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Big Ten Notebook

January 28, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Big Ten Notebook

by Chris Burke

Consider Purdue’s message received.

After flying under the national and Big Ten radar for the start of the year, Purdue served notice that it is ready to contend for the Big Ten title and an NCAA tournament berth, hammering nationally-ranked Indiana, 69-47 over the weekend to improve to 4-1 in the conference and 12-4 overall.

The Boilermakers came out emotional and excited, while Indiana was flat the entire game. Purdue led by 12 at the half and blew the game open with some tenacious defense in the second half.

Indiana shot, believe it or not, only 29 percent from the field. That’s not going to get the job done in many Big Ten games. Point guard Tom Coverdale led the way with 13 points for the Hoosiers, but they were severely outplayed.

Purdue received a very balanced attack, led by Kenny Lowe’s 19 and Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Willie Deane’s 18. The Boilermakers also outrebounded the Hoosiers, 39-30, thanks in no small part to the horrible Indiana shooting.

The lone conference loss for the Boilermakers came at the hands of Illinois in Champaign, but at home Purdue has taken down Michigan State, Northwestern and Indiana while also knocking off Penn State in Happy Valley. This week, Purdue hosts Ohio State and travels to Iowa — two more potential victories.

Not bad for a team that it was thought might drive Gene Keady to retirement.

Maize and Blue take back the state

Speaking of teams that not much was expected of, Michigan now has a big red bullseye on its chest after its 60-58, pride-recovering victory of Michigan State moved the Wolverines to 6-0 in the Big Ten and extended the the nation’s second-longest winning streak to 13 games.

It was the Wolverines first win over the Spartans in their last nine tries, and it came in front of a sold-out Crisler Arena and a national television audience as a prequel to the Super Bowl.

Even more amazing was that Michigan was able to pull out the victory despite senior LaVell Blanchard — Michigan’s leading scorer — being held to two measly points, both coming on free throws in the final minute to help the Wolverines lock up a win.

As they have done through much of this winning streak, the Wolverines got the job done on the defensive side of the ball. After Spartan point guard Chris Hill hit a running finger-roll with just over six minutes left to put Michigan State up 52-47, Michigan put the clamps on, not allowing another point by Michigan State until a desperation 3-pointer by Hill with 11 seconds left in the game and Michigan up by six.

The Wolverines were outrebounded and outshot by the Spartans, but Michigan State converted on just 5-of-11 free throws compared to the Wolverines 19-of-24 mark. Michigan also committed just six turnovers, none by freshman point guard Daniel Horton, who played all 40 minutes and scored 17 points including a beat-the-shot clock 3-pointer with 1:24 left in the game to put Michigan up four.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was distraught after the game at his team’s inability to close out the win despite the second half lead, while Michigan coach Tommy Amaker continued to preach one step at a time for his young, red-hot club.

Buckeye surprise

Just when it looked like Ohio State was dead in the water, the Buckeyes pulled out their biggest win of the season Saturday, knocking off Iowa 83-72 in Iowa City.

The win moved the Buckeyes to 2-4 in the conference and 9-8 overall, keeping their postseason hopes very realistic and sparking again their currently slim NCAA Tournament chances.

For the Hawkeyes, meanwhile, it was a stunning loss at home to a struggling team that dropped Iowa from the top three in the Big Ten to the logjam in the middle. Iowa is now 3-2 in the Big Ten, 11-5 overall.

Ohio State was on a three-game slide prior to the upset win, with home losses to Michigan and Wisconsin and a road defeat by Indiana. But the inconsistent Buckeyes showed the form that had helped them spank the Hoosiers to start the conference campaign, hang with Duke on the road and nearly pull out an upset over Louisville.

The Buckeyes travel to Purdue before hosting Minnesota and Northwestern. They realistically must go at least 2-1 to keep the postseason hopes alive, because four of their last seven games are on the road.

This week in the Big Ten

Indiana and Michigan State open a huge conference week for both on Tuesday night, when the Hoosiers head to East Lansing. Both teams are struggling and desperate for a win and it should be a knock-down affair.

No one would have expected it when they looked at the schedule to start the year, but Wednesday’s Michigan-Illinois game has title implications. Illinois needs a win desperately to stay in the hunt. A loss would be the Illini’s third of the year in the Big Ten. Michigan, meanwhile, could take a stranglehold on the conference race midway through the year with an upset as the Wolverines would move to 7-0. Remember, last year’s 4-way title tie was won with 11 wins.

Also on Wednesday, Ohio State is at Purdue; Northwestern at Wisconsin; and Minnesota at Penn State.


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