The first roundup of the B1G season last week was packed with exciting games, and this past week was no different. The Buckeyes lost their fourth straight game last night in Lincoln after reaching as high as No. 3 in the polls. Similarly, the Badgers were on top of the world after a 16-0 start--the best start in program history--only to come back down to earth after a pair of losses against Indiana and Michigan.
Meanwhile, Michigan has somewhat quietly surged to 5-0 in the conference, sharing the top spot in the standings with Michigan State, who has been without Adreian Payne for the past three games.
Additionally, the Iowa Hawkeyes continue to blaze a trail of merciless destruction through Big Ten defenses; Michigan will have its hands full on Wednesday at the Crisler Center.
Tuesday, Jan. 14
Wisconsin 72 at Indiana 75
Despite 21 points from Traevon Jackson (on a ridiculous eFG% of 95 percent), the Badgers took their first loss of the season in Bloomington last Tuesday.
Because the second half overlapped with the first half of Michigan-Penn State, a lot of you might not have watched this game, but it really was another captivating conference game. The two teams battled to a nearly even first half (35-34 UW at the break), but the Badgers--namely Jackson--came out firing in the second. UW built up a 10-point lead by the six and half minutes into the second frame, and it seemed like they would just continue to overwhelm the Hoosiers.
Naturally, the Hoosiers went on a 12-0 run, eventually taking a 2-point lead. The Badgers took the lead shortly thereafter, but it would be the last time they held it. Down three with the game on the line, the Badgers couldn't quite get a good look from beyond the arc, thus taking their first loss of the season. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers got a signature win. Surely the near future didn't have any letdowns in store for them...
Penn State 67 at Michigan 80
This was already recapped by Zach, but, this was a solid win, especially considering that many (myself included) were stressing about Michigan's ability to defend PSU after the poor effort in Lincoln. Michigan's defense wasn't exactly good (at all, really), but the offense is just so great that scoring 80 points in a Big Ten game isn't even a big deal for them.
Wednesday, January 15
Michigan State 54 at Northwestern 40
Once again without Adreian Payne, the Spartans led by just five with 10 minutes to play.
Unfortunately for Chris Collins's Wildcats, they didn't have another upset at Welsh-Ryan in them. In the game's final 10 minutes, Northwestern scored just five points, allowing MSU to cruise to a comfortable but ugly 54-40 victory.
Purdue 66 at Illinois 58
After a solid non-conference performance and a 2-0 start in the Big Ten that saw Illinois enter the top 25, the Illini have collapsed in a big way. Last week, the Illini got thumped at Wisconsin and upset at Northwestern.
The Illini returned to the State Farm Center in Champaign last Wednesday, but didn't fare much better there. John Groce's squad led by four at the half but was outscored by 12 in the second, resulting in a 66-58 home loss for the Illini. Purdue rebounded a whopping 44 percent of its misses and C A.J. Hammons scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
With the road win, Purdue moved to 2-2 in the conference (after starting 0-2), and would move to 3-2 with a victory a few days later. Purdue's stock is definitely up, but they don't have a signature win just yet. They'll have the chance to pick up a couple, as Bo Ryan's Badgers will head to West Lafayette this Saturday.
Thursday, Jan. 16
Ohio State 53 at Minnesota 63
Everybody knew that cobbling together enough offense would be an issue this season for the Buckeyes, but that an elite defense would save them far more often than not. Defense is what got Ohio State back into the Michigan State game, but failed it mightily against Iowa.
At The Barn, however, the Buckeyes stalled in the second half, scoring just 24 points after battling the Gophers to a 29-29 tie at the halftime break. Although Minnesota scored a modest 63, they shot 51 percent from the field, rebounded 48 percent of their misses and scored 1.03 points per possession.
Despite the Gophers committing a whopping 18 turnovers, the Buckeyes couldn't make it count. They shot 35 percent from the field and scored just 0.83 points per possession.
Saturday, Jan. 18
Northwestern 54 at Indiana 47
The good folks at Sippin' On Purple were hoping that the Wildcats would avoid an 0-18 conference record this season. Things looked dire for the Wildcats, especially after getting demolished by Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa to start the conference schedule.
However, two upset wins in less than a week have assured that the Wildcats won't spend the entire season at the bottom of the conference standings. As for Indiana, how they could upset Wisconsin then turn around and lose at home to Northwestern is beyond me. No. this IU team is nowhere near as good as the team of the past two seasons, but losing at home to Northwestern basically puts a chip on every square in Big Ten Catastrophe Bingo.
In any case, who knows how many wins Northwestern will end up with, but the Wildcats have been competitive since the aforementioned thumpings against three of the conference's best squads. It'll be interesting to see what Collins's squad can do once the 2014 class gets to Evanston, one that includes 4-star SF Victor Law.
Michigan 77 at Wisconsin 70
Penn State 64 at Purdue 65
Man oh man, Penn State just cannot catch a break this season. Once again, the Nittany Lions were unable to finish late. After a pair of D.J. Newbill free throws, PSU led by three with 16 seconds left to play in the game. Terone Johnson buried a three for Purdue to tie it eight seconds later, but that wasn't even the worse of it for PSU.
Newbill turned it over and with one second remaining, Purdue's A.J. Hammons went to the line for a pair of free throws. Hammons split, but that was all Purdue needed to escape with a 65-64 win, their third in a row.
Penn State dropped to 0-6 with the loss, but could conceivably be 3-3 if they could just finish games. Sadly for PSU fans, the last few minutes of games have not been great times for the Nittany Lions.
Michigan State 78 at Illinois 62
The downward spiral continued for the Illini, as the Payne-less Spartans went down to Champaign and scored a 78-62 win. With Illinois clearly trending downward already, the win was not quite as impressive as it would have been two weeks ago. Nonetheless, winning by 16 on the road without a player like Payne is nothing at which to scoff.
With much of the focus on Iowa, Wisconsin and now Michigan after Saturday's win at the Kohl Center, the Spartans have seemingly cruised to the quietest 6-0 Big Ten start by a top 5 team of all time--at least, it seems that way to me.
Meanwhile, the struggling Illini shot just 38 percent from the field and, perhaps even worse, shot 12 fewer free throws than did the Spartans, a big problem if you're playing at home. Just a couple of weeks ago I wondered if Michigan was the 6th best team in the stacked Big Ten (with Illinois being fifth). Now? Illinois will definitely be fighting for a tournament spot if they can't figure things out fast.
Sunday, Jan. 19
Minnesota 73 at Iowa 94
Another game, another 90+ point output for the Iowa offense. It really is something to see, as long as you're not a fan of the team they're playing. This time, the Golden Gophers were faced with the unenviable task of stopping the Hawkeyes; like basically everyone else, they did not do a very good job.
The Gophers actually carried a 43-41 lead into the half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but the second half was a different story. The Hawkeyes routed the Gophers (three days after their big win at The Barn against the Buckeyes) in the second half by a score of 53-30. Yes, 53-30, in the second half alone.
Iowa got 18 from Aaron White, 16 from Roy Devyn Marble, 11 from Mike Gesell, 12 from backup C Gabriel Olaseni and 17 from Josh Oglesby. As efficient and talented as the Wolverines are on offense, the Hawkeyes are simply playing on a different level from everybody else (on the offensive end, at least). On Sunday against the Gophers, they scored at a pace of 1.32 points per possession, while also rebounding 47 percent of their misses. That'll do.
I will be very surprised if the Wolverines can hold Iowa to under 80 this Wednesday; then again, I thought there was very little chance they could win in Madison, so what do I know?
Monday, Jan. 20
Ohio State 62 at Nebraska 68
The Buckeyes beat the Cornhuskers in Columbus by 31 on Jan. 4. Despite bringing a 3-game losing streak into last night's game, there was no way Ohio State would lose in Lincoln, right?
Of course, the answer is no, not right at all, because this is college basketball. The Buckeyes' losing streak extended to four games, while the Huskers won their first conference game of the season, capped by the students storming the court and everything.
Thad Matta's squad went into the half down nine, 34-25. The Buckeyes started the second with an 11-2 run, and seemed on their way to grinding out an ugly road win (i.e. generally the only kind of road win). Neither team led by more than three until the final two and a half minutes of the game, when the Huskers' Terran Petteway buried a jumper to put them up 51-47. From there, Nebraska took care of business at the free throw line and the Buckeyes couldn't hit shots when the outcome was still somewhat in question.
As precipitous as the Illini's decline has been, the Buckeyes now sit at 2-4 in the Big Ten, tied with the Northwestern Wildcats. The Buckeyes are 19 games into their season, and the offense is still lacking. It's going to be a problem the rest of the year.
If the Buckeyes don't hold serve at home in their upcoming games against Illinois and Penn State, things will start looking downright bleak in Columbus. The next two games after trip? Trips to Madison (Feb. 1) and Iowa City (Feb. 4).
And that's it for the past week...after Wednesday, the Wolverines will be a third of the way through the conference schedule. Wednesday's contest against Iowa is crucial if the Wolverines are to be a serious Big Ten title contender by season's end; comparing road schedules, the Wolverines seem to have a more difficult path than Iowa the rest of the way.