Tuesday, Feb. 25
Iowa 89 at Minnesota 95
Somehow, the Golden Gophers put up 95 after scoring under 55 in their previous three games against Northwestern, Illinois and Ohio State. How did they do it? Well, 27 from Austin Hollins on 8-for-10 shooting, 19 from Deandre Mathieu and a team 3-point shooting mark of 57.9 percent certainly helps.
Iowa has seemingly forgotten how to defend in recent weeks, but this game was just another chapter in the weighty tome "Anybody Can Win Any Time In The Big Ten." Is that a horrible title for a book? Yes, yes it is.
Indiana 58 at Wisconsin 69
Meanwhile, lost among the celebration of Michigan fans is the fact that Wisconsin has been playing the most consistent basketball of any Big Ten squad in recent weeks. This win was UW's sixth straight, an especially impressive one since they were down 10 at the half after putting up just 19 points in the first frame.
In the second, UW came out firing, eventually dropping a whopping 50 points in the final 20 minutes. I'm not going to calculate the PPP for that, but let's just guesstimate it at around eleventy billion points per possession for the Badgers. Even more impressive? The Badgers turned it over just three times all game. Actually, that isn't really so surprising for a Bo Ryan squad, but that doesn't mean it still isn't a great feat. The Badgers just don't hurt themselves.
The Badgers lean heavily on their starters, true, but when they get double-digit point totals from all five of them, that's good enough to beat most teams out there, even when Nigel Hayes has a quiet game off of the bench (1-for-2, 4 points).
Wednesday, Feb. 26
Michigan 77 at Purdue 76
I recapped this last week, but, yeah--Michigan showed great resolve in battling back from an early 27-8 deficit, at which point it seemed like Michigan could do no right and Purdue no wrong. But, somehow, Michigan got it to overtime, and then, well...you know what happened.
Nebraska 49 at Illinois 60
As disappointing as this season has been for the folks in Champaign, the Illini have actually showed signs of life of late, with wins in four of their last six games. The Illini held Nebraska to just one double-digit scorer (Terran Petteway scored a measly, by his standards, 12 points), turned the Huskers over 15 times and shot a solid 37.5 percent from three as a team.
Illinois might not be going dancing this season, but this was a solid home victory against a Nebraska squad that I think has crossed the threshold from "dangerous" to "good Big Ten squad."
Thursday, Feb. 27
Ohio State 63 at Penn State 65
After a three-game win streak earlier in the conference season (including an overtime win in Columbus), the Nittany Lions struggled. But, they rekindled that earlier magic against the Buckeyes, tallying another win and completing the season sweep.
D.J. Newbill tallied 23 points (11 of them from the free throw line) and PSU somehow ground out the win despite turning it over 15 times. It says something that an upset like this doesn't even merit even a disinterested shrug anymore.
Iowa 86 at Indiana 93
As tough as this season has been for the Hoosiers, nobody can say they haven't beaten their share of big name squads at Assembly Hall this season. Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State a few days later have all fallen in Bloomington this season.
To be honest, I wouldn't be in panic mode if I were an Iowa fan. A three-game losing streak during which they gave up 79, 95 and 93 points in each game is bad any way you look at it; however, you just have to think that in tournament play, that offense will be enough to overwhelm at least their first two opponents in the tournament. After that, yes, the Hawkeyes will have to figure out a way to fix that defense, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Hawkeyes made a serious run in the Big Ten tournament, this recent slide notwithstanding.
Saturday, March 1
Illinois 53 at Michigan State 46
Hey, it's March! I guess it's time for the madness to begin. Well, the Big Ten sort of got a headstart on that, but, nonetheless there was a little madness on this Saturday. The Illini went to East Lansing and knocked off the Spartans, holding them to just 46 points.
Branden Dawson made his return to the floor and pitched in seven rebounds and six points, but, other than Gary Harris (19 points), no one else was on for the Spartans. Adreian Payne scored just four points on a somewhat mystifying five attempts (I didn't catch this game, so I really have no explanation for this).
Keith Appling and Denzel Valentine turned it over four and five times, respectively. As a team, the Spartans coughed it up 16 times, making for the third straight game the Illini defense has forced 15+ turnovers. I'm not sure if that's a trend just yet, but hey, forced turnovers generally means consistent defensive effort, which is a great sign this late in a disappointing season if you're an Illini fan.
Northwestern 47 at Nebraska 54
It was fun while it lasted for the Wildcats, who have performed admirably all season despite being out-everything-ed by every Big Ten squad. Despite an impressive 20-point effort from C Alex Olah, the Wildcats just didn't have enough offensive punch without the services of the injured JerShon Cobb.
Petteway had an off game (3-for-10, 10 points), but Shavon Shields came up with a double-double to make up for it (17 points, 10 rebounds).
Minnesota 56 at Michigan State
Two Big Ten titles in three seasons: need anything else be said?
Sunday, March 2
Wisconsin 71 at Penn State 66
Wisconsin kept, well, on, as they notched their seventh straight win, paced by Josh Gasser's 15 points. Penn State shot a putrid 7.7 percent from beyond the arc (1-for-13), while the Badgers went 8-for-24. That was just the difference in a game in which Penn State actually shot a very good 60 percent from inside the arc.
Ohio State 64 at Indiana 72
The Buckeyes were even worse from three than Penn State was in its loss against Wisconsin, going 0-for-11 from beyond the arc. The Hoosiers shot 39 percent from there, and that was really all she wrote. Ohio State actually shot two more free throws than Indiana and turned the Hoosiers over 18 times, but the Buckeyes just couldn't hit outside shots.
And really, for as much people like to analyze the game of basketball, that's all it comes down to: making shots.
Purdue 76 at Iowa 83
The good news for the Hawkeyes is that the losing skid is over, but they did give up 76 points in the process. But, big games from Aaron White, Mike Gesell and Roy Devyn Marble were enough to hold off the Boilermakers, who trailed by 13 at the half but battled back to trail by just one with four minutes left in the game.
The Hawkeyes won the final four minutes by a score of 14-8 and thus the game. I'm sure Iowa fans would have preferred a good old-fashion blowout, but maybe this sort of a win was exactly what the struggling Hawkeyes needed to get back in gear before post-season play.
And that's it for this past week--enjoy the final week of this maddeningly brilliant season of regular season Big Ten basketball.