Due to a move, I didn't get to watch a lot of non-Michigan hoops this past weekend. Nonetheless, it was another exciting, strange week in Big Ten hoops--do I even need to say this at this point in the season?--so let's get right to it:
Tuesday, Jan. 28
Michigan State 71 at Iowa 69
The Spartans faced the unenviable task of making the trip to Carver-Hawkeye Arena just a few days after their emotional loss to the Wolverines in East Lansing. Still without Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson, another loss could've meant the beginning of a mini-tailspin for Tom Izzo's squad.
Of course, that's not how it went down. The Spartans, paced by 16 points from Keith Appling (3-for-6 from three) and a double-double from Matt Costello (11 points, 12 rebounds), held Iowa to a respectable 1.03 points per possession. Aaron White, who has had trouble getting involved in the offense of late, made just one field goal on the evening (1-for-4)--he finished with 10 points, most of them from the line (8-for-8).
Down six with six minutes left to play, the Spartans were in danger of letting the game get away. Luckily for them, an Appling three and two straight Costello buckets at the rim gave them a 1-point edge. Tied at 61 with under a minute to play, the Hawkeyes failed to convert on their last offensive possession, sending the game to overtime.
With the Spartans up three with 33 seconds remaining in the overtime period, Russell Byrd (of all people) buried a triple to give the Spartans a 6-point lead that was too much for the Hawkeyes to overcome. It was a big time win for the short-handed Spartans, also further discrediting the notion that Michigan's win at the Breslin Center wasn't a good one.
As for the Hawkeyes, failing to hold serve at home has to hurt, especially as it puts a serious dent in their Big Ten title hopes. Additionally, Iowa is still looking for a true marquee win. A pair of drubbings against Northwestern looks more impressive now than they previously did, their pasting of Minnesota was certainly a decent win and winning in Columbus is always a laudable feat (even if the Buckeyes aren't in their usual form this season). Even so, the Hawkeyes need to beat Michigan and Michigan State the next time around, for seeding purposes.
Wednesday, Jan. 29
Penn State 71 at Ohio State 70
Yes, the Big Ten is indeed crazy, if you hadn't already noticed. The Nittany Lions, who have had trouble closing out games this season, scored a major win on the road in Columbus, even if you factor Ohio State's struggles coming into this game.
As he tends to do, D.J. Newbill went off for Penn State, dropping 25 points in 43 minutes. Not only did Newbill bury a three with 12 seconds left to tie the game (and eventually send it to overtime), he crossed over Aaron Craft in stunning fashion and splashed a jumper from the right elbow to put Penn State ahead with two seconds left in the overtime period.
Whether it's Newbill, Northwestern's Tre Demps and Drew Crawford or Nebraska's Terran Petteway, this conference is full of players who can beat you, no matter where you sit in the standings.
Northwestern 65 at Wisconsin 56
Naturally, the craziness didn't end with the upset in Columbus. Later that night, the Wildcats traveled a few hours north to Madison, looking to snag their first win there since 1996. After a 16-0 start to the season, the Badgers have struggled mightily of late; those struggles continued against the ridiculous anomaly that is 2013-14 Northwestern basketball.
Northwestern led by 15 with just under four minutes to play, but the Badgers' press got to the Wildcats, who had trouble handling it on numerous occasions. You have to wonder why the Badgers didn't press a little sooner, but, of course, hindsight is 20/20. UW cut the deficit down to six with 41 seconds remaining, but didn't have enough time to claw their way back out of the hole they'd dug themselves.
Thursday, Jan. 30
Indiana 55 at Nebraska 60
Nebraska's success at Pinnacle Bank Arena continued, as the sneakily dangerous Huskers knocked off Indiana, with four starters scoring in the double digits, led by Petteway's 18 points. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers turned it over a whopping 19 times while scoring just 0.93 points per possession.
Despite Yogi Ferrell's 4-for-7 mark from beyond the arc, the rest of the team went just 1-for-8 from downtown, a running theme this season for the Hoosiers. IU led by 16 points with two minutes remaining the in the first half; they lost the second half by a score of 41-23, and, thus, the game.
Purdue 66 at Michigan 75
Zach had the recap for this one, but, in a nutshell, Michigan was uncharacteristically sloppy (16 turnovers) and still cruised to a Big Ten win with relative ease. Although A.J. Hammons flashes the sort of skill that conversely makes Purdue fans scratch their heads when he doesn't show up, the Boilermakers' awful 2-for-14 mark from three doomed them. Like their in-state rivals, shooting the three has been a harrowing affair for the Boilermakers this season.
Saturday, Feb. 1
Ohio State 59 at Wisconsin 58
If you told me that the Badgers would lose five of their next six games after starting 16-0, I likely would've called you a crazy person. Well, turns out this hypothetical soothsayer isn't so crazy after all, as the Badgers dropped another one at the Kohl Center on Saturday. The Kohl Center mystique has taken a few hits of late; more important than unquantifiable things like that, however, is the fact that the Badgers' offense has come back down to earth after an ultra-efficient start to the season.
Another poor shooting performance from the Dekker-Kaminsky-Jackson trio (combined 5-for-21) doomed the Badgers, who shot just 17.6 percent from three (17 attempts). The outside shots have stopped falling for the Badgers, and while the defense tightened up a bit against Purdue and the Buckeyes on Saturday, the offense's recent struggles are a major concern in Badgerland.
As for the Buckeyes, a win at the Kohl Center is a big deal, even if the Badgers are struggling. It was especially impressive coming off of a gutpunch of an OT loss against Penn State. This year's Buckeyes aren't going to win any high-scoring games, but they can still lock you down like they always have.
Northwestern 55 at Minnesota 54
Northwestern has without question become the most interesting team in the Big Ten, simply due to their puzzling ability to keep winning despite a hilarious disparity in their offensive and defensive numbers.
The momentum the Gophers had generated after wins against Ohio State and Wisconsin has evaporated following consecutive losses against Nebraska and Northwestern. Of course, Andre Hollins's absence is a major factor, but going 3-for-14 from beyond the arc didn't exactly help. After a heroic effort from 3-point land against Nebraska, Minnesota's Malik Smith went just 1-for-9 against the stingy Wildcats.
At this point, it seems like the Wildcats can beat any team in the conference if the game is a in-the-50s slog. It is paradoxically fun yet not fun to watch. Regardless, no matter what happens the rest of the way, Chris Collins's first season in Evanston can already be considered a big success, even after a rough non-conference run and three blowouts to start the conference slate. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it'll be really interesting to see what Collins can do in Evanston once he gets some of his own recruits in the program.
Michigan State 60 at Georgetown 64
I didn't get to watch this one, but I don't know if watching it would've offered much more clarity than I currently have about this loss. How? What? Why? These are the relevant questions when pondering the state of the Big Ten basketball landscape. Luckily for the Spartans, this game didn't really matter, being an oddly placed non-conference game and all, but dropping one to a team that is 3-6 in the Big East is just...odd.
As he typically does, Gary Harris poured it in, scoring 20 points on 7-for-16 shooting. However, the rest of the team mustered up just 40 additional points. A 3-pointer from Georgetown's Reggie Cameron to start the second half gave the Hoyas a lead that they wouldn't relinquish for the remainder of the game.
Iowa 81 at Illinois 74
This is another one that I didn't get to catch--nonetheless, a win on the road is always a nice to way to rebuild some confidence, especially after the OT loss against the Spartans at CHA.
Aaron White got a little more involved this time around, scoring 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field. The Illini got 20 points from Joseph Bertrand, but they didn't quite get enough elsewhere to match the Iowa offense, which rebounded a whopping 50 percent of its misses.
Sunday, Feb. 2
Purdue 68 at Penn State 79
After winning three straight games earlier in the Big Ten season, the Boilermakers dropped their fourth straight on Sunday at Penn State. Once again, Purdue had a hard time connecting from beyond the arc (27.3 percent). Hammons dropped 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting, but it wasn't enough to overcome PSU's talented trio of D.J. Newbill, Tim Frazier and Brandon Taylor.
Michigan 52 at Indiana 63
Zach covered this one with the postgame recap, but this one was basically Duke redux. The Hoosiers locked up Nik Stauskas, forcing the offense to run through Caris LeVert. While LeVert made plenty of plays, he couldn't do it on his own, just like the game at Cameron Indoor.
Michigan couldn't hit shots (40 percent from the field overall, 3-for-13 from three), while IU's Yogi Ferrell went off from beyond the arc (7-for-8). As has been the theme all over the Big Ten this season, one dynamite performance can be enough to undo a favorite in just about any matchup between two Big Ten squads. This time around, it was Ferrell and his 27 points.
Michigan obviously was not going to go 18-0 in the Big Ten this season, and winning at Assembly Hall is always tough, no matter how the Hoosiers are doing in any given season. Nonetheless, many people wondered what would happen if the Wolverines didn't shoot the lights out in a particular game--well, we saw what happened on Sunday in Bloomington. The Wolverines had a chance to win it if they had made a few plays down the stretch, but those plays never came.
Michigan doesn't have time to dwell on the loss, as the dangerous Nebraska Cornhuskers come to Ann Arbor on Wednesday.