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Big Ten Notebook

December 17, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Big Ten Notebook

by Chris Burke

Indiana and Illinois have decided to play a game of Who Will Lose First?

As the new year approaches, neither the Hoosiers nor the Fighting Illini have dropped a game, charging out to 8-0 and 7-0 records, respectively. And while most of the wins have come against sub-par opponents, both teams have nailed down solid victories — Indiana over Maryland, Gonzaga, Vanderbilt and in a nonconference game against Purdue while Illinois routed North Carolina and knocked off Arkansas.

The two teams appear to be the early favorites for the Big Ten crown, which means circle Jan. 18 and Feb. 25 on your calendar, because that’s when the teams will face off.

The Hoosiers undefeated string will face a significant test over the next two weeks, with three straight road games at Kentucky, Temple and Ball State. The Wildcats already dropped one game at home to a Big Ten team – Michigan State – on Saturday, so they’ll be anxious to defend their home turf.

Illinois, meanwhile, heads to Missouri and Memphis for back-to-back games over the next two Saturdays. Wins there would no doubt land the Illini among the top 10 in the national polls.

Just when you think it’s safe to play Michigan State again

The Spartans entered their game at Kentucky on Saturday with a disappointing 4-2 record. But as has been the norm under Tom Izzo the last few years, Michigan State found a way to win a big ballgame on the road when it seemed that the Spartans were bound to lose.

Guard Chris Hill paced the way for the Spartans with 16 points, while Paul Davis tossed in 13 and Alan Anderson added 10. But Izzo’s group was uncharacteristically out-rebounded by Kentucky, 31-28.

But, perhaps a little more characteristically, the Spartans got a huge contribution from an unlikely source under the direst of circumstances. After a Keith Bogans’ layup put the Wildcats ahead 67-66 with just over a minute left, Michigan State turned to Tim Bograkos for the game-winner.

Bograkos had been averaging less than two points a game through MSU’s first six contests, but the low-scoring guard nailed a 3-pointer with the shot clock running out to put Michigan State on top, 69-67. The Spartans would not relinquish the lead, winning 71-67.

After the game, Izzo claimed that Bograkos was the “sixth option” on that play, but nevertheless, the sixth option got the job done and Michigan State once again claimed a huge road win.

Getting on the board

The Big Ten no longer features any winless teams after Michigan and Penn State both finally got into the win column last week.

After a miserable 0-6 start, the Wolverines finally showed some pop, spanking Bowling Green 83-57 behind 26 points from freshman Daniel Horton, 23 from LaVell Blanchard and a 20-point showing by Bernard Robinson Jr. Michigan then doubled its pleasure and its win total, overwhelming Charleston Southern, 84-53.

The Nittany Lions became the last team in the conference to grab a victory, rallying past Northeastern 79-67 on Saturday. Penn State shot 52-percent from the floor for the game and posted four players in double figures.

This week

There are a lot of less-than-attractive non-conference games on the Big Ten slate this week, but that will all change on Saturday when Indiana heads to Kentucky and Illinois travels to Missouri.

After those two showcase games, 6-1 Minnesota heads into the brutal environment at Oregon for a Sunday afternoon matchup. Ohio State also takes a trip to a top-10 team, heading to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.


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