It was a tough but exciting week for Big Ten women’s basketball outside of Columbus in week three. Before the final ACC/B1G challenge tips off in week four, a Big Ten side broke a program record (against an ACC team, no less), drama filled an Indiana Hoosiers trip to Las Vegas and the Iowa Hawkeyes couldn’t hold on against a top-three team in the country.
Here are storylines across the Big Ten after three weeks of NCAA play.
What Happens in Vegas is Told Everywhere
The Indiana Hoosiers visited Nevada for a two-day tournament starting on Black Friday, but the only deal on the day was the tournament organizers fleecing NCAA teams.
Although the Hoosiers won the tournament, defeating SEC’s Auburn University and AAC’s Memphis Tigers — each by over 30 points — the storyline was a black eye that Destination Basketball put on the women’s game.
Indiana and three other schools showed up at the tournament to a ballroom at The Mirage with a row or two of seats around the court and a small scoreboard just over the ground. To make matters worse, there were no EMTs readily available, so when Auburn player Kharyssa Richardson suffered an injury against Colorado State, it took 40 minutes for medical help to arrive.
Overall, it was a tournament where Indiana felt lied to, and Hoosiers head coach Teri Moren didn’t mince words.
“It would’ve been a great opportunity,” said Moren. “This was a major miss, in my opinion, in terms of helping to grow this game.”
It also potentially impacts the Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball team, who plays in another event held by the same organizers. On Dec. 20 and 21, the Buckeyes are in another four-team in-season tournament, the San Diego Invitational. Hopefully there’s at least medical staff on hand at Pechanga Arena in San Diego.
Adding insult to injury is an actual injury to guard Grace Berger. Although not related to the court conditions, the All-B1G First Team star suffered an injury at the tournament, missing the second game against Memphis. As of Tuesday night, there’s no word on her status.
Iowa Can’t Hold On
Playing in a better planned event were the Iowa Hawkeyes at the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament. They had a tall task, going up against No. 3 ranked UConn Huskies, led by sophomore guard Azzi Fudd.
The Hawkeyes led by 11 points with over six minutes left in the third quarter, but their shooting went south. Guard Caitlin Clark went 2-for-11 from the floor in the second half with eight points, and the Hawkeyes altogether shot only 26.3% in the third quarter, allowing the Huskies to get back into the game.
On the other side, Fudd went off in the second half, scoring 22 of her 24 points. UConn ended up extending their lead to 10 in the final minutes of the game, but Iowa fought back to bring it within six.
Iowa’s loss isn’t necessarily a bad one, in the grand scheme of things. UConn’s beaten three top-10 teams so far this season, even without guard Paige Bueckers, who’s out all season with a knee injury sustained in the offseason. A tough defeat for Iowa this early in the season will only motivate the Hawkeyes with Big Ten basketball looming.
Penn State Makes History
Over the last few years, the Penn State Nittany Lions haven’t made too big of a roar in women’s basketball. This season though, they’re one of only four teams who are still undefeated across the Big Ten. On Nov. 21, they put together a win for the ages when they welcomed the Syracuse Orange to Happy Valley.
The eight-time regular season conference champions were down 21 points at halftime against a Syracuse side Ohio State fell to last season. Penn State trimmed the lead down to 10 by the start of the fourth quarter, and that’s when guards Makenna Marisa and freshman Shay Ciezki took over.
Each scored a quarter-high 13 points, swinging the scales back in Penn State’s favor and creating a 34-point swing from halftime in the 82-69 victory. It wasn’t only the best comeback in program history, but the second largest comeback in conference history.
The win also put the Lions into their best start of the season in five years, but it got better when they went down to Daytona Beach. Marisa and the Nittany Lions beat the Toledo Rockets and Fresno State to win the in-season tournament, but face stiff competition in this week’s ACC/B1G Challenge against the Virginia Cavaliers.
All five teams from last week’s AP Poll remain entering week four, with some shake-ups in spots. The poll also saw the Tennessee Volunteers, who started No. 5, drop out of the top-25 and the Louisville Cardinals go down eight spots to No. 18.
Games to Watch (non-OSU)
Wednesday, Nov. 30
- Virginia Cavaliers at Penn State - 7:00 p.m. ET
Thursday, Dec. 1
- No. 6 North Carolina Tarheels at No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers - 6:00 p.m. ET
- No. 20 Maryland Terrapins at No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish - 6:30 p.m. ET
- No. 12 NC State Wolfpack at No. 10 Iowa Hawkeyes - 8:30 p.m. ET
Saturday, Dec. 3 - Big Ten Conference Play Begins
- Penn State Nittany Lions at Minnesota Golden Gophers - 8:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, Dec. 4
- Nebraska Cornhuskers at No. 20 Maryland Terrapins - 1:00 p.m. ET
TV Birthed and Killed the ACC/B1G Challenge
Since 2007, the Big Ten and ACC played each other in a two-day event pitting the two conferences against each other. On Monday, ESPN’s Andy Katz announced that this week’s edition is the final time the two conferences will play an organized tournament in this format.
With the Big Ten cementing a large television contract, ESPN — who has SEC and ACC rights — put the tournament to bed. While teams will still face each other in the non-conference and NCAA Tournament schedules, games like Wednesday’s Ohio State game at Louisville will become less frequent.
There’s no word on if this means a Big Ten/Big 12 tournament is on the horizon, but right now it’s time to mourn.
If the Buckeyes win on Wednesday, it’ll be their first win in the tournament since 2019, when they beat none other than the Louisville Cardinals.