Note: For the rest of the season, this post will appear on Tuesdays. Didn't have time to watch much non-Michigan hoops in a given week? If you're looking for a quick recap of what has happened elsewhere in B1G hoops, this is the place to find that.
The past week of Big Ten basketball did not disappoint. Not that you needed reminding, but this conference is loaded, and, as such, you're likely to catch a great game on just about every night one is played.
Even the Northwestern Wildcats got on the board yesterday, scoring an upset win against No. 23 Illinois at Welsh-Ryan in Evanston. There are no "easy" wins in this league, especially on the road; that's what makes this so, so fun. Stressful, frustrating and soul-eating, but fun.
And with that, let's take a look back at the action-packed week that was:
Tuesday, Jan. 7
--Ohio State 68 at Michigan State 72
In case you missed it, this one was a barnburner; that is, for the final eight minutes of regulation and overtime (I gave it the standard recap treatment here if you're interested). Before that, there was a sloppily played first half for both teams and a second that eventually saw the Spartans go up by 17 against the visiting Buckeyes. With eight minutes remaining, the game seemed all but over, as Ohio State couldn't get much of anything going on offense.
Then, the Buckeye defense came alive, essentially becoming their primary form of offense. Somehow, they tied things up, and were a breakaway layup as time expired from winning in regulation; Shannon Scott wasn't able to finish at the rim, however, and the Spartans outlasted Thad Matta's squad in overtime for a win that became far more stressful than it needed to be.
Wednesday Jan. 8
--Minnesota 68 at Penn State 65
This was the first of two heart-breaking home losses for the Nittany Lions. Despite 20 points from Tim Frazier on 6-of-7 shooting, Pat Chambers's squad, PSU was unable to hold on late in the game. The Nittany Lions led by five at the half and held a lead until there were under two minutes to play.
PSU is a bottom third of the conference team, but if this past week is any indication--not to mention Michigan's loss at the Bryce Jordan Center last season--winning at Penn State won't be easy.
--Illinois 70 at Wisconsin 95
All I can really say about this performance is wow. A few days after besting Iowa at the Kohl Center (a game in which Fran McCaffery got himself ejected, a key turning point in the game), the Badgers welcomed yet another top 25 team to Madison. This time around, the Badgers came out firing, utterly dismantling the Illini in every way possible.
If you haven't been paying attention, this is not the UW you are used to seeing. They might not be as strong defensively as they have been but they can score in a big way, and they don't even seem to need to slow things down to a near standstill like they used to.
Michigan has to go face that team, at the Kohl Center, this weekend. The Wolverines haven't won in Madison since 1999; that streak is not likely to end this season.
Thursday, Jan. 9
--Northwestern 67 at Iowa 93
Poor, poor Northwestern. There's not much to say about this one other than this: if you haven't had a chance to watch an Iowa game this season, do it soon. Those guys are big, fast and score in bunches. If you like transition buckets and alley-oop dunks, the Hawkeyes are for you. They really are a joy to watch, whether you're a fan of them or not.
Needless to say, 93 points in a conference game is impressive, even against Northwestern. Iowa starters scored16, 18, 10, 15 and 9 points, respectively; now that is a balanced attack.
--Michigan 71 at Nebraska 70
I already recapped this on Thursday, but you can throw this one onto the already burgeoning pile of exciting conference games. Michigan was very fortunate to escape Pinnacle Bank Arena with a win, but when it's time to dissect resumes at the end of the season, fortune isn't part of the discussion. A win is a win, especially on the road.
Saturday, Jan. 11
--Indiana 79 at Penn State 76
The Nittany Lions couldn't catch a break this week, as they once again couldn't hold on to a lead at home. This time, PSU ambushed the struggling Hoosiers, jumping out to a 31-16 lead with just over nine minute remaining in the first half. PSU appeared to be on pace to score approximately 8 billion points, but only scored 10 points over the final nine minutes of the first half, allowing the Hoosiers to crawl back to within four by the half.
IU opened the second half with a 15-5 run, giving them a 6-point lead as the game approached the 12-minute media timeout. PSU eventually battled back to take a 3-point lead with under four minutes left, but it wouldn't last. With just over a minute left, IU's Austin Etherington hit a trey to give the Hoosiers a 73-72 lead, one that they wouldn't relinquish.
The Nittany Lions didn't finish this past week, but, again, they are definitely dangerous. Michigan fans should by no means consider Tuesday's game an auto-win, especially after the Wolverines' lackluster defensive performance in Lincoln.
--Minnesota 75 at Michigan State 87
Playing without Adreian Payne, the Spartans welcomed Richard Pitino's Minnesota Golden Gophers. Minnesota took a 5-point lead into the half, a margin they upped to 10 by the first media timeout of the second half.
That's when the Spartans reeled off a 15-0 run, one that you would've though might be a blow from which the Gophers couldn't recover. With the help of two Andre Hollins trips to the line after being fouled shooting a three (in the span of under two minutes), the Gophers tied things up.
Turnovers late in the game threatened to be Minnesota's undoing once again. But, after more back and forth play and some obligatory last minute free throw shooting, the Gophers found themselves down 71-69. Gary Harris stepped to the line and missed twice with 12 seconds left. Following a defensive rebound, Minnesota's Deandre Mathieu sped past the MSU en route to a layup, tying the game with six seconds left.
Unfortunately for the Gophers, MSU blew them out in the overtime period by a score of 16-4. It was a strong win for a Payne-less Spartans squad, and an encouraging performance (the OT notwithstanding) on the road if you're a Gophers fan. With that said, Minnesota will have a hard time beating anybody in the top 4 of the conference if late game turnovers continue to be an issue.
Sunday, Jan. 12
--Iowa 84 at Ohio State 74
Wisconsin's bludgeoning of Illinois was impressive for the sheer quickness and skill with which it was done. With that said, Iowa's win on Sunday in Columbus was easily one of the biggest conference wins I've seen in some time. The Hawkeyes scored 84 points against a strong OSU defense, which I suppose is sort of like scoring 40+ against Alabama on the gridiron.
If not for McCaffery's ejection, Iowa very well could have grabbed a win in Madison and would thus be sitting at 4-0 in the B1G. Nonetheless, Iowa once again showed incredible balance, as Basabe, Gesell, Marble and White all scored in the double digits.
The Hawkeyes only shot 29 percent from three but pulled down 37.5 percent of their misses and turned it over just 10 times. That is simply an unbelievable performance against an Ohio State defense that makes life hard for just about everybody. In any case, if you weren't already including Iowa amongst the conference elite, you should probably start doing so.
--Illinois 43 at Northwestern 49
Poor, poor Northw--wait, what? I didn't catch much of this game but caught bits of it and paid attention to what Sippin' on Purple was saying on Twitter...and it sounds like I didn't miss much. Northwestern led 22-15, at the half. That is some ugly basketball, even by stereotypical B1G standards.
Here's SOP on the victory. FWIW, Michigan does not travel to Welsh-Ryan this season, in case you were wondering.
As for Illinois, this was a disastrous loss, their second in as many games. Fortunately for the Illini, they return to Champaign for a pair of games this week against Purdue and Michigan State. You have to think that nothing less than two wins there would erase the negative feelings resulting from getting obliterated at the Kohl Center and losing at Welsh-Ryan.
Kind of hard to believe that all of that happened in just the last week, right? Well, I hope you're all ready for a couple of more months of this.
In tonight's action, No. 3 Wisconsin heads to Bloomington (7 ET, ESPN) and, of course, Penn State heads to Ann Arbor (8 ET, BTN).