It was a snowy day here yesterday in the Chicagoland area and the roads were treacherous...but not as treacherous as home court was for teams from Michigan on Sunday. SEGUE!
Tuesday, Feb. 11
Michigan 70 at Ohio State 60
Well, this was a nice way to bounce back from the Iowa debacle, eh? Michigan has looked mortal of late, sure, but any season that includes wins in Madison, East Lansing and Columbus is a pretty darn good one.
Wednesday, Feb. 12
Penn State 66 at Indiana 65
This was the night of crazy games--although the Pitt-Syracuse game got most of the attention on this night, this was a pretty exciting one down the stretch too. The Nittany Lions didn't have a great night from inside the arc but went 8-for-19 from three (42 percent). Tim Frazier went just 3-for-10 from the field, but no matter--he scored the biggest bucket of the game, a layup with six seconds left to play to give PSU the lead and, after a Yogi Ferrell miss, the win.
The song remains the same for Penn State: they're a very dangerous team, good enough to win on the road against just about anyone in the conference. As for IU, things are pretty ugly right now in Bloomington. It's mind-boggling to think that this is the same program that produced the IU teams of the last two seasons. Sure, a great deal of talent was lost, but the dropoff in overall competence has been remarkable.
Illinois 58 at Nebraska 67
The good news for Illinois? The somewhat mercurial Rayvonte Rice dropped 23 on the Cornhuskers. The bad? Well, the rest of the team scored a combined 35 points. As a team, the Illini shot just 36.7 percent from the field.
Although we've come to expect firework from Terran Petteway, this time it was Shavon Shield bringing the flash. Shields scored a whopping 33 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field. Nebraska, like Penn State, is in the same mold of "not a tournament team but still incredibly terrifying to have to play."
Thursday, Feb. 13
Northwestern 70 at Michigan State 85
Unfortunately for the #B1GCats, the grit train has run out of steam in the past 10 days, with a blowout in East Lansing bookended by tough home losses against Nebraska and Minnesota. There's not much to say here other than the Spartans took care of business, which I'm sure would happen again on Sunday against the Cornhuskers...insert DUN DUN DUNNN noise here.
Minnesota 70 at Wisconsin 78
The Gophers have gotten some nice wins at home this season, but didn't really have anything to show for themselves in the contests away from The Barn. Well, they still don't, unless you count Sunday's win at Welsh-Ryan.
The Gophs got a tremendous performance from Andre Hollins, whom they previously sorely missed--the shorter Hollins scored 22 points, including a 4-for-6 mark from three. As a team, Minnesota shot an amazing 53 percent from downtown.
However, they couldn't get much going at all inside the arc, and the Badgers sliced and diced them on offense with some serious offensive balance. Kaminsky had 17, Dekker had 10, Brust pitched in 20 and freshman F Nigel Hayes added 15 off of the bench. Add 7 and 9 points from Gasser and Jackson, respectively, and you've got a team that is pretty hard to beat, especially at the Kohl Center (their previous struggles notwithstanding).
Saturday, Feb. 15
Iowa 82 at Penn State 70
The Nittany Lions led, 33-31, at the half. Then, the Hawkeye offense did what it typically does: it absolutely destroyed Penn State in the second half. Iowa scored a whopping 51 points in the second frame, and four of five starters scored at least 13 points.
PSU shot just 18.8 percent from three as a team, and Tim Frazier went just 4-for-17; that's not a recipe for success, especially against an Iowa team that can bury you and fast.
Don't look now, but with a win in Bloomington tonight, Iowa will be just one game behind Michigan and Michigan State.
Indiana 64 at Purdue 82
It's been a disappointing year of basketball for the Indiana teams; the lack of outside shooting for both squads has been somewhat puzzling to watch, especially with respect to the Hoosiers, who had shots the lights out the past two seasons.
On this day, however, the Boilermakers connected from three-point land on 55.6 percent of their 18 attempts. The Johnsons pitched in a combined 30 points, while Sterling Carter dropped 19, with a 5-for-6 mark from three. I guess this was Purdue's way of letting out some frustration--what better time to do it than against your in-state rival?
Ohio State 48 at Illinois 39
I didn't watch this one; I'm really glad I didn't it. I mean, just look at that score. Do I need to say anything about this game? The answer is no.
Sunday, Feb. 16
Wisconsin 75 at Michigan 62
Zach recapped this after the game on Sunday, but, simply put, the Badgers brought their A game. Michigan (i.e. Caris LeVert) did well to battle back and make it a 3-point game after having been down 18 earlier, but you kind of knew the comeback effort would fizzle out that way. Michigan had zero answer this time around for Frank Kaminsky, who shot over and went around Michigan's post defenders all game.
Luckily, the loss for Michigan was not as debilitating as initially thought because...
Nebraska 60 at Michigan State 51
Ah, right, 2013-14 Nebraska basketball. Shields had a quiet one after dropping 33 against Illinois, but Petteway scored 23 and big man Walter Pitchford dropped 18 on 4-for-9 shooting from three. I bet John Beilein wishes he had Pitchford was in maize and blue, that's for sure.
Keith Appling played, but only 19 minutes, during which he attempted two field goals and turned it over twice to one assist.
The Huskers battled the Spartans just about evenly on the glass, took care of the ball (five turnovers) and buried just enough triples to knock off MSU. At this point, nothing Nebraska does is surprising.
Minnesota 54 at Northwestern 48
I actually ended up going to this game--there really wasn't anything notable about it. Northwestern did what it does, mucking the game up and staying with a far more talented squad for far longer than they ought to.
Unfortunately for Chris Collins's squad, despite an excellent game from JerShon Cobb (23 points, 8-for-13 from the field, Drew Crawford had a truly abominable game. I didn't really realize it during the game, but boy was he off: Crawford went 1-for-15 from the field. He scored two points. He is Northwestern's best player.
They still only lost by six at home despite not scoring from the 7:10 mark of the second half until there were just 15 seconds left. That is 2013-14 Northwestern basketball in a nutshell--a statistical oddity, a black hole of logic, a paradoxically fun yet terrible team to watch.
As for Welsh-Ryan, it was my first trip there and yes, while it does have a very high school gym feel to it, I'm actually kind of a fan. It's not a very big arena, obviously, and it's certainly not imposing in any way. But, it's cozy, and there's something nice about a venue that isn't top-of-the-line stuff all over the place. Maybe it's a Chicago thing (and I'm not even a Cubs fan). Similarly, I think Ryan Field is actually a fairly underrated venue.
In any case, after winning four of five, the Wildcats have lost three in a row. It would take a 4-1 finish for the Wildcats to finish with a .500 Big Ten record. Even if they lose out, though, the 2013-14 Northwestern basketball season has been far more successful than anybody imagined. Yes, this is faint praise, but you have to start somewhere--the Wildcats appear to be on the right track.