Sparty harty - USA TODAY Sports
With the Christmas break upon us, most teams have only one game left before things start getting really interesting and conference play begins.
In the Big Ten, Minnesota, Michigan State, Iowa, and Northwestern have all already closed out their non-conference schedule out and now just have to wait until Big Ten play begins for some starting next Monday. Just like last week, a Big Ten team was knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten. Last week Illinois was dropped by rival Missouri to leave Michigan as the only Big Ten team without a blemish so far this season.
Washington (8-4): WIN v. Cal Poly (75-62), WIN v. Northern Illinois (67-57): After starting the season 4-4, Washington has strung together a 4-game winning streak. C.J. Wilcox scored 21 points against Cal Poly and 22 points against Northern Illinois. Wilcox has now scored 20 points of more in seven of the last eight games the Huskies have played. Washington begins a 4-game road trip of Saturday against UConn before diving into conference play next week.
#1 Duke (11-0): WIN v. Cornell (88-47), WIN v. Elon (76-54): After not playing since December 8th, Duke returned to action with a couple of easy wins on Wednesday and Thursday. Mason Plumlee has had a big start to the season, and it continued this week with 18 points on Wednesday and 21 points and 15 rebounds on Thursday. So far this season Plumlee has scored at least 16 points in every Duke game. Sophomore Quinn Cook also added a career-high 12 assists on Wednesday against Cornell. Santa Clara travels across the country to visit Duke on Saturday.
#9 Kansas (10-1): WIN v. Richmond (87-59), WIN @ #7 Ohio State (74-66): Kansas got the week off to a strong start with the blowout win against Richmond to gain some momentum for their trip to Columbus. Jeff Withey had double-doubles in both Jayhawk games this week. Obviously we know how Saturday's game against Ohio State (I'm trying my best to forget it). Kansas looks to be one of the best teams in the country again, and should be a force in the NCAA tournament in March. The Jayhawks have a Saturday date with American University at Allen Fieldhouse on tap this week.
Chicago State (3-11): LOSS @ Rice (63-60 in OT), LOSS @ Houston (79-57): Even though Chicago State held a 47-23 rebounding advantage, the Cougars lost in overtime to Rice. Things were much better in Chicago State's 2nd game in Texas last week, as Houston handled them rather easily. The season has been rough so far for Chicago State, starting 3-11, and it will only get tougher when they come to Columbus on Saturday.
Nebraska (8-4): WIN v. Central Michigan (89-75): LOSS @ UTEP (68-52): Nebraska split a pair of games this weekend in the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational in El Paso, TX. The Cornhuskers used 63% shooting from the field to defeat Central Michigan on Saturday night. Sunday was a different story with Nebraska not hitting their first bucket until 6:30 into the game, as they were downed by the host Miners. Nebraska goes back to Lincoln for a final tune-up against Nicholls on Saturday before Big Ten play begins.
#10 Illinois (12-1): LOSS @ #12 Missouri (82-73): John Groce suffered his first loss as coach of Illinois, dropping a game on Saturday to their neighbor. The annual "Braggin' Rights" game showed Illinois getting outmuscled on the boards and in the paint against Missouri. The Tigers dominated the glass, outrebounding Illinois 58-35. Even though Brandon Paul led Illinois with 23 points, he was only 5-18 from the field. The Fighting Illini hope to get back on track Saturday as they welcome Auburn into Assembly Hall.
Purdue (5-6): WIN v. Ball State (66-56): The Boilermakers rebounded from a 2-game losing streak to inch closer to .500 with a win against Ball State on Tuesday. A.J Hammons was the leading scorer for Purdue with 15 points, while leading scorer on the season Terrone Johnson rebounded with 14 points after a poor peformance against Notre Dame. Next up for Purdue is William & Mary on Saturday afternoon.
#2 Michigan (12-0): WIN v. Eastern Michigan (93-54): Michigan got their 2nd win this year against one of the directional schools in Michigan. Tim Hardaway Jr had 17 points and 7 assists as Michigan cruised to an easy win. Having already beaten Western and Eastern Michigan, the Wolverines will go for the trifecta against directional in-state schools on Saturday when they host Central Michigan.
#20 Michigan State (11-2): WIN @ Bowling Green (64-53), WIN v. Texas (67-56): Last week Sparty needed a couple of strong 2nd halves to pull out double-digit wins against Bowling Green and Texas. Michigan State was tied with Bowling Green with about 10 minutes to go before going on a 14-2 run. Against Texas on Saturday, Sparty was down by 5 at half but Derrick Nix was just too much for the 'Horns. Nix finished the game with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Tom Izzo's team returns to action next Monday when they travel to Minnesota to open Big Ten play.
Iowa (11-2): WIN v. South Carolina State (90-46), WIN v. Coppin State (80-50): After losing back-to-back games in November to Wichita State and Virginia Tech, Iowa has now rattled off 6 straight wins. During the win-streak the Hawkeyes haven't scored less than 80 points in those games. Iowa had little trouble with the two MEAC teams that came into Iowa City this week. The Hawkeyes went 0-17 from 3-point range against Coppin State, but luckily had the game well in-hand. A week of rest awaits Iowa now as they don't return to action until New Years Eve against Indiana.
Penn State (7-4): WIN v. New Hampshire (72-45): Sunday's early start really seemed to hamper New Hampshire, as Penn State built a 34-8 lead and had no problems with the Wildcats. Jermaine Marshall was Penn State's high scorer with 15 points, and 3 others scored in double-digits. Duquesne comes into State College on Saturday afternoon.
Wisconsin (8-4): WIN v. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (74-53): Wisconsin's dominance over Wisconsin-Milwaukee continued, notching their 29th win in 30 games against the Panthers. There was no doubt after 20 minutes with Wisconsin taking a 41-18 lead into the locker room. Ryan Evans scored a season-high 19 points for the Badgers. Samford ventures into the Kohl Center on Saturday to close out Wisconsin's non-conference schedule.
#6 Indiana (11-1): WIN v. Mount St. Mary's (93-54), WIN v. Florida Atlantic (88-52): Indiana rebounded from getting dropped by Butler with 2 easy wins last week. The Hoosiers used good ball movement to crush Mount St. Mary's, registering 27 assists on 36 baskets. Against FAU Cody Zeller scored a season-high 24 points as Indiana raced out to a 30-point lead at half. The Hoosiers have one more tune-up game on Friday against Jacksonville before setting out on their Big Ten schedule.
Northwestern (9-4): WIN v. Texas State (74-68), LOSS v. Stanford (70-68), WIN v. Brown (63-42): Northwestern had good bookends to the week but ran into some trouble in the middle. The Wildcats used a 12-0 run in the last 4 minutes to down Texas State on Monday. In the game against Stanford, leading scorer Reggie Hearn suffered a ankle injury and didn't play against Brown on Sunday. After having 3 games in 6 days, Northwestern doesn't play again until January 3rd when Michigan visits Evanston.
#13 Minnesota (12-1): WIN v. Lafayette (75-50): Tubby Smith got 42 points from his bench players as Minnesota had little problem with Lafayette. The only loss Minnesota has suffered this season was in November to now #1 ranked Duke. With their depth Minnesota is looking like they will make some noise in the Big Ten this year. The conference schedule begins for Minnesota with a New Years Eve matinee at home against Michigan State.