Once again, quite a bit happened this past week, so let's get to it:
Tuesday, Feb. 18
Iowa was set to play at Assembly Hall in Bloomington; that is, until Assembly Hall, well, disassembled. That game was postponed.
Wednesday, Feb. 19
Northwestern 60 at Ohio State 76
It was a fun ride for the Wildcats, who somehow sat at 5-5 in the Big Ten after their Feb. 1 win at Minnesota. However, the rest of the month of February has been unkind to Chris Collins's squad. This loss in Columbus marked the fourth straight for the 'Cats--they would go on to lose again on Saturday.
However, even during this losing slide, Northwestern has been far more competitive than they looked to start the Big Ten season, which began with three straight blowouts against Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan. Whether Collins can get to the 'Cats to the tournament during his time in Evanston remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: he has them on the right track.
As for Ohio State, 76 points against a stingy, slow-it-down team like Northwestern is a far more laudable accomplishment than you might think. Four starters scored in the double figures. Northwestern's JerShon Cobb, who had a monster game in the home loss against Minnesota last week, put up just eight points on 3-for-10 shooting.
Illinois 62 at Minnesota 49
Minnesota has been an odd team to watch this season. At times, you see Pitino's vision for the program coming through, and the Gophers have looked tremendous at times, especially during wins against Wisconsin and Ohio State.
With that said, a 6-8 Big Ten mark is indicative of a team that just isn't doing those things on a consistent basis. After taking a 27-24 lead into the half, the Gophers struggled mightily in the second, which the Illini won 38-22.
Needless to say, losing at home to Illinois is not something a team that wants to make the tournament, you know, wants to do. A win would have put the Gophers at 7-7, a record that would have probably offered far more comfort on paper than 6-8 does.
Minnesota turned it over 15 times, shot just 16 percent from three and allowed Kendrick Nunn to score 19 on 7-for-13 shooting (5-for-7 from three).
Thursday, Feb. 20
Michigan State 94 at Purdue 79
It would be Purdue's luck that in the game they actually shoot pretty well from three (7-for-14), they still get trounced; Michigan State buried 17 threes en route to 1.43 PPP.
Penn State 67 at Nebraska 80
While Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill scored a combined 34 points, they did it via a combined 33 percent from the field. Meanwhile, Terran Petteway did what Terran Petteway often does: score a lot of points. Petteway dropped 26 this time, including a 14-for-19 mark from the free throw line.
Saturday, Feb. 22
Wisconsin 79 at Iowa 74
Don't look now, but the Badgers have quite the head of steam at just about the perfect time. Bo Ryan's squad rolled into Iowa City on Saturday and picked up its fifth win in a row--at this point, that 1-5 stretch is nothing but a strange fever dream.
Although the Hawkeyes were able to not only erase their nine-point halftime deficit but take a four-point lead late, UW battled, hitting big shot after big shot. Josh Gasser in particular hit a pair of absolutely clutch threes at the 9:50 and 4:05 marks to help the Badgers keep pace with the speedy, high-scoring Hawkeyes.
Down one with a minute to play after a Josh Oglesby jumper gave the Hawks the lead, Frank Kaminsky made the two biggest plays of a half replete with big plays. First, Kaminsky scored to put the Badgers ahead and on the defensive end Kaminsky forced a Roy Devyn Marble turnover. After that, it was off to free throw city, where Kaminsky and Traevon Jackson went 6-for-6 in the final 25 seconds.
Despite a tough game for freshman F Nigel Hayes, UW somehow out-offensive rebounded the Hawks (13-11). With Melsahn Basabe out, Iowa's starting frontcourt (Zach McCabe-Aaron White-Adam Woodbury) scored a combined eight points. White, who has disappeared at times this season, can't score four in a game like that.
In a somewhat unlikely twist, UW freshman Bronson Koenig scored 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting. The freshman is definitely talented, but he hadn't done much all season on the score sheet. He picked a good time to change that, though.
Minnesota 46 at Ohio State 64
In a about a month, Minnesota's hype needle has shifted from "hey this is actually looking pretty good" to "no no no no." As great as the Gophers looked against the Buckeyes on Jan. 16, they were absolutely dreadful in this one in the second half, just like the Illinois game.
In fact, Minnesota actually took a 28-18 lead into the half, but then went on to lose the second by a score of 46-18. An Andre Hollins three (Minnesota's only second half triple*) made it 38-35 Buckeyes with 12:10 left to play. From there it was all Ohio State, but the Minnesota offense's penchant for going dormant for long stretches didn't exactly help.
At 6-9, the Gophers will have to beat Iowa at The Barn, Michigan at Crisler and Penn State back at The Barn just to finish .500. If Minnesota's recently play is any indication, that's probably not going to happen.
Indiana 61 at Northwestern 56
Northwestern continues its streak of tough close losses on Saturday against the struggling Hoosiers. For the second time in three games, Drew Crawford had a pretty rough night for the Wildcats, shooting just 2-for-10 from the field. How NU is able to even get into the 50s with its best player not shooting the ball well is a mystery, but this whole Northwestern basketball season has straddled the blurry line of demarcation between real basketball and dream basketball.
Was Northwestern at one point 5-5 in the Big Ten? Did Northwestern win at The Barn and the Kohl Center and Assembly Hall?
Did any of this really happen? I look at the schedule, which tells me that it did, but it's hard to be sure.
Sunday, Feb. 23
Purdue 57 at Nebraska 76
Nebraska is no longer "sneaky good"--they're a team to be reckoned with. No, they're not a Big Ten title contender this year, and it remains to be seen whether Tim Miles and Co. can parlay this momentum into something more.
With that said, Miles has done an unbelievable job in Lincoln this season. As surprising as Northwestern's 5-5 conference start was, Nebraska currently sitting at 8-6 is pretty surprising in its own right.
It's a broken record at this point, but Petteway scored 29 points--indeed, Petteway has scored all the points this season. Has somebody scored in a college basketball game somewhere in America? It was Terran Petteway. In fact, he just roams from arena to arena, jumping onto the floor during live action and firing three-pointers, each release like a sustaining burst of oxygen.
As for Purdue, Matt Painter still seems to have the curious habit of playing seemingly everyone in the state of Indiana in a given game. I don't really understand the minutes distribution for Purdue this season, but I suppose the Boilermakers have far bigger problems than that: poor outside shooting, a defense that is nowhere near as tough as it used to be and an offensive centerpiece in A.J. Hammons who tends to shift from All Big Ten force to apparition without notice.
Michigan State 70 at Michigan 79
A lot of people in the postgame recap comments seemed to want to focus on Michigan State fans' reaction to the game than Michigan's performance--that is a shame, because Michigan played an excellent game. Not only did they battle back from a double-digit deficit, they held a solid lead through most of the second half.
Also, Nik Stauskas realized that with a shorter defender on him, he can just rise and fire with ease. He did that against Keith Appling over and over again with great success. Along with Caris LeVert, the two sophomores made for a nearly unstoppable duo against the Spartans, who just didn't have an answer for either of them.
Although Stauskas and LeVert got all the praise, Glenn Robinson III quietly had an efficient game, being aggressive when he had to and doing the things he's always done (i.e. dunk impressively) when given the opportunity. In any case, it was a much better performance for GRIII than the one he had in East Lansing.