I went into this week thinking surely there would be one, perhaps two ranked Big Ten teams that fell in the midweek games. After all, the middle of the Big Ten is an absolute mess of teams that are all about equally good and legimitely could go dancing. Hell, most media outlets are predicting 8-10 Big Ten teams this year, which is fantastic. That being said, I surely did not expect every single one of my predicted “upsets” of ranked teams to occur but they did! Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin all fell this week as full conference play kicked off.
Maryland 74, #24 Nebraska 72
DJ: I’m actually shocked: Maryland was able to put it together late in a game and pull a grinding win against a ranked opponent. Mark Turgeon hasn’t done that in three years or so. Bruno Fernando led the way with 18 and 17, his 4th double double in a row and fellow big man Jalen Smith scored 15 including the last 7 of the game for the Terps to lead them to victory. Jalen Smith dropped a great floater overtop Isaac Copeland for the game winner with 3.8 seconds to go after fellow freshman Eric Ayala wisely split the double team on the wing from the 1-3-1 to find a wide open Smith at the top of the paint.
-Nebrasketball played well throughout the game.
-Maryland and its fans were psyched to beat NEBRASKA. Think back a few seasons and consider how surreal that is.
-Nebraska couldn’t close this one out, even though it was very much there for the taking. This felt very similar to the Huskers’ other conference game so far this season--on the road against a solid-but-not-great team, in the game or leading the whole time, but just not able to close it out. That’s something they’re going to need to change. This is still a good, dangerous team, but these sorts of losses will hurt them.
#8 Michigan State 81, Northwestern 55
MNW: That sucked. Dererk Pardon got in foul trouble. The only other player worth a goddamn, Vic Law, was held quiet by Michigan State’s athletic defense, and getting Josh Langford on the wings and overmatching the ‘Cats with size turned out to be a really, really good idea.
This is a .400 B1G team at best, and I’m beginning to lose the faith.
Andrew: We relearned yesterday what has generally been true all season: if you’re shallow in the front court, Ward and Tillman will grind you to dust. Cassius Winston would be an easy 1st team All-B1G selection if Carsen Edwards weren’t forced to score 30 a game for Purdue. Being down Langford seemed to force Izzo to shorten his lineups in a way I thought actually worked quite well. On to OSU, hopefully Langford’s ankle recovers quickly.
#2 Michigan 68, Penn State 55
DJ: Hooray for Penn State! Youv’e finally found a third scorer on team outside of Lamar Stevens and Josh Reaves. The problem? Reaves was held to six points in this game while Mike Watkins finally showed up against a team that has a pulse. The real dagger tonight though for Penn State: turnovers. Penn State did enough to stick with Michigan in this game but turned the ball over 18 times while shooting a putrid 1-14 from 3 land, putting the game out of reach.
#21 Indiana 73, Illinois 65
C4B: Indiana was struggling with Illinois early, and then I got out of work and went to B Dubs for dinner. I watched the Hoosiers climb back into the game, get into halftime tied, and then got enough of a margin that I felt safe going home. Romeo scoring a new career high for points is probably why Indiana actually won the game, but I’m totally claiming a small amount of credit for turning this game around.
DJ: In our Illinois writer who has since quit basketball viewing speak, Illinois pulled off yet another fake rally. After playing the game to a tie in the first half and then letting Indiana pull away for most of the second half, Illinois cut the lead to 4 with 2:21 to go. Then in 40 seconds that lead expanded to 10 and Illinois was done for. It would appear that Brad Underwood has taken the Rutgers approach to rebuilding a team: Play very annoying, pesky defense at the expense of anything that looks like offense. Illinois drug Indiana down as far as they could with them in this game but Romeo Langford was too good for Illinois to handle, dropping 28 points leading his team to victory.
Purdue 86, #25 Iowa 70
Stew: Iowa leads the nation in free throws, and took their first ft at 9 minutes into the game. The defense was putrid, obviously. But having an offense based, in large part, around free throws is a recipe for blowouts on the road in the big ten. Especially against the clutch and grab defenses of Purdue and MSU. Just don’t get the calls on the road. Not having Luka Garza certainly didn’t help, either. Really missed the inside presence.
I’m not even saying the refs were particularly bad. Not one call or sequence really stands out as bad. What I’m trying to say is that having an offense based on free throws is not exactly consistent, and certainly worth criticism. And then there’s this:
Iowa is on the verge of trailing by 17 points in a Big Ten road game for the 11th-consecutive time.— Mike Hlas (@Hlas) January 4, 2019
Boilerman: Good Lord that was fun to watch. Once again, there’s no place like home. During a long stretch of the first half, it seemed like the Boilers simply could not miss. Carsen Edwards scored 16 of his 21 in the first half and the bench continued to show improvement with Matt Haarms showing up this time for 14 points and Aaron Wheeler chipping in 10. I was extremely concerned coming into this one that Iowa would hurry the Boilers up but Purdue responded by driving the ball towards the hoop and using excellent ball movement to find the open man. On an emotion-filled night when the late Tyler Trent was honored by both teams, Purdue used its offense to run away from the Hawkeyes.
DJ: Purdue absolutely pounded Iowa in this game. I don’t have much here that Stew and Boilerman didn’t cover other than Iowa pulled off the rare 5 point play in this game on a made three with a separate foul inside while they were in the bonus. Pretty cool to see.
Minnesota 59, #22 Wisconsin 52
DJ: This game was an abomination of a first half where Wisconsin only scored 14 points. Yes, I know by now that shouldn’t surprise me, but at one point they had went 2-17 or so from the field, just awful. Brad Davison may also be trying out to grad transfer to Duke for his last year of eligibility with the performance he put on last night. Driving into the lane, he dove sideways into a Minnesota defender hoping to get the blocking charge and 1. In doing so, he defacto headbutted him straight in the mouth, splitting his lip open. Davison was T’ed up afterwards when he fell to the floor and slapped it in digust after not getting the call he wanted. My guess is the technical was for the entire sequence (dive into the Minnesota player plus whining). Seems like he attended Coach K’s school of flopping and whining if you ask me. Oh, then Wisconsin tried to make a comeback but ultimately failed, so they lost at Kohl and that was great.
MC: If you shoot as poorly as Wisconsin did in the first half, and/or you miss as many free throws as Wisconsin did, you don’t deserve to win, simple as that. It was good to see the Badgers find their groove a bit in the second half and make a game of it, but you can’t just show up for one half and win in this B1G; nearly everyone is good.
Beez: [paraphrasing from bball channel in Slack] I’ve been really killing it with my decisions to accidentally make plans the nights where Wisco is playing. Wisco’s D has not been good the last month. This team is very bad right now.
WSR: Nice win, donchaknow. Amir Coffey was the best player on the court, and he still has room for growth. There were a couple times I thought he could have done more in the 2nd half when we were getting Kohl’d a bit and they were creaking back into the game, but I won’t complain. A B1G road win is always nice, and I always take a bit of joy from beating wisconsin. Eric Curry is nowhere near in shape, but he’s showing signs of being one of the better players on the team again already. His return is going to be huge. Brock Stull may be fat, but he hit a couple key 3’s to shut down the glacial comeback attempt. A couple quick thoughts on them: they’re in real trouble when Happ starts his pro career in Australia next season, Reuvers played a heck of a game (the kind involving a chip on his shoulder you’d expect from a Gopher reject), and Greg Gard is an idiot. 14 points in the first half, and you let Happ bring the ball up late in the game when you know what we’re going to do? Have fun with that State Farm agency in a couple years you putz.