Let's get right to it:
Tuesday, Feb. 4
Ohio State 76 at Iowa 69
After the Buckeyes lost five of six games, it would have been easy to dismiss them. But, don't look now, the Buckeyes are on a bit of a roll, having win three in a row, including road games in Madison and Iowa City.
Ohio State gave up 84 points to the high-octane Hawkeyes earlier this season in Columbus--this time around, they conceded just 69, a respectable number against an offense as strong as Iowa's. Even more importantly, it was more than enough to pull out a huge road win.
Four Buckeye starters scored in the double-digits, including Aaron Craft's 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting. Meanwhile, Aaron White went just 3-for-9 from the field (8 points), and Hawkeye reserve Zach McCabe had an even worse evening from the field (1-for-8).
Iowa would finally get its marquee win on Saturday against Michigan, but the loss to the Buckeyes made for the Hawkeyes' second straight loss at home.
Wisconsin 75 at Illinois 63
Like the Buckeyes, the Badgers moved forward from a 1-5 stretch with a key road victory. While the Illini aren't exactly the Hawkeyes in terms of quality, a road win is a road win.
UW, paced by 16 points apiece from Sam Dekker and Ben Brust, as well as 14 points off of the bench from freshman F Nigel Hayes, handled the Illini with relative ease. Then again, it doesn't hurt when you shoot 43.5 percent as a team from beyond the arc.
Wednesday, Feb. 5
Nebraska 50 at Michigan 79
I recapped this last week, but there's not much to add here. Faced with a dangerous Nebraska team, Michigan kept Terran Petteway in check and cruised to a comfortable victory at home.
Minnesota 74 at Purdue 77 (3OT)
This was the game that didn't end (that is, until it did). The Gophers continued their post-Andre-Hollins-injury slide, dropping their third straight in a triple overtime thriller last Wednesday.
Despite getting big contributions from Maurice Walker (17 points) and Joey King (14 points), Richard Pitino's squad couldn't find a way to make a play to win it at the end of the second overtime or to keep the game going at the end of the third overtime period.
The Gophers were looking pretty good after a pair of home victories against Ohio State and Wisconsin, but they followed that up with three straight losses. Somehow, Minnesota and Purdue had the same Big Ten record after this one (4-6).
Thursday, Feb. 6
Penn State 67 at Michigan State 82
Adreian Payne returned for the Spartans in this one, but this was offset by the loss of Keith Appling to injury. Nonetheless, Michigan State raced to a 16-point lead at the half, and didn't allow Penn State to crawl back into it in the second. Denzel Valentine notched a double-double for the Spartans (11 points, 11 rebounds) and the Spartans shot 52.2 percent from three.
Penn State F Brandon Taylor was held to just two points on the night--Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill scoring 22 and 17 points, respectively, but the Nittany Lions failed to get much production elsewhere.
In any case, it was a nice return to form for the Spartans, particularly after a humbling loss to a bad Georgetown squad in Madison Square Garden.
Saturday, Feb. 8
Nebraska 53 at Northwestern 49
Sadly, the Wildcats' stretch of odds-defying success came to an end when the Huskers rolled into Evanston on Saturday, grinding out a 4-point win after Northwestern had held them to just 16 points in the first half.
You have give credit to both Chris Collins and the Wildcat player for executing their gameplan these last couple of weeks. With little depth and not much in the way of offensive firepower, they've found a way to win five more Big Ten games than many thought they'd win all season.
Even in this loss, Northwestern held Petteway to 5-for-16 from the field, a not incredibly efficient performance, even if he did finish with 17 points.
However, after a first half in which the Wildcats stymied the Huskers in a big way, Walter Pitchford went off early in the second half. Nebraska took the lead 5:24 into the second frame, and the Wildcats never held a lead the rest of the way.
After going down eight with just over five minutes to play, the Wildcats did rattle off an 8-0 run to tie things up. Unfortunately for NU, Nebraska made a couple of more plays down the stretch, enough to earn a win in Evanston that is far more impressive now than it would have been earlier this season.
Purdue 49 at Ohio State 67
The Boilermakers actually did okay from beyond the arc in this game (38.5 percent), but got just 13 combined points from non-Hammons starters (Hammons scored 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting). Additionally, Purdue had no answer for LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith, who scored a combined 33 points on 12-for-20 shooting.
After a Terone Johnson three, Purdue was down just 48-45 with 9:22 left to play. That was the good news. The bad news for Matt Painter and Co.? They scored just four more points the rest of the way. And that is how a game that was close though 30 minutes ended up an 18-point defeat for Purdue, who couldn't build on the momentum of their emotional victory against the Gophers in West Lafayette.
Michigan 67 at Iowa 85
As with the Nebraska game, I already recapped this one...but, in a nutshell: Iowa brought it, Michigan did not. It happens, but that doesn't mean this wasn't a concerning performance, especially vis-a-vis Nik Stauskas's recent struggles.
Indiana 60 at Minnesota 66
Andre Hollins returned to the lineup for the Gophers, and, not surprisingly, they got back on the winning track, a key win for a team whose tournament aspirations are still sort of up in the air.
Naturally, after torching Michigan six days prior, Yogi Ferrell went just 2-for-9 from 3-point land. That, plus Indiana's 16 turnovers, doomed them in The Barn, even though Noah Vonleh tallied a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds).
As for the Gophers, Andre Hollins tallied 10 points in his return to the floor, but DeAndre Mathieu--who has become one of my favorite non-Wolverine Big Ten players to watch--was the star of the game, with his 16 points and five assists.
With the victory, the Gophers inched back to within one game of a .500 conference record. Indiana, on the other hand, fell to 4-6. The Hoosiers get Penn State at home next, then travel to West Lafayette for a rivalry tilt against the Boilermakers. If IU doesn't win both of those games, things start to look a little dicey in Bloomington as far as making the tournament goes.
Illinois 60 at Penn State
It's been a rough conference season for the Illini, but they did show signs of life on Sunday, snapping an 8-game losing streak and recording their first Big Ten road win of the season.
G Kendrick Nunn paced the Illini with 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting, enough to overcome Rayvonte Rice's 2-for-8 mark from the field.
D.J. Newbill matched Nunn with 19 points of his own, but the Nittany Lions got just seven bench points to the Illini's 17. Both teams shot under 40 percent from the field and neither squad turned it over very often (six turnovers apiece), so the edge in bench points for Illinois was likely the difference in the victory.
Unless the Illini miraculously win out, a tournament bid is not in the cards for them this season--nonetheless, Sunday's win was a good start for a squad looking to finish head down the stretch of the Big Ten season with some good feelings.
Michigan State 58 at Wisconsin 60
This was the game of the week, as the Badgers picked up their second straight win, not to mention a marquee victory against No. 9 Michigan State.
Despite not having PG Keith Appling for a second straight game, the Spartans battled all the way through, even after taking an 8-point deficit into the half. Adreian Payne certainly came to play, dropping 24 points on 9-for-16 shooting and generally looking like his pre-injury self. Without his effort, the Spartans would have suffered a double-digit defeat in Madison.
The Badgers didn't light up the scoreboard, but they did get decent balance, with 11 points apiece from Sam Dekker and Josh Gasser, 10 from Frank Kaminsky and 14 from Nigel Hayes off of the bench. Based on what I've seen, Hayes is the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Now, you can obviously make a case for Noah Vonleh or even Derrick Walton if he continues to improve), Hayes's ability to bull his way to points in the paint and get to the free throw line has been a remarkable thing to see from a true freshman. While Bo Ryan's program isn't necessarily know for recruiting big time players in terms of star rankings, Hayes, a four-star out of Ohio, was an enormous get for the Badgers, especially given the departures of frontcourters like Mike Brusewitz, Jared, Berggren and Ryan Evans.
As for the game, the Badgers edged the Spartans from beyond the arc, shooting 39.1 percent to MSU's 26.3 percent, enough to get the win despite an uncharacteristic 14 turnovers.
Traevon Jackson, a guy who has reached John Navarre-esque levels of criticism in Madison for his occasionally erratic shooting and turnover issues, won some redemption in this one.
After turning it over five times, Jackson stepped up big in the end. Payne buried a triple to tie the game at 58 with eight seconds to play. But, on the ensuing possession, Jackson drove left with a purpose on Gary Harris, pulled up and splashed a mid-range jumper to give the Badgers a 2-point lead. With only two seconds remaining, the Spartans couldn't come up with a miracle shot to win it, and the Badgers pulled to above .500 in the conference for the first time since they moved to 4-3 after the Jan. 25 victory at Purdue.
As for the Spartans, a startlingly poor 3-for-20 mark from the field for Gary Harris somehow didn't sink the Spartans before the final minute of the game. On the other hand, when your star shoots like that and you still have a chance to win it in the end, you sort of have to just tip your hat and utter the motto of 2013-14 Big Ten basketball: It happens.
Of course, the game had implications for Michigan: with the loss, the Spartans' second Big Ten defeat, they once again find themselves tied with the Wolverines at the top of the standings. The Feb. 23 meeting will go a long way toward determining which team finishes the season on top; that is, of course, if the Hawkeyes don't have something to say about that. They currently sit two games behind the Wolverines and Spartans, but there is still a lot of basketball to be played.
There you have it. Even in a week with several blowouts and a few other forgettable games, the Big Ten still churned out some barnburners. With about a month left to go, you can be sure that at a least a few more heart-stoppers are coming to a Big Ten venue near you.