Big Ten Conference
Illinois coach Bruce Weber knew his team couldn’t keep beating Top 25 opponents forever. But after the Illini knocked off no. 5 Michigan State and no. 11 Wisconsin (on the road) in a four-day stretch, Weber figured they’d at least provide a good show for a national-television audience when no. 13 Ohio State visited Assembly Hall on Sunday.
Instead, the Illini’s five-game winning streak came to an abrupt end with Ohio State’s 72-53 victory — the program’s largest home loss since 1976.
“I talked all week about not trusting happiness,” Weber said in the Daily Herald. “It’s never as good as it seems. I was anticipating this a little bit, but I never thought it would be this bad, to be honest.”
Fortunately for the Illini, whom bracketologists regarded as a solid NCAA Tournament at-large entrant before the Ohio State beating, they get a chance to regroup with their longest big Ten break of the season. Weber says his guys will get one complete day off and a light day before they travel to Purdue on Saturday.
“At this point, you’ve got to look at it (a break) as a good thing,” said junior forward bill Cole. “Obviously, as this game proved, we still have stuff to work on. Maybe we were a little up in the clouds a little bit after tying people for first. this humbled us down a little bit, and hopefully it’ll be a good thing in the long run.”
There was nothing too wrong with the Ohio State game that a little shot-making couldn’t cure. Illinois hit a season-low 34 percent from the field against the Buckeyes, who trotted out their 1-3-1 trap to bother the hosts. Weber thought there were several open shots that just didn’t go down, but the Illini also fired up several shots (particularly by freshmen D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul) that missed the rim entirely.
“I kept telling (the players) we need a sense of urgency, not a sense of panic,” Weber said. “But we just couldn’t get anything going.”
–Junior point guard Demetri McCamey continues to be his team’s dominant offensive force. When Illinois ended Wisconsin’s 18-game home winning streak on Feb. 9, McCamey scored a game-high 27 points and handed out 7 assists that created 15 more points. after being responsible for 42 of Illinois’ 63 points in that game, McCamey scored a team-high 9 points and handed out 9 assists that created 18 more points against Ohio State. that made McCamey responsible for 27 of Illinois’ 53 points versus the Buckeyes — his seventh-highest percentage among Illinois’ 13 big Ten games.
In big Ten play, McCamey averages 16.6 points and 7.5 assists per game. he has been responsible for 440 of Illinois’ 877 points (50.2 percent).
–Ohio State forced Illinois to relinquish its title as the big Ten’s stingiest defense in league games. The Illini held their first 12 conference opponents to 38.8 percent shooting, but the Buckeyes’ 53 percent marksmanship increased Bruce Weber’s team to a field-goal defense of 39.7 percent. That’s just behind their next opponent, Purdue, which holds foes to 39.5 percent accuracy.
–Before its 72-53 home loss against Ohio State, Illinois owned a five-game winning streak in big Ten play for the first time since the 2004-05 team won its first 15 league games.
ON THE SPOT: Illinois needs to find a second reliable scorer to take the onus off Demetri McCamey. The junior has paced the Illini in scoring each of the last five games, but three different guys (junior big men Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis and bill Cole) have taken turns being the team’s no. 2 scorer in those games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think it is a wakeup call for us. We had two big wins and they just brought us back down.” — Illinois guard Demetri McCamey in the Daily Herald after Sunday’s 72-53 home loss to Ohio State.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Illinois became a consensus NCAA Tournament at-large pick when it backed up its 5-point win over Michigan State on Feb. 6 with a 63-56 victory at Wisconsin, but Bruce Weber’s bunch took a step back with Sunday’s 19-point home loss to Ohio State. The Illini own four wins over likely NCAA teams (Wisconsin, Michigan State, Clemson and Vanderbilt) to offset five losses to likely NCAA teams (Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State, Gonzaga and Missouri).
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — F Mike Davis, F bill Cole, C Mike Tisdale, G Demetri McCamey, G D.J. Richardson. Key Subs G Brandon Paul, F Tyler Griffey, G Jeff Jordan, F Dominique Keller.
Illinois 78, Michigan State 73
Illinois 63, Wisconsin 56
Ohio State 72, Illinois 53
at Purdue, Saturday, Feb. 20
at Michigan, Tuesday, Feb. 23
vs. Minnesota, Saturday, Feb. 27
at Ohio State, Tuesday, March 2
vs. Wisconsin, Saturday, March 6 or Sunday, March 7
IN FOCUS: Illinois gets its second big Ten bye during the middle of this week. that gives the Illini five full days (their longest stretch without a game since Christmastime) to rest and to prepare for the Boilermakers. When the teams met on Jan. 19 in Champaign, Illinois took a big early lead, but Purdue rallied for an 84-78 victory. The Illini offense relied solely on Demetri McCamey while the Illini man-to-man defense became a sieve. Purdue scored 56 second-half points as Illinois surrendered points on 27 of 38 possessions. Center Mike Tisdale played just 20 minutes before fouling out. The Illini need him to stay on the floor this time to make Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson work harder.
–Junior point guard Demetri McCamey continues to roll to his first big Ten assist title. McCamey handed out 16 assists in Illinois’ games against Wisconsin and Ohio State to improve his season average to 6.5 and his league average to 7.5 per game. Former high school teammate Evan Turner, now playing for Ohio State, is closest to McCamey with 5.9 apg in league play.
–Junior forward Mike Davis regained his starting job on Tuesday at Wisconsin but focused solely on rebounding. he became more of an offensive threat against Ohio State (8 points, 7 rebounds), but he allowed two Demetri McCamey passes to go through his hands that could’ve been dunks.
–Junior center Mike Tisdale never got a chance to flash his perimeter skills against Ohio State. after going for 19 points against Ohio State — most of them on 17-foot shots — the Buckeyes played zone most of the night and Tisdale’s only touches came in the post. he finished with 8 points on 8 shots. When Tisdale gets at least 10 shot attempts, the Illini are 5-2.
–Freshman guard Joseph Bertrand, who already seemed on track to redshirt after requiring preseason knee surgery, now assuredly will redshirt after tearing a calf muscle in practice. He’ll give the Illini four freshmen, from an eligibility standpoint, on the 2010-11 team.
It’s pretty rare for a 14-point loss to feel like a positive, but that’s exactly what IU got vs. Michigan State on Tuesday.
Basically, it’s all relative. Indiana was outmanned by the Spartans in both talent and confidence, and the Hoosiers’ loss to MSU was far from a surprise. IU had dropped six straight coming into the game and hadn’t put up much of a fight in its two previous outings vs. Ohio State and Wisconsin. Against Michigan State, however, Indiana actually battled and played hard for most of the game.
Sure, IU still made mistakes on both ends, and the Spartans scored almost at will at times. But the Hoosiers were physical, they challenged shots and they were aggressive with the ball. Indiana finished the game with 18 more free throw attempts and 20 more points from the line than MSU, but Michigan State’s efficiency overtook the Hoosiers.
Indiana still showed a little heart and a little pride, two areas that have been sorely lacking over the last 10 days. in terms of some of the dirty-work facets of the game, the Hoosiers drew a couple of charging fouls and did a better job of boxing out in the lane.
All of this improvement didn’t add up to a win, but it did stop the bleeding a little bit for a program that has been struggling with its confidence. Moral victories are starting to wear thin in Bloomington, but considering this team’s struggles in previous games, just putting up some resistance was a step forward.
MICHIGAN STATE 72, INDIANA 58: Indiana allowed the Spartans to shooting 59.3 percent from the field and failed to score a field goal in the final 10:16 of the first half to drop its seventh straight game. The Hoosiers lost despite going 25-of-28 from the free throw line and outrebounding MSU 30-24.
Sophomore Verdell Jones III rebounded from a bout with the flu to lead the Hoosiers with 20 points, and freshman Christian Watford added 14 points and six rebounds. Indiana struggled from three-point range and committed 16 turnovers in the loss.
–Sophomore walk-on Daniel Moore scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting vs. Wisconsin, and his hustle plays made an impact for IU. that performance followed up a solid outing vs. OSU in which he played quality defense and made plays that didn’t show up in the stats.
–Sophomore Tom Pritchard scored six points and grabbed two rebounds in 23 minutes vs. Ohio State, and he played just 12 minutes vs. UW, scoring two points and posting one rebound.
–Sophomore Verdell Jones III battled the flu to score 11 points against Wisconsin, but he had made just 8 of 23 shots over his past two games.
ON THE SPOT: The Indiana coaching staff now faces the challenge of helping the team continue to play hard and not get down following another loss. IU travels to Minnesota this weekend to battle a team it already beat this season, but Indiana will have to play its best basketball to have a shot at sweeping the Golden Gophers. it will be up to Tom Crean and the assistant coaches to build up the Hoosiers by discussing what IU did right the first time around vs. Minnesota and try to build momentum despite the recent string of losses.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “The lesson wasn’t, ‘Let’s get numbers. Let’s pad our stats.’ The lesson is, ‘You’re not tired.’ those are the lessons that have to be learned in a situation like this when the game is not there for you to win. We still have got to find some wins inside of this that we’re going to carry down the road — that may sound like psychobabble, but to me it’s real.” — IU head coach Tom Crean on what he believes his team needs to get out of games when it falls behind big and doesn’t have a legitimate shot at winning.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: after showing real progress for most of the season and taking Illinois and Purdue to the buzzer in the last couple of weeks, Indiana has fallen apart and seems to lack direction. Head coach Tom Crean has worked harder than ever to keep his players focused on the task at hand, but the team’s spirit has been sapped and IU is struggling more now than it did last season. Maybe the players have finally hit the wall, but Indiana will have to find its second wind to get back on track for the stretch run.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — F Christian Watford, C Tom Pritchard, G Verdell Jones III, G Jeremiah Rivers, G Jordan Hulls. Key Subs — F Derek Elston, G Devan Dumes, F Bobby Capobianco, C Tijan Jobe.
Northwestern 78, Indiana 61
Ohio State 69, Indiana 52
Wisconsin 83, Indiana 55
Michigan State 72, Indiana 58
at Minnesota, Feb. 20
vs. Wisconsin, Feb. 25
IN FOCUS: Head coach Tom Crean has been a fountain of energy since taking over the Indiana job, and his approach with his team hasn’t changed. he did admit that his players are mentally fatigued following IU’s loss to Ohio State Feb. 10, and he allowed his players to take a day off to clear their heads before returning to practice Feb. 12. The move went beyond just the NCAA mandated day off. he encouraged the players to put basketball out of their minds and focus on other things if only for a day, but the team didn’t respond quite as he planned. Crean now will have to come up with some new tricks to try to inject his team with the energy it has been sorely lacking in recent games.
–Verdell Jones III converted 11 of 12 free throws Tuesday, the fourth time this season he has made 10 or more shots from the line during the big Ten season. Jones also cracked the 20-point plateau for the fourth time in his last six games.
–Sophomore Tom Pritchard started, played 20 minutes and grabbed just one rebound, the second straight game he has started, played double-digit minutes and snatched just one board.
–Senior Devan Dumes missed IU’s previous game vs. Wisconsin with the flu, but he came off the bench to score six points and play 17 minutes vs. Michigan State. he played hard in his limited time, something head coach Tom Crean said was exactly what the team needed from him.
The Hawkeyes have shown they can play well coming off of lengthy layoffs, so the nine days between their Feb. 16 loss to Michigan and their Feb. 25 trip to Northwestern should serve Todd Lickliter’s team well.
The time away also gives Iowa a chance to regroup after one of its toughest defeats of the season. The Hawkeyes couldn’t hold a five-point lead in the final 22 seconds of regulation against Michigan, then failed to secure a three-point lead in overtime en route to a 80-78 loss.
However, even in defeat, the Hawkeyes impressed. They got a wonderful effort from sophomore forward Aaron Fuller, who scored a career-high 30 points. Fuller, who has had double-doubles in points and rebounds in three of Iowa’s last four games, has emerged as a rugged presence down low in big Ten play. Iowa also was accurate from three-point range, hitting 10 of 22 shots from beyond the arc.
The Hawkeyes will have to be as sharp as they were against Michigan to sweep the season series against Northwestern. The Hawkeyes handled the Wildcats 78-65 on Feb. 10, but Northwestern (17-8, 6-7) rebounded with a 77-74 overtime win vs. Minnesota on Feb. 14. with dreams of their first-ever NCAA tournament bid still in reach, the Wildcats will be looking to even the score against Iowa.
In the only other times the Hawkeyes have had more than a week between games this season, they defeated Drake on Dec. 19 and played Purdue tough in defeat on Dec. 29. with just four big Ten games left before the conference tournament, they must make good use of the time off.
MICHIGAN 80, IOWA 78: Leading 65-60 with 22 seconds left, the Hawkeyes appeared poised to secure victory against Michigan, but the Wolverines, led by senior center DeShawn Sims, stormed back. First, Sims (27 points, 10 rebounds) converted a three-point play with 15 seconds left, cutting Iowa’s lead to 65-63. then, after Iowa’s Cully Payne hit just 1 of 2 free throws on the Hawkeyes’ next possession, Sims hit a three-pointer at the top of the key, sending the game to overtime. in the extra period, Iowa (9-18, 3-11) would briefly edge to a three-point lead, but Michigan (13-12, 6-7) was resilient yet again and took the lead for good on a Stu Douglass three-pointer with 1:45 left. Iowa forward Aaron Fuller led the Hawkeyes with 30 points and 13 rebounds, and Matt Gatens added 21 points.
–Anthony Tucker made more news off the court than on it for Iowa. that changed when Tucker was granted his release from his scholarship, becoming the 10th player to leave the Hawkeyes basketball program with eligibility remaining since Todd Lickliter took over.
Tucker was suspended three times during his brief stay in Iowa City — twice for alcohol-related arrests and once for grades. he was not reinstated fast enough for his liking following his second alcohol-related arrest in late January and chose to leave.
Tucker was arrested after an altercation with a cab driver and subsequently suspended. Lickliter left open the opportunity for him to return, even allowing him to travel on a road trip recently for the first time since the suspension. But Tucker, who averaged 11 points in 25 career games, got sick of waiting.
Tucker follows Jeff Peterson and Tony Freeman, who left Iowa’s program because of disagreements with Lickliter, now in his third season. Other players who left, such as Jake Kelly and Tyler Smith, made their decisions based on family and not basketball.
But losing 10 scholarship players in three years is a staggering number. as a result, the Hawkeyes have one senior and one junior playing this season — the rest of the team is all underclassmen.
“You just have to do what I think is right and get up each day and do the best I can. The people who know me well know that I care deeply about people and student-athletes,” Lickliter said. “I’ve got to continue to do what I believe is right by people.”
–Coach Todd Lickliter recently visited recruit Ben Brust, one of the four members of next season’s class that has Lickliter excited and the Hawkeyes ranked among the top 30. He’ll soon visit the other three: Cody Larson, Devyn Marble and Zach McCabe.
ON THE SPOT: The Hawkeyes had problems defending the three-point shot against Michigan. The Wolverines hit 14 of 27 shots from behind the arc, and four Michigan players hit at least three three-pointers. Sound perimeter defense will be key against Northwestern, which is not short on capable outside shooters.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “You just have to do what I think is right and get up each day and do the best I can. The people who know me well know that I care deeply about people and student-athletes. I’ve got to continue to do what I believe is right by people. … Perceptions are what they are. There’s not a whole lot you can do about them.” — Coach Todd Lickliter, shrugging off concerns about 10 players transferring out of his program in three years.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: The Hawkeyes (9-18, 3-11) have lost six of their last seven in a long and troubling season. Iowa did piece together perhaps its best performance of the season to beat Northwestern on Feb. 10, 78-65. Coach Todd Lickliter has lost his 10th player in three years in Anthony Tucker, and he has a young team that could be getting discouraged from all the losing.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — G Cully Payne, G Matt Gatens, F Aaron Fuller, G Eric May, C Jarryd Cole. Key Subs — F Brennan Cougill, F Devan Bawinkel.
Ohio State 68, Iowa 58
Iowa 78, Northwestern 65
Michigan 80, Iowa 78 (OT)
at Northwestern, Feb. 25
at Wisconsin, March 3
at Minnesota, March 7
IN FOCUS: The Hawkeyes have benefited from long breaks before, so maybe he nine days they have off before the Northwestern trip will help them refocus.
–Aaron Fuller’s 30-point game against Michigan eclipsed his previous career high of 24, achieved Jan. 12 vs. Tennessee State. this was the first time he had exceeded 20 points against a conference opponent.
–Matt Gatens’ 21 points were his season best. his career high is 22 points, which he scored in his big Ten debut last season at Ohio State.
–Cully Payne’s 13 points were the most he has scored in conference play. However, he hit just 4 of 15 shots. Payne has scored in double figures in three of four games.
–Anthony Tucker was released from his scholarship and will transfer. it was a fast, far fall for Tucker, who was the team’s best player at the beginning of last season.
The worst 3-point shooting team in the big Ten by a wide margin, Michigan is finally starting to find its rhythm.
The Wolverines made a season-high 14 3-pointers in Tuesday’s win at Iowa, including seven of their first nine attempts, and are 21 of 41 (51 percent) from behind the arc the last two games.
Michigan entered the week shooting an abysmal 29.8 percent from 3-point range on the third-most attempts in the league.
Wolverines coach John Beilein has encouraged his team to shoot its way out its slump, but Michigan’s recent success is more than a product of volume.
Sharpshooters Zack Novak and Stu Douglass have gotten better spot-up looks off drive-and-kicks the last two games, and the Wolverines have benefited from timely makes.
Against Iowa, DeShawn Sims drained the tying 3-pointer in the waning seconds of regulation, and Douglass gave the Wolverines the lead for good on a triple with 1:42 left in overtime.
Michigan still has plenty of offensive issues — and at 13-12 a ways to go to make the NIT. But with Penn State, the big Ten’s worst 3-point defensive team, coming to town Saturday, there’s no reason the Wolverines’ recent hot streak shouldn’t continue.
MICHIGAN 80, IOWA 78, OT: DeShawn Sims scored a team-high 27 points as Michigan won back-to-back big Ten road games for the first time since 2006.
Sims buried the game-tying 3-pointer with 6.1 seconds left in regulation and added 10 rebounds, his seventh double-double of the year.
Manny Harris also had a double-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, and Laval Lucas-Perry scored 13 off the bench for the Wolverines.
Aaron Fuller scored a career-high 30 points for Iowa.
–Michigan’s 71-point outburst last week against Minnesota was its first 70-point game since a Jan. 3 win over Evan Turner-less Ohio State (73-64). in the 10 games in between, Michigan went 4-1 when it scored at least 60 points and 0-5 in games it was held below 60.
–Manny Harris told reporters after Michigan’s loss at Northwestern that he plans to return for his senior season. “A lot of these guys, like myself, got to come back and play next year,” Harris told The Detroit Free Press, adding that he’s confident in his decision.
ON THE SPOT: Freshman point guard Darius Morris has looked at home since returning to the starting lineup, but Morris regressed in Tuesday’s win over Iowa. The California native did not score a point, badly missed his only two 3-point attempts and finished with two assists in 25 minutes. while Morris is clearly Michigan’s floor general of the future, things are bound to get worse before they get better. Over the next 2 1/2 weeks, Morris will play Illinois’ Demetri McCamey, Penn State’s Talor Battle and Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas, three of the best guards in the big Ten.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “During the practice time we’ve had the last couple of weeks, we’ve really worked at just seeing the floor better, not running plays but being a player. Sometimes we don’t see anything and then we go around like robots. That’s been a major emphasis the last couple of weeks.” — Michigan coach John Beilein on his team’s improved play of late.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Michigan stopped an ugly slide, in which it had lost five of six games, with wins at Minnesota and Iowa. Still, the Wolverines’ season would be an unqualified disappointment. Michigan began the season ranked in the top 15 and might not even make the NIT. The Wolverines are 13-12, including a win over Division II Northern Michigan, and lack size, consistent shooters and leadership.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — G Manny Harris, G Darius Morris, G Zach Novak, G Stu Douglas, F DeShawn Sims. Key Subs — G Laval Lucas-Perry, F Anthony Wright, C Zack Gibson.
Northwestern 67, Michigan 52
Wisconsin 62, Michigan 44
Michigan 71, Minnesota 63
Michigan 80, Iowa 78 (OT)
vs. Penn State, Saturday, Feb. 20
vs. Illinois, Tuesday, Feb. 23
at Ohio State, Saturday, Feb. 27
vs. Minnesota, Tuesday, March 2
IN FOCUS: The Wolverines shot the ball better Tuesday at Iowa but have been inconsistent on offense all season. Saturday’s game against lowly Penn State is their chance to get something going for a change.
–Laval Lucas-Perry made three first-half 3-pointers against Iowa and finished with 13 points, his most since a 16-point outing Jan. 7 against Penn State. Benched in favor of Darius Morris earlier this month, Lucas-Perry had been held scoreless in five of Michigan’s first 12 big Ten games.
–Michigan is 7-0 this year when both Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims score at least 20 points in a game. Harris and Sims entered the week averaging a combined 35.9 points per game, or 55 percent of the Wolverines’ offense, most in the big Ten.
–Redshirt freshman Ben Cronin, who’s out for the season with complications from hip surgery, told AnnArbor.com he still hopes to resume his basketball career. Michigan coach John Beilein said Cronin’s probably would never play again when he announced the 7-footer’s injury earlier this season. Cronin, who missed most of last year with a left hip injury, still walks with a noticeable limp.
Six of eight games on the road for the first time in school history. A key injury to Kalin Lucas. Another player benched and yet another suspended for a game. three losses in a row, chopping a three-game big Ten lead to zero. that sums up the last three weeks for Michigan State, which Tom Izzo called “the toughest stretch I’ve been through.”
But after consecutive double-digit road wins over Penn State and Indiana, the Spartans were back alone in first place — by a half-game over Ohio State — as of Tuesday night. And much rest and preparation will be available for the next two games, which will determine whether Izzo’s team can repeat as big Ten champs.
First, the red-hot Buckeyes come to Breslin Center on Sunday. then the Spartans get a week to prepare for a Feb. 28 trip to Purdue.
“It means everything,” Delvon Roe said of the road ahead.
On Wednesday, Izzo had a full complement of players for a full game for the first time in February.
Kalin Lucas is back and playing well on the sprained right ankle that cost him a game and a half. Durrell Summers is playing better after he was benched for the second half of last week’s home loss to Purdue. And Korie Lucious was back with the team after he was suspended for Saturday’s Penn State game for skipping class.
This team finally gets some rest and prep time, and it will finally be able to show whether it’s as good as it thinks it can be.
MICHIGAN STATE 72, INDIANA 58: Draymond Green led four Spartans in double figures with 14 points off the bench for the Spartans, who shot a season-high 59.3 percent. Kalin Lucas scored 13 and Chris Allen and Raymar Morgan had 10 apiece in Tom Izzo’s 500th game as head coach.
Foul trouble for MSU kept Indiana in the game. The Hoosiers made 25 of 28 free throws compared with 5 of 10 for the Spartans. Izzo went deep into his bench, using 10 players for eight minutes or more. Ten players scored.
For the fourth time in six games, the Spartans had nine turnovers or fewer. They had just eight against the Hoosiers.
–After he benched Durrell Summers for the entire second half of the Spartans’ 76-64 home loss to Purdue on Tuesday, Tom Izzo said he merely played the guys who gave him the best chance to win. Two days later at practice, he came clean — saying it was an intentional message, one huge game be darned.
“Could he have played better than some guys in that game in the second half? sure,” said Izzo, who used walk-on Mike Kebler instead of Summers at one point. “But I can’t worry about a game, I’ve got to worry about a season, and I’ve got to worry about a program, and I’ve got to worry about a kid’s future.”
Izzo said Summers has suffered from a “pattern” of lost focus and lost intensity. Two days after the benching, Summers blamed himself and promised to respond.
“I’m just trying to get better every day, as a person and a player, and I’m trying to get better as a team guy,” Summers said. “Because of the incident that took place (vs.) Purdue, I let my team down. So I’ve got to get better at being a team guy.”
–Future Spartan Keith Appling was named to the McDonald’s All-America game, to be played March 31 in Columbus, Ohio. Appling is Tom Izzo’s ninth McDonald’s honoree but the first since Shannon Brown and Brandon Cotton were honored together in 2003. Delvon Roe was expected to be chosen for the 2008 game, but he was scratched because of knee surgery.
–Tom Izzo tried to work out a way to get to Dallas on Saturday so he could watch former Spartan Shannon Brown in the NBA All-Star dunk contest and catch up with another former Spartan, Zach Randolph, a reserve for the Western Conference. The logistics didn’t work out, though, with the Spartans on a short turnaround before a Tuesday trip to Indiana.
ON THE SPOT: Dribble penetration remains a concern for the Spartans’ defense, and part of the problem can be traced to the fact that Kalin Lucas’ sprained right ankle still isn’t 100 percent. But Indiana drove several Spartans repeatedly to the basket, drawing 26 fouls and earning 28 trips to the foul line. Ohio State, the Spartans’ next opponent, has the league’s best penetrator in Evan Turner, along with other guys who can get to the rim in David Lighty and William Buford.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I went through a three-game losing streak and, you know, I forgot how to coach. I don’t know what I’m doing. The players forgot how to play. And I’m not saying that about (the) media, I’m saying that about our fans. And I understand, it’s just the nature of the beast, but it starts to wear on you. it really does.” — MSU coach Tom Izzo
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Michigan State has its 11th 20-win season out of the last 13 and is 11-3 in conference play. The Spartans’ 9-0 start in league play was the best in school history. The Spartans started 4-0 in big Ten road games, giving them a program-best stretch of 12 wins in 13 big Ten road games. Five of Michigan State’s losses came against good competition away from home — at North Carolina and Texas, vs. Florida in Atlantic City, then at Wisconsin and Illinois. The sixth loss came at home against Purdue.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — G Kalin Lucas, G Chris Allen, G Durrell Summers, F Raymar Morgan, F Delvon Roe. Key Subs — F Draymond Green, G Korie Lucious, C Garrick Sherman, C Derrick Nix
MSU 65, Penn State 54
Michigan State 72, Indiana 58
vs. Ohio State, Sunday, Feb. 21
at Purdue, Sunday, Feb. 28
vs. Penn State, Thursday, March 4
vs. Michigan, Saturday, March 6 or Sunday, March 7
IN FOCUS: The Spartans will see one of the big Ten’s best playmakers with size this week in Ohio State’s 6-7 Evan Turner, who can do it all and will severely stress Michigan State’s faltering defense. Raymar Morgan has the size and quickness to do a decent job on Turner, but Morgan’s tendency to get in foul trouble means Tom Izzo likely will try several different players. Late in the game, though, look for Morgan to draw both assignments.
–Sophomore F Draymond Green was suffering through a nightmare two-game stretch, making his usual effort plays but missing on 19 of 20 shots from the floor. he responded at Indiana by making all five of his shots and scoring 14 points. Green also had four rebounds and three assists.
–Senior F Raymar Morgan, called out this week by Tom Izzo for his recent slump, came through with a solid 10-point effort at Indiana, hitting 5 of 8 shots and getting to the basket twice in the second half when the Spartans needed a bucket. Morgan had scored 26 points in his previous five games.
–Freshman centers Derrick Nix and Garrick Sherman were fading from the rotation, but they’re back. Nix and Sherman have combined for 21 minutes in each of the past two games, and both contributed against Indiana. MSU called Nix’s number on its first two possessions, and he responded with post-up baskets on a six-point night. Sherman had four rebounds, a block, a steal and a post-up field goal.
Now that the season is all but lost, Tubby Smith has begun sifting through the rubble of a season that began with so much optimism.
Minnesota has lost key players, key recruits and seven of its last 10 games off a team that returned nine players from an NCAA Tournament qualifier. Smith knows why: his team isn’t doing the little things anymore that undertalented and overachieving teams must do to compete.
“You have to get on the floor for loose balls, you have to take the charge, you have to have some guts and do that,” Smith said. “If you don’t, this is what you’re going to be — you’re going to be mediocre.”
Right now, the Gophers are on the wrong side of mediocre. They lost their point guard, Al Nolen. They’ve lost top recruits Royce White and Trevor Mbakwe. Now they’re losing games at an alarming rate, most recently to an average Northwestern team in overtime.
Smith got every ounce of talent out of an average team last season. that hasn’t been the case this year. as a result, the Gophers begin the week 5-7 in the league and seemingly destined for a losing league record in a season that began with conference-title aspirations.
“If you don’t have the talent, the overwhelming talent, then you better be doing the extra things,” Smith said. “And we’re not doing it.”
–The Gophers’ bench outscored Northwestern 17-3 but lost for the eighth time this season. Minnesota is 12-8 when outscoring the opponent’s bench.
–Minnesota has blocked at least four shots in 19 of 24 games this season.
ON THE SPOT: The Gophers turned the ball over 15 times against Northwestern, giving them 30 for their last two games. Turnovers continue to be a recurring problem ever since Minnesota lost starting point guard Al Nolen to grades a couple of weeks ago. Devoe Joseph is a better scorer than Nolen, but Nolen is better running the offense and on defense.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “You have to get on the floor for loose balls, you have to take the charge, you have to have some guts and do that. If you don’t, this is what you’re going to be — you’re going to be mediocre.” — Coach Tubby Smith
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: It’s become a long, miserable season in Minneapolis. Personnel losses have turned into disappointing losses on the court as the Gophers have lost seven of their last 10 conference games. Tubby Smith will have to take a long look at this roster during the offseason to try to get the magic back from an NCAA Tournament team last season.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — G Devoe Joseph, G Lawrence Westbrook, G Blake Hoffarber, F Damian Johnson, C Ralph Sampson III. Key Subs — F Paul Carter, G Devron Bostick, F Colton Iverson, F Rodney Williams.
Minnesota 66 Penn State, 64
Michigan 71, Minnesota 63
Northwestern 77, Minnesota 74
vs. Wisconsin, Feb. 18
IN FOCUS: The Gophers have lost consecutive games to Michigan and Northwestern, two teams with losing records in conference games. Now they get to tangle with Wisconsin, which still has aspirations of a regular-season conference title. The Badgers are coming off a 28-point mauling of Indiana and play the type of smothering defense that can break Minnesota’s will early.
–Lawrence Westbrook and coach Tubby Smith are stuck in a love/hate relationship. Smith loves his scoring potential but hates his nonchalant attitude toward defense. as a result, Westbrook has been in and out of Smith’s doghouse despite hitting a game-winning shot recently against Penn State. Westbrook, the team’s leading scorer, has been on the bench late in games because of his poor defense. “He’s gotta defend better,” Smith said. “It’s as simple as that. If he defended better, he’d be on the court.”
–Blake Hoffarber is shooting 50 percent on 3-pointers this season, tops in the nation. Hoffarber has connected on 66 of 132 3’s on the year.
–Devoe Joseph is averaging 8.3 points, 4.5 assists and 3.2 turnovers in six games since replacing Al Nolen as the starting point guard.
Bill Carmody, who turned 58 in December, was 16 years old the last time Northwestern finished better than .500 in big Ten play. The Wildcats looked as if they were going to extend that unhappy streak to 43 seasons when they never competed at Iowa last week and then trailed Minnesota by 13 points with eight minutes to go Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
But Northwestern put on a late rush to escape the Gophers 77-74 in overtime and return within one game of .500 with five big Ten contests to go. If the Wildcats can handle Penn State’s visit on Wednesday, then they’ll set the school record for regular-season wins (18) and reach the .500 mark later than any NU team since 2004.
“They have one of the premier guards in the country (Talor Battle),” Northwestern coach bill Carmody said after the Wildcats’ win on Sunday. “So we have our work cut out for us.”
Northwestern has survived despite getting next to nothing from its bench. Against Minnesota, the Wildcats’ starters played 201 of the possible 225 minutes and scored 74 of the 77 points.
NU also has survived despite uneven performances from its centers. When the Wildcats suffered their disappointing 13-point loss at Iowa on Feb. 10, Carmody had to go to his third and fourth option in the post because Luka Mirkovic (2 points, 3 rebounds) and Kyle Rowley (2 points, 2 rebounds) struggled at both ends of the floor.
Mirkovic rallied against Minnesota with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 4 steals in 38 minutes. It’s hard to overstate how much better the Wildcats perform when the 6-foot-11 Serbian provides points in the post. in the Wildcats’ six big Ten wins, Mirkovic averages 12.5 points and shoots 62 percent from the field. in the Wildcats’ seven big Ten losses, Mirkovic averages 4.6 points and shoots 28 percent from the field.
–With Sunday’s 77-74 overtime victory over Minnesota, Northwestern tied the program record for regular-season wins (17), set by the 1982-83 and 2008-09 squads. since the 1982-83 team also won an NIT game against DePaul, these Wildcats need two wins to set the school’s overall single-season record. The Minnesota win also tied the program record for single-season home wins (13).
–Junior point guard Michael “Juice” Thompson needs just 12 points to join injured teammate Kevin Coble in the 1,000-point club. Thompson also owns 347 assists and 152 3-pointers in his career, which will end with him at or near the top of NU’s all-time list in all three categories. Thompson also has started all 86 games during his career.
ON THE SPOT: Northwestern wants to shoot 3-pointers more than most teams, but sometimes the Wildcats become too reliant on their long-range expertise. NU took 36 of its 60 shots against Minnesota from 3-point range (60 percent), which is higher than its season rate of 48.3 percent.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I was rooting for Penn State the last 10 days, you know? They’re playing everyone close, right down to the wire.” — Northwestern coach bill Carmody on his postgame radio show Sunday, voicing his hope that Penn State wouldn’t still be looking for its first big Ten win when it comes to Evanston on Wednesday.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Northwestern’s desire to earn the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid suffered a crushing blow with the Feb. 10 loss at Iowa. The Wildcats could sneak back into the at-large discussion, but they need to win the rest of their regular-season games and then make some noise at the big Ten tournament. their problem? They own just one win over a likely NCAA team (Purdue), while seven of their 12 non-conference wins came against teams with RPIs over 200.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — F Drew Crawford, F John Shurna, C Luka Mirkovic, G Michael Juice Thompson, G Jeremy Nash. Key Subs G Alex Marcotullio, C Kyle Rowley, F Mike Capocci.
Northwestern 78, Indiana 61
Iowa 78, Northwestern 65
Northwestern 77, Minnesota 74 (OT)
vs. Penn State, Wednesday, Feb. 17
at Wisconsin, Sunday, Feb. 21
vs. Iowa, Thursday, Feb. 25
at Penn State, Sunday, Feb. 28
vs. Chicago State, Wednesday, March 3
IN FOCUS: Northwestern hasn’t beaten Penn State since the 2006-07 season, though that’s partially because they’ve played just once each of the two previous years. They’re playing twice in a 12-day span, so bill Carmody and Ed DeChellis figure to flex their coaching chops as they try to out-adjust the other. The Wildcats lost to Wisconsin 60-50 on Jan. 13, but it was a tie game until the Badgers’ Trevon Hughes got hot from 3-point range late. NU must slow him down and do a better job on the defensive glass.
–Freshman guard Drew Crawford’s nine-game streak in double figures was snapped when he managed just 5 points on Feb. 10 at Iowa. But Crawford started a new streak on Sunday as he stacked up 18 points against Minnesota. in big Ten games, Crawford leads all freshmen in scoring with 13.1 points per game.
–Sophomore forward John Shurna tied his career-high with six 3-pointers against Minnesota. he owns 40 3-pointers in 13 big Ten games, which is slightly ahead of Minnesota sharpshooter Blake Hoffarber (36 in 12 games) for first in league play.
–Sophomore center Luka Mirkovic posted the fourth double-double of his career when he produced 11 points and 10 rebounds against Minnesota. Mirkovic also doubled his career-high in steals with four and saved his third 3-pointer in big Ten play for a crucial time. his 3-pointer with 3:07 to go capped the Wildcats’ rally from a 12-point second-half deficit.
–Senior forward Kevin Coble (Lisfranc fracture in his left foot) and senior swingman Jeff Ryan (torn ACL in his left knee) are out for the year. Coble, a second-team all-Big Ten pick last year, has undergone successful surgery and plans to start running in late March when the screws are removed from his foot. Ryan also underwent surgery and is on target to use his redshirt year and return as well.
The small ripple of a few victories has turned into a rolling wave of momentum. Suddenly, Ohio State is the hottest team in the big Ten and a legitimate team to fear in March.
That is, if the Buckeyes can survive their three-game march through the big Ten’s most difficult gauntlet. Thus far, they’re 1-0.
Ohio State’s stunning 72-53 Valentine’s Day dismantling of Illinois left the Bucks in the driver’s seat in the big Ten as they began their most important seven-day stretch of the season. The Buckeyes welcome Purdue to Value City Arena on Feb. 17 before traveling to Michigan State on Feb. 21 in a game that could determine the big Ten’s regular-season champion.
Given the direction the two teams have been heading, Ohio State has to like its chances.
The Buckeyes and Illini were both riding five-game winning streaks entering their Feb. 14 matchup, but then the Buckeyes clobbered Illinois on its home floor — perhaps the most difficult road venue in the league.
When Jon Diebler is hitting 3-pointers, it makes the Buckeyes difficult to defend, particularly when David Lighty and Evan Turner are sprinting out on the wings and shot-blocking specialist Dallas Lauderdale is roaming the middle.
The key to the whole thing, at least offensively, might be Diebler’s ability to knock down shots from the outside.
The Buckeyes have won six straight and nine of their last 10. A second-half collapse against West Virginia is all that is separating Ohio State from a 10-game winning streak. If the Bucks win their next two, against two of the best in the league, they’ll be well on their way to a conference title — and perhaps much, much more.
–The victory over Illinois gave Thad Matta his 10th straight season with 20 victories in 10 years of coaching, dating to his days at Xavier and Butler. Among active coaches, Matta’s string is behind only mark few, who has started his career with 11 consecutive seasons of 20-plus wins.
–Ohio State made 26 field goals in its win against Illinois. twenty of those 26 came with assists, demonstrating tremendous ball movement by a guard-oriented team.
ON THE SPOT: It’s difficult to nitpick a team that has won six straight, but Evan Turner’s inexperience sometimes shines through. Turner had six turnovers against the Illini, nearly half of Ohio State’s 13 for the game. Turner is still raw as a point guard and can be pressured into turnovers. It’s one quick way to get the Buckeyes out of their flow.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “If they play at that level, they are.” — Illinois coach Bruce Weber’s reply when he was asked whether Ohio State is the best team in the big Ten after the Illini were routed at home by the Buckeyes.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: The Buckeyes withstood the back injury to Evan Turner and have gotten hot at just the right time. Ohio State has wins over the league’s top teams — Wisconsin, Purdue and Illinois — with two games against Michigan State still to come.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — G Evan Turner, G Jon Diebler, F David Lighty, F William Buford, C Dallas Lauderdale. Key Subs — F Kyle Madsen, G P.J. Hill, G Jeremie Simmons
Ohio State 68, Iowa 58
Ohio State 69, Indiana 52
Ohio State 72, Illinois 53
at Michigan State, Feb. 21
at Penn State, Feb. 24
vs. Michigan, Feb. 27
vs. Illinois, March 2
IN FOCUS: The game at Michigan State on Feb. 21 could separate the top two teams in the league. Ohio State must find a way to slow Kalin Lucas, who’s healthy now and tearing up the big Ten. Lucas scored 24 points against Penn State on Feb. 13 in his first game back from an ankle injury.
–G Jon Diebler made six 3-pointers against Illinois and ranks second on the school’s career list with 221. he trails all-time leader Jamar Butler by 21.
–Evan Turner scored 16 points against Illinois and has 1,265 career points to rank 25th on the school’s all-time scoring list. Clark Kellogg is 24th with 1,285 points.
The shot clock has been one of Penn State’s few allies during the Nittany Lions’ 12-game losing streak. But lately, it’s joined their growing list of enemies.
Penn State coach Ed DeChellis wants his team to use as much of the shot clock as possible on most offensive possessions in order to keep the pace of the game low and limit the opponents’ number of scoring chances. that strategy has often worked out defensively, but the side effect is that the Nittany Lions are having trouble generating quality shots and are often forced, as they were in Saturday’s 65-54 loss to Michigan State, to throw up desperation shots simply to avoid a shot-clock violation.
On three consecutive possessions during a 13-0 Spartan run that ultimately decided the game, Penn State failed to hit the rim, picking up two shot-clock violations and watching a Talor Battle jumper drift out-of-bounds on the third occasion.
DeChellis credited Michigan State’s defense, particularly the job the Spartans did on Battle, who scored 30 points but couldn’t shake free during the run.
“We tried to do the same things we’d been doing for the first 30 minutes of the game,” DeChellis said. “They defended us better, got into us more and we didn’t handle it very well.”
Northwestern, Penn State’s next opponent, won’t be bothered by the Nittany Lions slowing the pace. bill Carmody’s Wildcats don’t mind using most of the shot clock themselves. But the Nittany Lions know they must work harder to get better shots at least a little bit earlier in the possession if they want the streak to finally end.
–The Nittany Lions are forcing just 8.8 turnovers in conference games. all 10 of the rest of the teams in the big Ten are forcing at least 10.8 per game.
–Penn State has shot more than 15 free throws just five times in 12 conference games. The Nittany Lions’ 182 free throw attempts in big Ten play rank them eighth in the conference, and their 117 makes rank them last.
ON THE SPOT: Junior forward Andrew Jones, who has received the bulk of the minutes at Penn State’s five position over the last several games, has delivered minimal production. Jones hasn’t reached double-figure scoring since the big Ten opener at Minnesota and has had trouble holding on to rebounds and hard passes from his teammates.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “That’s the best 0-12 team I’ve seen in this league.” — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, after handing Penn State its 12th consecutive loss.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: A season that spiraled out of control in early January continues for the Nittany Lions, who have lost 12 straight games and have shown few signs of improvement during that stretch. Junior point guard Talor Battle leads the big Ten with a scoring average of 19.5 points per game, but he is the only Penn State player averaging in double figures and the only one capable of consistently creating his own shot. Penn State has gotten scant production from its frontcourt players and inconsistent shooting from the rest of its guards. The Nittany Lions have been able to keep several games close until the last few minutes, when they have self-destructed with stagnant half-court sets and a lack of defensive effort.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — F David Jackson, F Andrew Jones, F Jeff Brooks, G Talor Battle, G Chris Babb. Key Subs — G Tim Frazier, F bill Edwards, F Andrew Ott, G Cammeron Woodyard.
Ohio State 75, Penn State 62
Minnesota 66, Penn State 64
Michigan State 65, Penn State 54
At Northwestern, Wednesday, Feb. 17
At Michigan, Saturday, Feb. 20
Vs. Ohio State, Wednesday, Feb. 24
Vs. Northwestern, Sunday, Feb. 28
At Michigan State, Thursday, March 4
IN FOCUS: The Nittany Lions are trying to avoid going winless in the big Ten season. They’ll have two cracks at their first conference win against the last team to accomplish the dubious feat. Penn State visits Northwestern on Wednesday and will play host to the Wildcats 11 days later. The Nittany Lions have won six of their last seven games against the Wildcats but have lost four of their last five games by at least 10 points.
–Junior guard Talor Battle hit the 30-point mark for the fourth time this season and his career Saturday when he scored 30 against Michigan State. The Nittany Lions have won just one of those four games, however.
–A sprained ankle has thrown off bill Edwards’ season just as the freshman forward was starting to get going. he hasn’t scored a point in Penn State’s last three games, missing one of them with the injury. he was ineffective in just three minutes of action in his return in Saturday’s loss to Michigan State.
–Junior forward Andrew Jones blocked two shots against Michigan State, his first since the Virginia Tech game — a span of two months and 14 games. The 6-foot-10 Jones is tied with Jeff Brooks for the team lead with nine blocks; the Nittany Lions have just 37 all season.
While its field goal shooting continues to fluctuate, Purdue has relied on what coach Matt Painter refers to as “the constants” in climbing back into the race for the big Ten Conference championship.
The Boilermakers (21-3, 9-3) have won seven consecutive games heading into their Feb. 17 battle at Ohio State, which crushed Illinois 72-53 on Feb. 14.
Purdue has positioned itself to win the school’s first regular-season big Ten championship since 1996 because it is playing improved defense and has been a much better rebounding team.
In back-to-back victories against Michigan State and Iowa, the Spartans and Hawkeyes were a combined 32 of 103 from the field (31.1 percent), including 12 of 43 from 3-point range.
During their seven-game winning streak, the Boilermakers have won the battle of the boards five times and were equal with Illinois (37-37).
Purdue’s seven-game big Ten winning streak also includes three road victories — at Illinois, at Indiana and at Michigan State.
–Including the 25 points he scored in a 76-64 victory on Feb. 9 at Michigan State, junior guard E’Twaun Moore is averaging 20.7 points in the Boilermakers’ six big Ten road games. Moore’s 24-game average is 17.3 points. Purdue is 4-2 in conference road games.
–By scoring 19 points at Michigan State, junior center JaJuan Johnson became the third member of this junior class to surpass the 1,000-point barrier in his career. Johnson has 1,036 points. Classmates Robbie Hummel and Moore each passed the 1,000-point mark earlier this season.
ON THE SPOT: If the Boilermakers hope to win the big Ten title, they must do a better job of protecting second-half leads.
Purdue led by 18 points at Michigan State, watched the Spartans close to within three and then won by 12. on Saturday, the Boilermakers’ 19-point lead against Iowa quickly was sliced to 11 before Purdue won by 23.
In January, the Boilermakers led Ohio State by 13 with seven minutes remaining and were beaten, 70-66.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “Our guys have done a very nice job of focusing on the game at hand and not being consumed by the big picture.” — Purdue coach Matt Painter on how his team rebounded from a 2-3 big Ten start to be 9-3.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: through Feb. 14, Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State were tied in the loss column — each with three — for the big Ten lead, but each has taken an interesting path.
With standout Evan Turner injured (back), Ohio State lost three games early in the big Ten schedule. Purdue started 2-0, then lost three in a row but has bounced back to win seven in a row, riding juniors E’Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson and excellent man-to-man defense.
Michigan State began 9-0, then lost to Wisconsin, Illinois and Purdue with 2009 big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas battling an ankle that was sprained Feb. 2 at Wisconsin.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual starters — F Robbie Hummel, C JaJuan Johnson, G Kelsey Barlow, G Chris Kramer, G E’Twaun Moore. Key subs — G Keaton Grant, G Lewis Jackson, F/C Patrick Bade, G John Hart.
Purdue 78, Indiana 75
Purdue 76, Michigan State 64
at Ohio State, Wednesday, Feb. 17
vs. Illinois, Saturday, Feb. 20
at Minnesota, Wednesday, Feb. 24
vs. Michigan State, Sunday, Feb. 28
vs. Indiana, Wednesday, March 3.
IN FOCUS: Beginning with the 1998-99 season — when Ohio State’s Value City Arena opened — Purdue has not won a men’s basketball game in Columbus, Ohio.
The Boilermakers have been beaten in overtime in each of the last two seasons and will need to contain Buckeyes standout Evan Turner if they hope to end its 12-year drought in Columbus.
Purdue defeated Ohio State in the 2009 big Ten tournament championship game. The Boilermakers also recently snapped two lengthy big Ten road losing streaks, winning Feb. 4 at Indiana and Feb. 9 at Michigan State.
The Boilermakers had not won in Bloomington since 1999 and hadn’t won in East Lansing since 1998.
–Sophomore point guard Lewis Jackson is averaging two points, two rebounds and 2.4 assists in the five games in which he has played since returning to action Jan. 28 after missing the season’s first 19 games with a broken left foot. Purdue is 5-0 since Jackson’s return. he continues to come off the bench behind 6-5 freshman Kelsey Barlow.
–With Jackson’s return and the continued development of redshirt freshman guard John Hart, Painter has settled in on a nine-man rotation with Keaton Grant, Patrick Bade, Jackson and Hart comprising the four mainstays off the bench.
Not to suggest Wisconsin’s players live in the past, but it’s safe to say the Badgers have made up for almost all of last season’s disappointments.
Remember how Wisconsin got destroyed by Connecticut in last year’s biggest non-conference challenge? The Badgers amended that issue with their four-point win over no. 6 Duke on Dec. 2. Remember the loss at Marquette? Wisconsin fixed that with a win on Dec. 12 at the Kohl Center.
Remember that six-game losing streak last January that knocked Wisconsin out of its customary spot in the league chase? well, the Badgers overcame Jon Leuer’s broken wrist to win eight of their first 11 big Ten games to stay squarely in this year’s race. Not only that, the Badgers figured out a way to beat Purdue (and nearly beat the Boilers twice) to turn around a four-game losing streak against Matt Painter’s guys.
The Badgers’ next agenda? Discovering whether they have the answer key to Minnesota guard Lawrence Westbrook. during last year’s pair of Border Battles, Westbrook dominated when the games were on the line and led the Gophers to a sweep. If Wisconsin had split those games or even swept them, then the Badgers would have breezed into the NCAA Tournament and forced the Gophers to sweat it out.
When Wisconsin travels to Minnesota on Thursday, it’ll be the Gophers who see the Badgers and their terrific power ratings as a chance to get back into the NCAA Tournament conversation. though Minnesota lost its last home game (to Michigan), the Badgers won’t take the Gophers for granted. They learned nothing’s certain last week when Illinois came in and snapped several impressive Kohl Center winning streaks.
Wisconsin, to continue one of this season’s themes, made up for the Illinois home loss by thrashing Indiana 83-55 on Saturday.
“This was a game to respond to the loss we had on Tuesday,” Wisconsin senior guard Trevon Hughes told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We were two different teams from Tuesday to (Saturday).”
–Wisconsin fans walked out of the Kohl Center on Feb. 9 with a dull sensation they hadn’t experienced since Jan. 29, 2000. Illinois’ 63-56 win over the Badgers marked the first loss to an unranked big Ten team on Wisconsin’s home floor since that date 10 years prior — ending a string of 51 consecutive wins. The Illini also ended Wisconsin’s 18-game home winning streak against all opponents. on the other hand, Wisconsin’s 83-55 win over Indiana improved the Badgers’ home record against unranked teams to 102-2 in the Bo Ryan era.
–Senior guards Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon joined the short list of Wisconsin players who’ve won 100 career games. Hughes and Bohannon picked up Win no. 100 with Saturday’s 83-55 whupping of Indiana. They need six more wins to set the record held by former teammates Brian Butch, Michael Flowers, Greg Stiemsma and Tanner Bronson.
ON THE SPOT: Wisconsin scored exactly six points in the paint against Illinois on Feb. 9, which doesn’t cut it no matter how big an opposing team might be. The Badgers took more than half of their shots from 3-point range against Illinois but amended that against Indiana on Saturday with 38 two-point tries and just 25 3’s. The Hoosiers, though, have been giving up points in the post all year. It’ll be much tougher to score on Minnesota’s tag team of big men.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “Some nights, some days are different. But you’ve got to try to be as consistent as you can and that’s pretty much what we hang our hats on.” — Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, trying to explain the inexplicable (losing to Illinois by seven a few days before whipping Indiana by 28) to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Wisconsin lost control of its big Ten title destiny with the unexpected Feb. 9 home loss to Illinois. The Badgers also increased their odds of playing in Milwaukee during the NCAA Tournament’s opening weekend. The NCAA committee assigns destinations in order of the teams’ overall seeds, which means other big Ten teams will jump ahead of them in line for the Milwaukee subregional if they’re seeded better than the Badgers.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — F Keaton Nankivil, F Tim Jarmusz, G Jordan Taylor, G Trevon Hughes, G Jason Bohannon. Key Subs — F Ryan Evans, G Rob Wilson.
Wisconsin 62, Michigan 44
Illinois 63, Wisconsin 56
Wisconsin 83, Indiana 55
at Minnesota, Thursday, Feb. 18
vs. Northwestern, Sunday, Feb. 21
at Indiana, Thursday, Feb. 25
vs. Iowa, Wednesday, March 3
at Illinois, Saturday, March 6 or Sunday, March 7
IN FOCUS: It’s a shame when the big Ten’s unbalanced schedule keeps Wisconsin and Minnesota from playing twice during the season. though the Badgers project themselves as calm and cool in all situations, it’s hard to believe they won’t be extra stoked to travel to Williams Arena on Thursday. The Gophers knocked off the Badgers twice last year as guard Lawrence Westbrook took over both games down the stretch.
–Senior G Jason Bohannon scored 30 points against Indiana on Feb. 13 to obliterate his previous career-high by 10 points. Bohannon also drilled 7 3-pointers to tie the program’s single-game record. Bohannon owns 200 3-pointers for his career, which means he needs 13 to tie Wisconsin legend Michael Finley for third on the school’s all-time list.
–Junior F Jon Leuer has missed nine games since breaking his left wrist against Purdue on Jan. 9. Wisconsin declines to release a timetable for his return, but a recent Wisconsin State Journal blog noted that Leuer has been shooting on a hoop away from his teammates during practices. his averages are frozen at 15.4 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game.
–Freshman F Mike Bruesewitz played 18 minutes Saturday against Indiana — the second-highest total of his career — and he tied his career-high with seven rebounds. he also doubled his career assists total from two to four.
–Junior F/C Keaton Nankivil continues to make the most of Leuer’s absence. in the last seven games, Nankivil has averaged 12.7 points and 6.0 rebounds in 32.4 minutes per game. that run has pushed his season averages to 8.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
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