There are no easy games in the Big Ten and that is being proven this season. Nebraska beating Michigan State in East Lansing is just the latest edition of not being able to predict what should happen in the conference. The unpredictability just makes what we'll have in store for us in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament even more special.
Marquette (15-10, 7-5): WIN @ Seton Hall (77-66), WIN v. Xavier (81-72):
Marquette may be getting hot at at the right time, extending their winning streak to three games with wins over Seton Hall and Xavier. Jamil Wilson got the Golden Eagles off to a hot start, scoring 14 points in the first seven minutes on his way 25 points and 10 rebounds in the game. Marquette had any early lead in the game, but Seton Hall was able to recover to make the contest 34-33 Golden Eagles after 20 minutes. The Pirates were able to extend the lead to 49-44 in the second half before six straight Marquette free throws saw Buzz Williams' team take the lead and go on to victory. Davante Gardner added 16 points and six rebounds for Marquette.
Davante Gardner also scored 16 points on Saturday against Xavier, but it was a six three-pointers and 18 points from Jake Thomas that really propelled Marquette. Thomas has found playing against Xavier to his liking, after his previous highs were five three-pointers and 17 points Marquette last month. While the game against Seton Hall saw Marquette trailing for a time in the second half, Saturday's game against Xavier doesn't pose quite as much of a problem. The Musketeers were able to close within 75-71 with 2:06 left, but that's as close as they would get. The Golden Eagles were helped greatly by the season-high 19 turnovers that they committed on Saturday.
Next up is a huge game against Creighton at home on Wednesday before Marquette hits the road to square off with DePaul on Saturday.
Maryland (14-12, 6-7): LOSS @ #17 Virginia (61-53), LOSS @ #8 Duke (69-67):
There were points in both matchups last week where Maryland where they looked like they were about to hit upset glory, but it wasn't quite meant for a Terrapin team that is in their final season in the ACC. Coming into Monday night's matchup, Virginia had won their previous eight games, but they looked human after 20 minutes as Maryland was able to hold a 26-25 edge. Joe Harris came alive for Virginia in the second half, scoring 16 of his 19 points in the second 20 minutes of the game, and helping to secure a victory for the Cavaliers. 15 points from Seth Allen and 12 points from Dez Wells weren't nearly enough for a Maryland team that held close before a 9-0 Virginia run made it 44-35, and put Maryland in a whole they couldn't dig out of.
Saturday night saw Maryland travel to Cameron Indoor for the last scheduled installment of the Maryland-Duke rivalry, which will suffer with Maryland's move to the Big Ten. The Terrapins got back into the basketball game in the second half, with Duke missing 17 of the first 19 shots they took. The Blue Devils went into the break with a 39-33 lead, but a 12-1 run gave Maryland its first lead at 54-52 with just over eight minutes to go. The Terrapins weren't able to hold that lead though, and weren't able to force overtime when Charles Mitchell missed two hook shots in the last 10 seconds of the game. Jake Layman led Maryland with 18 points scored, while Dez Wells scored all of his 17 points in the second half.
After having it rough last week with two games against ranked teams on the road, Maryland will only be tasked with playing one game this week. Tuesday night again see this Terrapins hitting then road, this time battling Wake Forest.
Purdue (15-10, 5-7): WIN v. Indiana (82-64):
Purdue was able to use a 19-1 run that started late in the first half and carry over into the first five minutes of the second half to build a 52-34 lead and snap a four-game losing streak against Indiana. Seattle transfer Sterling Carter hit five three pointers in the game and scored the first 10 points of the second half on his way to 19 points for the game. This is the first time since 1965-66 that these teams have met when both teams have been under .500 in conference play through 11 games. Ronnie Johnson added 16 points for the Boilermakers, while his brother Terone Johnson was able to put in 14 points.
Purdue will now host Michigan State on Thursday night, and try to send the Spartans to their second straight loss. The Boilermakers will then hit the road to take on Nebraska in Lincoln on Sunday.
Nebraska (14-10, 6-6): WIN v. Illinois (67-58), WIN @ #9 Michigan State (60-51):
It was quite a week for a surging Nebraska squad that could be playing their way onto the bubble. The week started with the Cornhuskers improving to 11-1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena with a 67-58 win over Illinois. The Cornhuskers were powered by Shavon Shields' career-high 33 points, including going 15-15 from the free throw line, which was best for a Nebraska player since 1982. Terran Petteway added 16 for a Nebraska team that put the clamps on Illinois defensively in the last seven minutes of the game to seal the victory.
While playing at home has been easy for Nebraska this year, it has been when they hit the road when they have run into trouble. That wasn't the case on Sunday, when they reached .500 for the first time since joining the Big Ten Conference with a 60-51 win over Michigan State. Nebraska led 32-25 at the half but Michigan State was able to close the deficit and was looking like they would take over in the game, but the Cornhuskers held tough and finished the game with a 9-2 run to earn the victory, Terran Petteway was the high scorer for Nebraska with 23 points and Walter Pitchford added 18 points. The win snapped a 25-game road losing streak for Nebraska against top-10 teams.
Now the task for Nebraska will be to try and avoid a letdown and extend their three-game winning streak when they host Penn State on Thursday night followed by Purdue on Sunday.
#9 Michigan State (21-5, 9-3): WIN v. Northwestern (85-70), LOSS v. Nebraska (60-51):
Adreian Payne continued his strong play in his return from a foot injury with a 20 point, 14 rebound performance against Northwestern on Thursday night. With Keith Appling and Branden Dawson still out due to injury, the Spartans needed that performance from Payne to keep a pesky Northwestern squad at bay. Denzel Valentine added a career-high 16 points, six rebounds, and five assists to help power the Spartans to victory. Northwestern kept the game from getting out of hand, but they weren't able to put a real scare into Michigan State for most of the game.
On the other hand, Nebraska put a major scare into Michigan State on Sunday and the Spartans' fears were realized when they dropped a 60-51 decision to Nebraska. The Spartans did get Keith Appling back from a wrist injury as he played 19 minutes in the game, but he didn't have much of an impact on the game, scoring just two points and dishing out an assist. Gary Harris scored 18 points and Payne added 11 points for a Michigan State team that struggled to 34 percent shooting from the field in the game. The Spartans were able to pull within 51-49 of the Cornhuskers, but a 9-2 run late sealed the upset victory for Nebraska.
Michigan State will now have to rebound on the road this week when they face Purdue in West Lafayette on Thursday night before making the short trip to square off with rival Michigan in Ann Arbor on Sunday.
#16 Iowa (19-6, 8-4): WIN @ Penn State (82-70):
Iowa struggled early on Saturday against Penn State, heading into the locker room at halftime trailing the Nittany Lions 33-31, but they were able to recover and earn a victory going away in the second half. With the game tied at 44, the Hawkeyes used a 14-4 run in the second half to put some distance on Penn State. Melsahn Basabe had a very solid game for the Hawkeyes, putting in 16 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and blocking four shots. Leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble added 15 points for Iowa, and Aaron White scored 14 points in the game. The biggest difference was Iowa's aggressiveness in the game, going 31-40 from the free throw line, while Penn State only shot 21 free throws.
The Hawkeyes get back to double duty this week when they travel to Bloomington to face Indiana on Tuesday before returning to Iowa City to host Wisconsin on Saturday.
Illinois (14-12, 3-10): LOSS @ Nebraska (67-58), LOSS v. #22 Ohio State (48-39):
Some rough shooting was the major downfall last week, as had they not had two lengthy shooting slumps they might have been 2-0 last week instead of 0-2. Rayvonte Rice scored 23 points to be the only Illinois player that was able to hit double figures in the game. The Fighting Illini did hold a 40-34 lead in the second half, but a 10-0 Nebraska run erased that. John Groce's team struggled through the most important part of the game, only hitting two field goals in the last 6:57 to seal the loss for them.
While Wednesday night's shooting performance was ugly for Illinois, what happened to them against Ohio State in the second half was even worse. After holding a 23-20 halftime lead, Illinois was only able to muster nine points in the first 15:35 of the second half, and finishing the half with 16 total points. The scoring slump included a stretch of 8:14 without a field goal for the Fighting Illini before a Tracy Abrams three-pointer with 4:25 left in the game. Abrams finished with 13 points, and Rayvonte Rice scored 11 points after being shutout against Ohio State last month. For more on what happened during the game, check out Ben's recap of what happened in Champaign on Saturday night.
Illnois has a game at Minnesota on Wednesday night before having the weekend off from play. The extra time off could help Illinois try and address some of the issues that they are dealing with heading into the stretch run of Big Ten play before the Big Ten Tournament starts.
Penn State (13-13, 4-9): WIN @ Indiana (66-65), LOSS v. #17 Iowa (82-70):
A thrilling comeback kicked off the week for a Penn State team that has been playing some better basketball lately. With just 3:19 left Indiana looked to be in control of the game in Bloomington on Wednesday night, but Penn State reeled off a 13-1 run to end the game and shock the Hoosiers. Tim Frazier's layup with six seconds to go was the game-winner, and gave him 14 points in the game to go along with six assists and four steals. The Nittany Lions were able to pull off the victory despite D.J. Newbill struggling to seven points on 3-12 shooting in the game.
The good times couldn't keep rolling for Penn State though, as they dropped a 82-70 decision to Iowa in State College on Saturday afternoon. The Nittany Lions led 33-31 at halftime, but couldn't keep Iowa from using a 14-4 run to take the lead for good in the game. D.J. Newbill was able to find his shot in this game, leading Penn State with 22 points, while Tim Frazier and John Johnson each scored 11 points in the loss.
Penn State has only one game on the schedule for the upcoming week, traveling to Lincoln on Thursday night to take on a Nebraska team that will be taking the court for the first time after pulling the upset of Michigan State on Sunday.
#21 Wisconsin (21-5, 8-5): WIN v. Minnesota (78-70), WIN @ #15 Michigan (75-62):
Wisconsin was able to avenge a 13-point loss to Minnesota last month in Minneapolis by handing the Golden Gophers a 78-70 loss in Madison on Thursday night. The Badgers built a 13-point first half lead and weren't challenged much in the game, as the closest Minnesota really got was cutting the lead to five points with under a minute to go. Ben Brust led the charge for the Badgers with 20 points and six rebounds while Frank Kaminsky added 17 points and Nigel Hayes had 15 points off the bench.
Revenge was a common theme of the week for Wisconsin, as they were able to also avenge the loss that Michigan handed them last month in Madison. Frank Kaminsky had a huge game for the Badgers, scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Wisconsin led 34-19 at halftime, but almost squandered the lead, allowing Michigan to pull within three points before turning on their finishing kick. Sam Dekker added 15 points and nine rebounds to the victory cause for the Badgers.
After losing five of six games recently, the Badgers have seemed to have righted their ship, winning their last four games. Wisconsin will have a tough task if they want to extend that winning streak though, as they'll travel to Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes on Saturday.
#15 Michigan (18-7, 10-3): WIN @ #22 Ohio State (70-60), LOSS v. #21 Wisconsin (75-62):
The Wolverines came down to Columbus and withstood an early Buckeye charge to earn a rare victory in Columbus against the Buckeyes. Ohio State led by as many as 10 in the first half before the first 20 minutes ended with a 30-26 Buckeye lead. Michigan took control of the proceedings in the second half, using a 12-0 run to take a 44-43 lead that they wouldn't surrender the rest of the game. Nik Stauskas scored 15 points to lead Michigan while Derrick Walton Jr added 13 points and grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds in the victory. A.J. recapped the game against TTUN after the game went final on Tuesday night.
Against Wisconsin on Sunday Michigan wasn't quite able to rebound from an early deficit as well as they did against the Buckeyes. Michigan trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half, but were able to cut the lead to three points in the second half, but they didn't have quite enough gas to completely finish the comeback. The key catalyst in the comeback attempt was Caris LeVert, who scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half. The Wolverines just had no answer for the performance that Frank Kaminsky gave the Badgers.
Michigan will now have some time to figure out what went wrong against Wisconsin before they have to host a team they are tied atop the Big Ten standings with. Rival Michigan visits Ann Arbor on Sunday afternoon in what will be a crucial Big Ten clash.
Northwestern (12-14, 5-8): LOSS @ #9 Michigan State (85-70), LOSS v. Minnesota (54-48):
After winning four of five games recently, Northwestern has fallen on hard times, now having lost their last three contests. Northwestern showed some offense against Michigan State, scoring 70 points for the first time in 2014, but their usually stingy defense wasn't up to the task. The Wildcats allowed Michigan State to score 85 points, which was the first time in over a month that Northwestern has given up 80 or more. Michigan State used a 7-0 run to start the second half to go up 16 and end any hopes that Northwestern might have had of keeping things close. JerShon Cobb scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the losing effort.
With their recent history in Evanston against Minnesota, Northwestern was hoping they could get back on track with a win against the Golden Gophers. Minnesota hadn't won in Evanston since 2008, but Northwestern went cold from the floor in the second half which shattered those dreams. JerShon Cobb scored 23 points for Northwestern, but the Wildcats didn't get much offense from anyone else, including only getting two points on 1-15 shooting from leading scorer Drew Crawford. While only three points separated these teams most of the second half, Northwestern just didn't have the offensive punch to keep up.
This week Northwestern will try and rebound and get back into the win column when they travel to Columbus to face Ohio State on Wednesday before hosting Indiana on Saturday.
Indiana (14-11, 4-8): LOSS v. Penn State (66-65), LOSS @ Purdue (82-64):
Hard times have really fallen on Indiana lately, but the worst loss they have suffered this year might have come against Penn State on Wednesday night. The Hoosiers held a 64-53 lead with just over three minutes to go, but they allowed Penn State to finish the game on a 13-1 run to snatch victory away from the Hoosiers. Indiana was their own worst enemy in this one, committing 20 turnovers which helped fuel the impropable Penn State comeback. Yogi Ferrell was the high scorer for Indiana with 16 points in the loss.
While Ferrell did even better against Purdue, scoring 27 points, the result got even worse for the Hoosiers. Indiana suffered their first loss in the last four meetings with Purdue, as the Boilermakers used a 19-1 run that took place mostly in the beginning of the second half to put away Indiana. The Hoosiers shot a dreadful 32% from the field as they have now slumped to their third straight loss.
Things won't get any easier for Tom Crean and the Hoosiers, as they'll host Iowa on Tuesday night before hitting the road to play Northwestern on Saturday to try and avoid falling any closer to the Big Ten cellar.