Once again, quite a bit happened in the best basketball league in the country this past week, so let's get right to it:
Tuesday, Jan. 21
Indiana 66 at Michigan State 71
This wasn't an especially pretty game, but the Spartans took care of business at home. The Hoosiers led, 46-41, at the 12-minute media timeout in the second half, but quickly lost the lead and never gained it back.
The Hoosiers shot 40 percent (4-for-10) from beyond the arc, which I imagine--without looking--is probably better than most of their single-game three-point percentages this season. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, you can't commit 18 turnovers and expect to win at the Breslin Center.
Purdue 60 at Northwestern 63
Matt Painter's Boilermakers rolled into Evanston last Tuesday looking to win their fourth straight game: the Wildcats, winners of two of their last three, had other days.
For a team with such little raw talent, one thing is clear: Chris Collins's Wildcats really do leave it all out there every game, as much as I hate sports cliches. While the Wildcats' offense is not exactly fearsome, they did hit big shots down the stretch when they absolutely needed them. JerShon Cobb hit a two-point jumper to tie the game with 31 seconds left, and the two teams eventually went to overtime.
After five minutes, they remained tied, needing a second overtime period to decide a winner. The Wildcats won that second OT by a score of 12-9, emerging with their third Big Ten victory of the season (three more wins than many thought they'd get).
Wednesday, Jan. 22
Iowa 67 at Michigan 75
This was recapped here, obviously, but this was a big win for the Wolverines, who outscored the high-octane Hawkeyes in terms of fast break scoring, 12 points to four. It was a shaky start on the defensive glass for Michigan especially Glenn Robinson III), but Michigan righted the ship and held serve at home.
Wisconsin 68 at Minnesota 81
The Badgers' slide continued at The Barn last Wednesday, where they lost their third straight game. While UW shot 12 more free throws (23) than did the Gophers, Bo Ryan's defense once again proved itself to be not as good as it once was: the Gophers shot 59 percent from the field and scored a ludicrous 1.40 points per possession.
UW freshman F Nigel Hayes had probably the best game of his career (12 points, 5-for-7 from the field) but his production was more than neutralized by Minnesota F Maurice Walker, who scored 18 points and grabbed nine boards. Additionally, the diminutive but speedy Deandre Mathieu killed the Badgers off the bounce all game (8-for-13, 18 points).
The most impressive part of the win for Minnesota is that they did it essentially without G Andre Hollins, who left the game with an injury 16 seconds into the game.
Thursday, Jan. 23
Illinois 55 at Ohio State 62
Yes, playing on the road is tough and yes, the Buckeyes play tough defense. Even so, watching the Illinois attempt to score the ball these days is a difficult thing to do. From my perspective, things don't seem a whole lot better on the offensive end than it was at the end of the Weber era.
The Illini's leading scorer, G Rayvonte Rice, had a horrific game, scoring zero points on 0-for-8 shooting. Illinois scored just 0.91 PPP and turned it over 15 times. Illinois brought a nice record into Big Ten play, but will definitely have to scratch and claw their way into the tournament field this season.
As for Ohio State, the win stopped a catastrophic four-game slide that saw them go from the No. 3 team in the country to, most likely, being knocked out of Big Ten title consideration.
Nebraska 54 at Penn State 58
This is the only game this week that I didn't really watch at all, but the Nittany Lions got their first Big Ten win of the season, at home, against a Huskers squad that had beaten Ohio State three days prior.
PSU trailed 29-22 at the half, and was down 41-33 with 11 minutes left to play, but the Nittany Lions embarked on a 14-4 run that gave them two-point lead. Penn State won the final two minutes of the game by a score of 10-2, propelling them to their first conference win of the season.
Saturday, Jan. 25
Iowa 76 at Northwestern 50
Northwestern had won three of their last four games coming into this one, but none of their wins came against a team in the conference's upper echelon. A win against Iowa would be on a whole different level, upset-wise, from NU's wins against Illinois, Indiana and Purdue.
The Wildcats mucked things up enough to go into the half down just 30-24, but, as was the case in previous losses, fatigue and the inability to make shots did them in during the second half. A couple of NU three-pointers kept NU in it for a few minutes to start the second half, but the Hawkeyes rattled off a 7-0 run that gave them an 11-point lead. The lead would never dip back into the single digits the rest of the way, as the Hawkeyes cruised to a solid road win.
Wisconsin 72 at Purdue 58
Like the Buckeyes, the Badgers grabbed a win to end a deflating losing streak. Loss at Northwestern notwithstanding, the Boilermakers had previously been playing some solid basketball, and, like just about every Big Ten venue, winning at Mackey Arena is never easy.
However, after three games in which the Hoosiers, Wolverines and Gophers eviscerated the Badgers' defense, UW held Purdue to just 58 points on 35.4 percent shooting and 0.90 PPP. Bo Ryan's defense looked like the UW defense of old.
With that said, Purdue's lack of outside shooting was a contributing factor. The Boilermakers shot an atrocious 17.6 percent from beyond the arc (3-for-17). They've got slashers and a true center in A.J. Hammons, but for whatever reason the Boilermakers just don't have much in the way of sharpshooters. The same is true for Indiana, which is sort of strange for two teams located in that state, where shooters aren't too hard to find.
Speaking of Hammons, foul troubles really killed him in the first half. In fact, he picked up his third 10 minutes into the first half, essentially making him a non-factor. The Boilermakers might've had a chance to do some damage down low, since Frank Kaminsky also picked up a relatively quick two fouls as well. But, once Hammons picked up his third, that opportunity went away.
Michigan 80 at Michigan State 75
I mean, you watched this game, right? You're not hearing about if for the first time right now as you read these words?
Sunday, Jan. 26
Illinois 46 at Indiana 56
This game was...not very good. And this is coming from someone who regularly watches entire Northwestern games.
Rayvonte Rice bounced back from his scoreless effort in Columbus to score 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting. Unfortunately for him, the rest of his team scored just 26 points. The Illini scored an absolutely, unbelievably bad 0.70 PPP, which has to be the worst performance by any Big Ten team this season (although I'm sure Northwestern has put up something close to that).
Whereas Rice went from horrendous to pretty good, G Joseph Bertrand did the opposite. After a nice game for him in Columbus, he scored two points on 1-for-11 shooting at Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers didn't exactly light it up offensively either, but 17 points from Yogi Ferrell and slightly more secondary scoring than Illinois managed was enough to snag a victory. It wasn't a pretty win, but it was an important one, since both of these teams figure to be positioned on or near the tournament bubble.
Minnesota 78 at Nebraska 82
The Gophers entered Lincoln with heaps and heaps of momentum, but they'd have to win at Pinnacle Bank Arena without the services of Andre Hollins, who left the UW game with an injury 16 seconds into that contest.
Offense was certainly not the issue for the Gophers, however. Michigan had trouble containing Terran Petteway on Jan. 9, but Petteway turned it up a notch or five against Minnesota on Sunday. Petteway scored a whopping 35 points on 10-for-15 shooting. As a team, the Huskers scored at a clip of 1.20 PPP. The Gophers defense was a sieve all night long and, despite a late charge, the offense couldn't quite make up the difference.
G Malik Smith sure did try, though. Smith went 8-for-12...from three. He finished with 29 points, and showed some two-play with three steals. Alas, it wasn't enough, as the Gophers only had one other player score in the double digits (Mathieu, 13 points).
A win at Pinnacle Bank Arena against a team that has proven to be sneakily dangerous would've been a solid feather in Minnesota's cap (at least for people who mostly just watch Big Ten basketball). Minnesota has a fairly manageable stretch coming up--Northwestern, at Purdue, Indiana--and does have an outside shot at snagging a first round bye in the Big Ten tournament. Unfortunately for the Gophers, they've already played their two competitors for that No. 4 spot (Ohio State and Wisconsin) at home. They go to the Kohl Center on Feb. 13 and Value City Arena on Feb. 22.
Even if the Gophers do finish 6th in the league, that would be a solid step forward for Minnesota under a first-year head coach. You can see the proto-version of the team Pitino wants to build at Minnesota, but they're not quite there yet. Andre Hollins's injury is something to monitor going forward, but it will be interesting to see where this team finishes.