Durrell Summers hit a huge three pointer late against Texas as Michigan State posted its most impressive win on the season to date, taking down the Longhorns 67-63 in a 66 possession game. Goran Suton showed everyone that he was more than capable coming off his injury, scoring 18 points on just 8 shots. That accuracy proved to be the difference in the game. Texas was better on the boards, better at getting to and making FTs, and the teams had the same number of turnovers (15). But MSU just shot better. That the Spartans shot 54% from inside the arc came as a bit of a surprise, as Texas came in as one of the best shotblocking teams in the country. In this game, however, the Longhorns swatted just 3 MSU shots. That was big. Box score.
Purdue dominated Davidson on Saturday, winning 76-58 in a 65 possession game. Stephen Curry will want to burn the tape of this one. The Wooden Finalist was held to 13 points on 26 shots, and was also hounded into 6 turnovers. That Purdue could frustrate one of the best guards in the country into this kind of a performance ought to be a warning to all of the backcourts in the Big Ten. That said, the box score from this game is a bit funky. After all, when you see that Curry has 6 TOs, you expect Davidson had been coughing it up all game. Not so - the Wildcats posted only 11 turnovers the whole game - a pretty impressive total against Purdue's pressure defense. Robbie Hummel led the Boilers with an 18/14 dub-dub on 11 shots, and Keaton Grant showed some signs of life with 15 points on 7 shots.
Minnesota pulled the upset of the weekend (season?), beating Louisville 70-64 in a 71 possession game. How did this happen? Simple - Louisville could not throw it in the ocean (41.5 eFG), and Minnesota could (47.8 eFG). The teams were equals in turnovers, and Louisville actually rebounded better. Oh, and it helped that Minnesota almost attempted as many shots from the line (37) as they did from the field (45). Louisville got 33 FTAs of their own, but they only made 20 of them (61%). Al Nolen led the Gophers with 18 points on just 6 shots (fueled by 17 FTAs) to go with 5 boards and 5 assists (1 TO). The Hoff pitched in with 15 points on 7 shots. Now, there might be some critics who point out that Samardo Samuels was plagued with foul trouble all game, and that's true. But it's equally true that the Gophers were without their offensive leader, Lawrence Westbrook, for much of the game with foul trouble as well. This is a big win for Tubby's team, and will really help on Selection Sunday. Barring a disaster, the Gophers will be undefeated entering conference play. Box score.
Northwesten's furious rally came up just short against Stanford, as the Wildcats fell 65-59 in a tough road loss. Coming into this one, I expected Northwestern to own the paint, and I was right about that. Stanford shot just 41% from 2 point range in this one, but the Cardinal were red hot from the perimeter, connecting on 9 of their 18 three point attempts. Meanwhile, Northwestern was pressured into 19 turnovers, and that probably cost them the game. But keep in mind, this was a 13 point lead for Stanford at halftime, and Northwestern cut the margin to one point in the final minutes. It's a tough loss, but as losses go, losing tight games on the road to undefeated teams ranks as pretty tolerable for a program that got all of seven wins last season. When the season began, I doubt many Northwestern fans circled this game as a possible win, and disappointment surely outranks resignation. Kevin Coble led Northwestern with 15 points on 11 shots, and 6 rebounds. Box score.
Ohio State beat up on Iona 71-53 in a 58 possession game. The Buckeyes were just too big for the Gaels, as they muscled their way to 35 FTAs. It was the Diebler/Turner show again, as the two combined for 52% of OSU's points. About the only piece of drama for this game was how OSU planned to replace David Lighty. So far, the answer appears to be more minutes for the freshmen. BJ Mullens got the start alongside Dallas Lauderdale, and William Buford played 32 minutes himself. Box score.
Illinois posted its best offensive performance of the season, detroying Detroit 82-51 in a 64 possession game. The Illini shot 61% from 3 and 67% from 2. That's how you win a game despite turning it over on over 30% of your possessions. This game was also the premiere of Alex Legion, the transfer from Kentucky. Legion scored 6 points on 6 shots, and played 18 minutes in an inauspicious debut. Trent Meacham led the Illini with 15 points on just 5 shots. Box score.
Laval Lucas-Perry's debut was a bit louder, and the transfer guard hit for 14 points on 7 shots as Michigan displayed some offensive firepower against Oakland in an 89-76 win. That's a lot of points considering how slow this game was (62 possessions). It was a typical Beilein game, as the Wolverines shot 29 three pointers and turned it over just 5 times. It was also typical in the fact that it was the Manny and DeShawn shot. Manny posted a 15/13 dub-dub (points & assists, no turnovers), and DeShawn nearly had a dub-dub of his own, going for 20 and 9 (rebounds). There are some things to work on here, however, as this was Michigan's worst defensive performance of the season. Oakland averaged over 1.2 points per possession. Box score.
Drake beat Iowa in a bit of an upset, and it wasn't close. The Bulldogs tore apart the Hawkeyes, 60-43 in a 56 possession game. This might be fairly characterized as Iowa's "regression to the mean" game, as the Hawkeyes' offense had been nearly unstoppable entering this game. Their worst efficiency, until Saturday, had been 0.97 points per possssion against Boston College. Against Drake, Iowa averaged 0.77 points per possession, and Iowa was very bad where they had been very good - shooting. They were 28% from 3 and 37% from 2. Frankly, this is what happens when POT teams don't shoot well - they have no other means by which to score (like grabbing offensive rebounds or getting to the free throw line), and they lose big. Anthony Tucker scored 12 points in his return, on 11 shots. Box score.
Wisconsin controlled the glass against Coppin State, winning 57-46 in a 52 possession game (after peaking the tempo in 05-06, the Badgers appear to be walking it up the court again). Wisconsin outrebounded its opponent 36-19, which is the sort of rebounding dominance that is typical under Bo Ryan, but the Badgers probably should have won this game by a bit more. Frankly, Wisconsin has looked a little sluggish all season, but that needs to end now. The Badgers face off against Texas on Tuesday, and then begin Big Ten play against Michigan. Jon Leuer led the Badgers with 16 points on 12 shots, to go along with 6 rebounds. Box score.
Ed DeChellis actually got his bench some playing time in Penn State's 83-55 win over Lafayette. The Nittany Lions' offense was working in this one, as they posted a 65.0 eFG and turned it over just 11 times in a 67 possession game. Talor Battle nearly had a triple double, with 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists (3 TOs). Of all the guards in the Big Ten, Battle has had the best stastical start to this season. The other leaders of the Penn State offense, Stanley Pringle and Jamelle Cornley, combined for 33 points on 19 shots. Box score.
As the season wears on, it's becoming more and more clear that the Big Ten is a force to be reckoned with this season. The conference, as a whole, ranks just behind the ACC in the Pomeroy rankings, and were it not for Indiana, this might be the best conference in the land. Take Penn State, for instance. At 7-11 last season, this team finished in the middle of the conference, and even if that was partially the result of uneven performances, the Nittany Lions were still 8th-best by Pomeroy rankings. This year, the team wanted to take the next step and get to a postseason tournament, and maybe even the NCAA Tourney. So far, so good. The Lions stand at 10-2 with no bad losses, and even a quality win against Georgia Tech (on the road).
Nonetheless, Penn State ranks second-to-last in the conference by Pomeroy rank. That's how good the conference has been this season. And with so few non-conference games left (including a couple big ones on Tuesday), there's not much room for that to change. Big Ten teams will beat up on each other until they're black and blue this year, but that won't change the fact that this conference is very good. And as kj points out, much of the talent leading these teams is awfully young. Indeed, the Class of 2007 is the gift that keeps on giving, as the Year of the Freshman has been replaced by the Year of the Sophomore.
Tonight, Florida Gulf Coast vistis Michigan, IPFW visits Purdue, UNC-Asheville takes on Ohio State, and Northeastern is at Indiana.