quarterfinals matchups on Friday.
  9. Which Coaches Are Under Pressure To Perform Well?: Even though only one coach has a realistic chance of being fired after this season (that being Rutgers’ Eddie Jordan), there are still many coaches who will feel the pressure to perform at the Big Ten Tournament this weekend for varying reasons. Richard Pitino of Minnesota has been given a pass for this season, but after the recent suspensions and the loss to Rutgers, there’s definitely some pressure to end the season on a positive note. John Groce was just given a vote of confidence that he will return to coach Illinois next year but if the Illini get destroyed by Minnesota on Wednesday it may make his margin for error even less come next season. Missing the NCAA Tournament won’t put coaches like Thad Matta (Ohio State) and John Beilein (Michigan) on the hot seat but both would like to avoid any unnecessary pressure going forward. Lastly both Fran McCaffery (Iowa) and Mark Turgeon (Maryland) carry the burden of high expectations and with both teams stumbling towards the finish line, you can bet both want to avoid being considered underachievers with their talented squads.
  10. With The Final On Sunday, Could A Team Realistically Win And Cause An NCAA Selection Shakeup?: Did you know that in the history of the Big Ten Tournament, an eighth, ninth, 10th, and 11th seed have all made the championship game? With the Big Ten so top-heavy this year, if an eighth thru 11th seed made the Big Ten title game that would have huge ramifications for the NCAA Selection Committee. While the committee would probably place the eighth seed (who is Michigan) into the bracket regardless of outcome, ninth thru 11th (Northwestern, Penn State, and Nebraska) are nowhere close to being at-large teams and would cause the selection committee to make two vastly different versions of the final bracket in the case of one of those teams winning the Big Ten Tournament. Of course this is true of any year, but considering what has already happened this season, this possibility should not be ignored.

Three Reasons The Hoosiers Are On The Brink Of Winning The Big Ten

The Indiana Hoosiers took care of business on Thursday as they easily defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini 74-47 thanks to a dominant second half performance. With the win, the Hoosiers now sit at 13-3 in Big Ten play and are closing in on their second conference championship in four years.

Yet how did a team left for dead at the beginning of December turn things around so drastically?

Here are three reasons the Hoosiers are one win away from clinching at least a share of the Big Ten title and two wins away from winning the conference outright:

  1. Depth: Very few college basketball teams have nine players  who can contribute on a nightly basis and the Hoosiers take full advantage. Combining their breakneck pace with their ability to rotate players in and out keeps their players relatively fresh enough to make a game-ending run when the opponent becomes gassed. It has also helped the team weather what could have been a season-ending injury when James Blackmon Jr. went down right before Big Ten play began. Instead, freshmen OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan have grown up quickly and have provided superior defense along with adequate offense.
  2. Schedule: Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room: the Hoosiers had a very easy early Big Ten schedule. This was even more important for the Hoosiers as it coincided with their period of trying to adapt their rotation after the loss of Blackmon. Looking back at a couple of those games it’s almost shameful to think that the Hoosier only beat awful Rutgers by 7 points. But those early games against lesser competition let the Hoosiers make a successful transition while not hurting their record. At the end of the day, you can’t control who you face in your conference and the Hoosiers took advantage of things breaking right for them.
  3. Yogi Ferrell: The senior point guard has been great throughout his entire career at Indiana but this year he has taken it to another level. In Big Ten games this season, Ferrell is averaging 17.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game. On top of that, his defense has reached a level he’s never played at before and it has resulted in 1.31 steals per game in conference play for a player who has never averaged over one steal at any point in his college career. But what’s been the most impressive is his leadership. I only mentioned Big Ten games because those are the games he’s played with Blackmon out of the lineup, showing that Ferrell has stepped up in his absence. Ferrell reinforced the notion that he can carry the Hoosiers when the team needs it by posting 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists against Illinois in a game Indiana was without Rob Johnson and saw Troy Williams play limited minutes due to an injury. In the second half alone, after trailing the Illini 28-27 at half, Ferrell had as many points in the second half (19) as the whole Illinois team. He may not win Big Ten Player of the Year, but Ferrell has arguably been the most valuable player in the conference and is starting to climb the list of greatest Hoosiers of all time.