The Big Ten’s six days off for the Christmas holiday weekend came at an inconvenient time for the conference. In the three days leading up to the mini-break, the Big Ten played in 12 games, winning them all. Included in those wins were ranked match-ups, an NCAA record tied, and overtimes — a lot of overtimes.
Here are a few stories to bring you up to speed on what’s happening around the Midwest powerhouse.
Caitlin Clark Hits 2,000
Scoring 2,000 points in a college career isn’t a new thing, but Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark’s done it so quickly that she’s now connected to one of the best to ever play collegiately.
On Dec. 21, the Hawkeyes played a pretty nice breather of a game before some time away, defeating the Dartmouth Big Green 92-54. It was an expected result, but Clark put the game on the map, tying the record for fastest to the feat — hitting it in 75 games.
' ,— Iowa Women's Basketball (@IowaWBB) December 21, 2022
The moment she netted No. 2,000! pic.twitter.com/y552HdtLak
Clark’s second-quarter three-pointer matched former Delaware forward and current WNBA star Elena Della Donne. In terms of tie-breakers, Della Donne did it in the Colonial Athletic Association compared to the Big Ten, a top conference in the country.
Either way, Clark is on the national stage and continues to show why she’s a perennial contender for top player in college basketball.
Wolverines Bounce Back Against Tar Heels
In the last installment of the Land-Grant Holy Land Big Ten women’s basketball review, the Michigan Wolverines had a no-good, very bad day against the Toledo Rockets. Most Ohio State fans would love to hear that it humbled the Wolverines, but that’s not the case. Instead, the University of Michigan continues the North Carolina Tar Heels’ nightmare fuel that is playing Big Ten teams in the 2022-23 season.
Until Dec. 1, the Tar Heels had nothing to complain about. They sat at a cool 6-0, with wins over ranked Oregon Ducks and Iowa State Cyclones teams. Then the ACC/B1G Challenge happened.
UNC traveled to Bloomington, Ind., and lost to an Indiana Hoosiers team who was without their star point guard Grace Berger. It wasn’t just a loss, but a loss that showed the top of the Big Ten is strong. The Hoosiers won 87-63 after UNC scored the first seven points of the game and then not seeing a lead ever again.
On Dec. 20, UNC had a chance at redemption for their lone defeat of the season when they welcomed the Wolverines to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, it was the opposite.
After again going up in the first minutes of the game, Michigan dominated. In the second quarter, they ballooned their lead to 23 points, before eventually winning by a more deceptive 76-68 in the final box score.
Michigan guards Leigha Brown and Laila Phelia led the way with 25 and 20 points, respectively. The Wolverines outshot the Tar Heels 58.6% to 36.4% in the first half, and the local side, who were technically the away side at the Jumpman Invitational, couldn’t find a way to come back.
Laila Phelia in the Michigan win over the 6th ranked Tar Heels! @Lailaphelia pic.twitter.com/UOq2FXRyGu— Courtside Films (@CourtsideFilms) December 21, 2022
Nebraska and Kansas Battle in 3 OTs
While the Hawkeyes and Wolverines each made headlines with lopsided wins, the Nebraska Cornhuskers took 15 extra minutes of basketball to earn a ranked win. It was against the No. 20 Kansas Jayhawks.
Nebraska started the year ranked, fell out of favor after a tough early season stretch of defeats, but continued their climb back to the collective conversation against Kansas.
Fast forwarding to the fourth quarter of their 85-79 win, the Cornhuskers let a third-quarter 11-point lead slip away. With under three minutes remaining, the Jayhawks went ahead after guard Zakiyah Franklin broke an over three-minute deadlock with a three.
It wasn’t three-point shooting guard Jaz Shelley who tied it up but center Alexis Markowski. The three was the 2021-22 B1G Freshman of the Year’s second of the night, tying the game at 58-58.
Then, with a two-point lead, 1:20 left in the game, and possession, Shelley tripped and lost the ball. That gave Kansas a fastbreak to tie the game at 60-60.
Markowski helped defensively late too. With one minute remaining, the big center made a game-changing block under the basket on an attacking Wyvette Mayberry. Markowski ended the day with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks.
Jaz Shelley had 24 points 6 assists & 6 rebounds in the Nebraska win over Kansas! @JazShelley pic.twitter.com/2CFqXT8qTi— Courtside Films (@CourtsideFilms) December 22, 2022
Nebraska had a chance to win with 1.5 seconds on the clock, inbounding from their offensive half of the court. The play worked well, giving Nebraska’s Isabelle Bourne a chance to hit a layup under the basket, but the shot was too close to the rim, hitting off the iron and sending the game to overtime.
The scoring drought that plagued the final minute of regulation continued into the first period of extra time. Combined the two teams scored four points in the first overtime, with Kansas missing a buzzer-beating three, meaning more free basketball.
Shelley scored 10 of her 24 team-high points in overtime, but at the end of the second session, the Australian missed a chance to win it. On a quick layup attempt that didn’t give Shelley much time to react for a clean look, the buzzer sounded and one more period remained.
The Cornhuskers were done with the game at that point and outscored a then-undefeated Jayhawks side 15-9 in the third overtime.
Nebraska’s win makes them 2-2 this season against ranked opponents this season.
Big Ten WBB Standings
Here’s where all the conference sides stack up in the AP Poll. Changes to position noted are from Dec. 19 to Dec. 26.
3 - Ohio State (NC)
4 - Indiana Hoosiers (NC)
12 - Iowa Hawkeyes (+1)
14 - Michigan Wolverines (+5)
16 - Maryland Terrapins (-1)
Nebraska also received 10 votes but didn’t crack the top 25.
Games to Watch (non-OSU)
The conference kicks back into gear this week, creating exciting match-ups outside of the Buckeyesphere. Here are games Ohio State isn’t part of that still grab attention.
Wednesday, Dec. 28
- No. 14 Michigan Wolverines at Nebraska Cornhuskers - 7 p.m. ET
Thursday, Dec. 29
- No. 4 Indiana Hoosiers at Michigan State Spartans - 3 p.m. ET
- Purdue Boilermakers at No. 12 Iowa Hawkeyes - 9 p.m. ET
Friday, Dec. 30
- Minnesota Golden Gophers at No. 16 Maryland Terrapins - 2 p.m. ET
Sunday, Jan. 1
- Nebraska Cornhuskers at No. 4 Indiana Hoosiers - 1 p.m. ET
- No. 12 Iowa Hawkeyes at Illinois Fighting Illini - 3 p.m. ET
Happy New Year
Conference play brings a heap of great games going into 2023, but the main event is Saturday between the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes and No. 14 Michigan Wolverines. It has the potential to show that the Scarlet & Gray are different from last season’s two losses to their rivals, or that the Wolverines are for real.
Making it even better is that the Buckeyes and Wolverines play at the Covelli Center, instead of the cavernous Schottenstein Center. Which is a fantastic thing.
Plus, the 1:00 p.m. ET start time gives all Buckeye football fans ample time to attend — or at least watch at home — the No. 3 team in the country before the Scarlet & Gray play in the College Football Playoff. God bless us, everyone.