While there wasn't the intrigue of the Big Ten title coming down to the final day last year, there was still some entertaining housekeeping to take care of on Sunday night. After Ohio State's win over Michigan State, Nebraska needed a win over Wisconsin to gain a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament. The Cornhuskers were able to add to their dream season with a huge win to shore up the seedings heading into Indy starting Thursday.
Purdue (15-16, 5-13): LOSS @ #9 Wisconsin (76-70), LOSS v. Northwestern (74-65):
In our final edition of the regular season of KYEOYE we save the worst for first. The Boilermakers continued their slide to end the regular season, starting with a loss to Wisconsin in Madison. Purdue trailed by as many as 16 points, but did make a little run to make the Badgers sweat a little bit. With five minutes to go the Boilermakers were able to close the score to within 58-51, but weren't able to get another close aside from a three-pointer at the buzzer to make it the final score what it was. Ronnie Johnson led Purdue with 15 points and six assists, and A.J. Hammons notched another double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
On Sunday Purdue held their senior day festivities, but weren't able to send their four seniors out in style in West Lafayette against Northwestern. The most notable senior that Purdue fans celebrated was Terone Johnson, who scored 10 points in the loss. The Boilermakers put themselves in an early hole that they couldn't dig out of by shooting only 19% in the first half. In the second half Purdue used a 10-2 run after Northwestern was up 56-41, but much like the Wisconsin game, the Boilermakers weren't able to strike any real feel in their opponent late. Raphael Davis and A.J. Hammons each scored 13 points for Purdue in the loss.
Now Purdue will head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament as the 12th seed, and losers of six straight games. The Boilermakers' opponent on Thursday afternoon will be Ohio State, who beat Purdue twice in the regular season. The winner will move on to face Nebraska on Friday.
Nebraska (19-11, 11-7): WIN @ Indiana (70-60), WIN v. #9 Wisconsin (77-68):
Nebraska's tremendous season continued last week, as they closed out the regular season with a couple of wins to lock down the fourth seed and a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament. The wins raised Nebraska's total for conference wins to 11 this year, which is their most since 1965-66.
The Cornhuskers started off the week with a win at Indiana on Wednesday to secure a sweep of the regular season series against the Hoosiers. Walter Pitchford got off to a hot start for Nebraska, scoring the first nine points of the game for Nebraska on his way to 17 points in the game. Nebraska led 34-26 at half, which Indiana was able to erase in the second half. The score was tied at 52 with 10 minutes left in the game before the Cornhuskers used a late spurt to put the game away. Shavon Shields also added 17 points to match Pitchford's total in the first win in six tries at Assembly Hall for Nebraska.
The pressure was on Nebraska on Sunday night after Ohio State squeaked by Michigan State less than an hour before tip. Win and they were they wouldn't have to play until Friday, while a loss would put them in action a day earlier at the Big Ten Tournament. The team matched the energy from the fans on "No-Sit Sunday", beating Wisconsin for the first time in five games since joining the Big Ten. A 12-1 run in the second half took Nebraska from down four to up seven points with five minutes left. Terrain Petteway registered a double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds, while Shavon Shields also had 26 points.
While Nebraska finished the season with 10 wins in their last 12 games, their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1998 is no certainty. Tim Miles' crew is doing everything they can to earn that bid, and at least a win in the Big Ten Tournament would help their cause as they'd get to 20 wins. Nebraska will face the winner of Ohio State and Purdue on Friday afternoon.
#22 Michigan State (23-8, 12-6): WIN v. #24 Iowa (86-76), LOSS @ Ohio State (69-67):
Now that Michigan State is fully healthy, they started to look like the team that many expected coming into the season in the second half against Iowa. The Spartans trailed 41-39 at the halftime break, but whatever Tom Izzo said during the break worked, as Michigan State opened up a 13-point lead before settling for a 10-point win. Travis Trice scored 17 points to lead Michigan State, but the bigger story was Keith Appling finally finding his scoring touch. After going five weeks without hitting double figures, Appling was able to score 12 points in the victory. Adreian Payne added 14 points and Denzel Valentine finished with 13 points and nine assists.
Michigan State had their chances to pull away from Ohio State on Sunday, but weren't able to take advantage as they fell to the Buckeyes. As usual though, the bright spot for Michigan State against the Buckeyes was Adreian Payne, who scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds. The only lowlight for Payne was when he was stripped by Aaron Craft with less than a minute to go, and the game still in limbo. The turnover for Michigan State was their 16th of the game. Gary Harris wasn't able to convert the shot with just seconds to go to possibly tie the game, and the teams split their regular season series. For a more in-depth recap on what went on in Columbus on Sunday afternoon check out what A.J. had to write after the game went final.
After being ranked inside the Top-five earlier in the season, Michigan State heads into the Big Ten Tournament barely inside the Top-25. The Spartans will be the three seed in Indianapolis, and will take on the winner of Iowa and Northwestern on Friday.
#24 Iowa (20-11, 9-9): LOSS @ #22 Michigan State (86-76), LOSS v. Illinois (66-63):
While most of the top teams in the Big Ten suffered some extended struggles during the conference season, Iowa is going through theirs at the worst possible time. After 20 minutes in East Lansing on Thursday night the Hawk eyes held a 41-39 lead, but they couldn't hold off the Spartans. Roy Devyn Marble scored 24 points in the loss for Iowa, but that could make up for the 13 turnovers the Hawkeyes committed.
The Hawkeyes didn't fare any better on Saturday night as they returned home to close out the regular season against Illinois. Iowa fell behind early 20-6 against the Fighting Illini before working their way back into it by hold Illinois without a field goal for nearly eight minutes and went into halftime with a 34-29 lead.
Senior night for the four elder Hawkeyes didn't turn out to be the dream that they had hoped for. Roy Devyn Marble only scored eight points after coming in as the only Big Ten player to hit double figures in every game coming in. The bright spot for the seniors came from Zach McCabe, who set an Iowa record by playing in his 134th game. The worst of it all was Jon Ekey hitting the game-winning three with under a second to go for Illinois. The loss snapped a 30-game winning streak at home that Iowa had over unranked opponents.
Now Iowa has lost five of their last six games to raise serious questions of what they'll have to offer in the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes will try and start the Big Ten Tournament off on the right foot when they face Northwestern on Thursday night. The winner is slated to take on Wisconsin the following night
Minnesota (19-12, 8-10): WIN v. Penn State (81-63):
It feels like Minnesota is still on the outside look in of the NCAA Tournament, but a win on Sunday in their regular season finale helped to add to their resume. The Golden Gophers put this game away early, jumping out to a 23-3 lead to start the game before settling for an 18-point win. Penn State did close to within 55-46 after trailing 51-26 in the second half, but that was as close as they were able to pull the score in this one. Deandre Mathieu had 16 points and six assists, while Mo Walker also added 16 points. Austin Hollins closed out his regular season career at Williams Arena by putting in 14 points, and Maverick Ahanmisi made the most of the senior day festivities by tying a career-high with 13 points after scoring only two points in the previous 17 Big Ten games this year.
When Minnesota tips off in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday night they'll see this same Penn State team. While adding another win against Penn State would get the Golden Gophers to 20 wins on the season, they'll likely have to win another game or two if they want to earn an at-large bid. The winner of Thursday's game will move on to play second-seed Wisconsin.
Illinois (18-13, 7-11): LOSS v. #12 Michigan (84-53), WIN @ #24 Iowa (66-63):
While they may have struggled for most of the Big Ten season, Illinois looks to be coming together at the right time. The only speed-bump lately for Illinois came on Tuesday night, when Michigan was able to score early and often against then Fighting Illini. After holding their previous four opponents to less than 50 points, Illinois gave up 52 points to the Wolverines in the first half. The game was broken open early in the first half when Michigan was able to extend a 20-17 lead to 32-17 behind five straight three-pointers. From there on out things weren't close at all in Champaign, with Illinois only able to go 2-18 from behind the arc. Rayvonte Rice had 16 points and nine rebounds, and Kendrick Nunn scored 14 points in the loss.
Illinois didn't let the beating that Michigan gave them bring them down too much, as they quickly got back on the winning track by adding to Iowa's woes on Saturday. It looked early on that this was going to be a blowout for Illinois, when they jumped out to a early 20-6 lead in the first half. But, nearly eight minutes without a field goal followed for the Fighting Illini, and Iowa took a 34-29 advantage into the half. The rest of the game saw the teams keep things pretty tight, before Jon Ekey hit a couple of huge three-pointers for Illinois, with the first coming to give Illinois a 63-59 lead with three minutes to go. Illinois wasn't able to do much with the lead, as Iowa tied it up at 63 before Ekey hit a deep game-winning three-pointer with less than a second left. Ekey finished with 12 points in the game, Rayvonte Rice had 15 points, and Nnanna Egwu scored 14 points to help provide the offense to power Illinois to a victory. The win gave Illinois their first consecutive wins on the road against ranked teams for the first time since 2005.
After opening the Big Ten season with a victory against Indiana back on New Year's Eve, Illinois will try and avoid having their last Big Ten game of the season come against the Hoosiers when the two teams square off in the opener to the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday afternoon. The winner will move on to play top-seeded Michigan on Friday afternoon.
Penn State (15-16, 6-12): WIN @ Northwestern (59-32), LOSS @ Minnesota (81-63):
Penn State was able to tighten up defensively in their first game of the week, only allowing Northwestern to score 15 points in the first half and 32 for the whole game. A 12-0 run by the Nittany Lions opened up a 22-8 lead in the first half, and they were never threatened by the cold-shooting Wildcats. D.J. Newbill scored 12 points to lead Penn State, and Tim Frazier and Brandon Taylor each put in 11 points. This was the fifth win on the road for Penn State this season, which was their highest total since 2008-09 when they secured six road victories.
The ending to the week wasn't quite as nice to Penn State, as they were stifled early on against Minnesota, much like they were able to shut down Northwestern a couple days ago. Minnesota jumped out to an early 23-3 lead, which left Penn State playing catch-up the rest of the game. The Nittany Lions were able to close to within nine points in the second half, but they weren't able to close the gap anymore. D.J. Newbill scored 24 points and Tim Frazier scored 14 points as Penn State finished out their regular season schedule.
Minnesota and Penn State will meet again on Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, with the Nittany Lions hoping for a better result. The winner will move on to face Wisconsin on Friday.
#9 Wisconsin (25-6, 12-6): WIN v. Purdue (76-70), LOSS @ Nebraska (77-68):
Ben Burst was celebrated during Wisconsin's senior night activities, and the Badgers made sure to send him out as a winner in front of the home crowd. Frank Kaminsky hit four three-pointers and scored 22 points, and Traevon Jackson accounted for 14 points as Wisconsin had little trouble with the Boilermakers. The final score might make the result look closer than the game really was, as Purdue didn't threaten Wisconsin too much, trailing by double digits for a good portion of the game.
With the two-seed firmly in control, Wisconsin couldn't play spoiler on Sunday night and ruin Nebraska's hopes for a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Wisconsin led 52-48 in the second half before a 12-1 Nebraska run put the Cornhuskers in control. The loss ended the eight-game winning streak for Wisconsin, which was their longest winning streak in conference since 1940-41. Frank Kaminsky scored 14 points in the loss, while Josh Gasser had a strong all-around game with 11 points, nine rebounds, and five assists.
The loss may have dropped Wisconsin from consideration for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the Badgers know they have to get through the Big Ten Tournament first. On Friday night Wisconsin will tip off against the winner of Penn State and Minnesota.
#12 Michigan (23-7, 15-3): WIN @ Illinois (84-53), WIN v. Indiana (84-80):
If there was any doubt from opposing fanbases about Michigan slipping up in their bid to claim the Big Ten title for themselves, they were quickly quieted on Tuesday night in Champaign. The Wolverines used a 15-0 run in the first half on five straight three-pointers to break open the game. Nik Stauskas hit a career-high seven three-pointers on his way to 24 points as the Wolverines clinched their first solo Big Ten title since 1986. Michigan was unconscious from the field, hitting 16 three-pointers on their way to the blowout victory.
Indiana provided a little more of a contest for the Wolverines on Saturday, but Michigan was able to find what was necessary to pull out the win. On senior night Jordan Morgan made the most of it, registering his first double-double on the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds in the game. There was a lot more suspense than Morgan's final game in Crisler Arena though, as the game wasn't decided until Glenn Robinson III's bucket with 1:10 left gave Michigan the lead for good. Robinson III finished with 20 points and Nik Stauskas added 21 points.
As the number one seed in the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan won't have to take the court in Indianapolis until Friday afternoon, where they'll take on the winner of Illinois and Indiana. A Big Ten Tournament title to go along with the Big Ten regular season championship could put Michigan in the conversation as a possible number one seed heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Northwestern (13-18, 6-12): LOSS v. Penn State (59-32), WIN @ Purdue (74-65):
The week for Northwestern got started with a game they'll hope to soon forget. The Wildcats only scored 15 points in the first half, and didn't put up much in the second half as they fell to Penn State. The Wildcats put on a clinic in ugly shooting, going 10-43 from the field and 3-22 from three-point range. Alex Olah was somehow able to hit double figures and finished with 14 points.
Northwestern hit the road on Sunday for a battle with Purdue in trying not to be last in the Big Ten this year. The battle was successful with Northwestern holding Purdue to only 19% shooting in the first half. The Wildcats were able to open up a 15-point second half lead and hold on for the victory. Drew Crawford scored a game-high 27 points, and Alex Olah scored another 14 points in the victory.
Now Northwestern will try and play spoiler in the Big Ten Tournament this week. The Wildcats will try and add to Iowa's late season slump when the teams meet on Thursday, with the winner taking on Michigan State on Friday.
Indiana (17-14, 7-11): LOSS v. Nebraska (70-60), LOSS @ #12 Michigan (84-80):
A tough regular season for Indiana closed out with a couple losses last week against two teams sitting ahead of them in the Big Ten standings. While Michigan might not have been a shock to be ahead of Indiana, Nebraska had to have been. The Hoosiers won't be thinking that way about the Cornhuskers anymore after being swept by Nebraska this year. The two teams played pretty close most of the game on Wednesday, but Indiana just didn't have the finishing kick. With 10 minutes left the score was tied at 52, but Indiana didn't score much after. Noah Vonleh missed his second straight game with inflammatiin in his left foot. Troy Williams made the most of his expanded minutes due to Vonleh's injury and led Indiana with 18 points. Yogi Ferrell really struggled and only connected on one of 10 three-pointers to finish with 10 points.
Tom Crean got Vonleh back for the game against Michigan on Saturday, but the freshman only was able to come off the bench and play 21 minutes. The Hoosiers held a 42-36 lead at Crisler Arena against a Michigan team that had already wrapped up the Big Ten. Indiana again wasn't able to find what they needed late and narrowly missed another upset of the Wolverines. Will Sheehey had a team-high 17 points in the game, and Troy Williams and Yogi Ferrell each added 16 points. The Hoosiers were killed by turnovers in the second half, committing 11 in a 13 minute stretch. In the game Indiana finished with 15 giveaways.
Now Indiana will try and earn a rubber match with Michigan on Friday in Indianapolis. To do so they'll have to defeat Illinois on Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.