It was tougher than expected, but Michigan State locked up the outright Big Ten title by winning at Indiana, 64-59. The real surprise here was how well Indiana played offensively, scoring a point per possession against the 14th best defense in the nation. The Hoosiers did it with good shooting (48% on twos, 42% on a small number of threes) and by getting to the foul line 22 times. Once again, it was turnovers that kept Indiana from getting over the hump - 14 turnovers doesn't sound like a lot on its face, but that's too many for a 59 possession game. Michigan State actually had similar numbers to IU, except they shot a little better and grabbed more offensive rebounds.
Raymar Morgan came off the bench with a nice performance, scoring 14 points (6 shots) and grabbing 7 rebounds. That included a crucial putback dunk to give the Spartans a 4-point lead with just 27 seconds left. Kalin Lucas chipped in 15 points (10 shots) and 5 assists (2 turnovers). For the Hoosiers, Verdell Jones was again the leader with 15 points on 12 shots, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals... though he had a costly 5 turnovers. One has to be impressed with Jones' play this season - he might have been a redshirt candidate at most high majors, but he's performed admirably if you can ignore the turnovers. Most freshmen PGs struggle with turnovers, so there's reason to believe he can be a big part of Indiana's resurgence. Box score.
In the other match-up of the night, Ohio State escaped Iowa with a much-needed victory, 60-58. Both teams shot lights-out - I was beginning to wonder if Buckeye fans' nights would be filled with nightmares of Wayne Larrivee shouting "Ring it up!" while Devan Bawinkel backpedals and adjusts his mouthpiece. Bawinkel scored a career-high 24 points on just 13 shots, all from downtown. Unfortunately for Iowa, the Buckeyes shot even better, hitting 58% on twos and 50% on threes, led by Evan Turner inside the arc (10 for 17, 22 points) and Jon Diebler outside it (4 for 7, 12 points). Turner also had 9 assists (just 3 turnovers) and 5 rebounds. Box score.
For Ohio State, this was basically a must-win, and a Jermain Davis missed three at the buzzer allowed the Buckeyes to squeak through. Ohio State now must focus on winning their final regular season game, this Sunday against Northwestern. A victory seemingly would lock up an NCAA Tournament bid - even with no wins in the conference tournament, it's hard to see a 20-10 (10-8) Buckeyes squad being left out with wins over Miami, Butler, and Purdue and no really bad losses.
Tonight, Northwestern plays at Purdue (5:30pm CT, Big Ten Network), while Wisconsin travels to Minnesota in a big game for both teams (7:30pm CT, Big Ten Network). The Gophers need at least one more conference victory to keep themselves in the at-large discussion.