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Big Ten Notebook

January 6, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big Ten Notebook

by Alan Rubenstein

How I Spent My Winter Vacation

The month of December regularly brings holidays parties, company outings, sweets and visits with old friends. The Big Ten basketball teams spent the final weeks of the year taking those traditions to heart. Match-ups with traditional and in-state rivals, some cupcakes and a few road trips is how the Big Ten teams have spent the final weeks of 2003.

With Christmas break and finals dotting the College landscape in late December, most of the Big Ten teams had light schedules. Three marquee games took the spotlight the last two weeks.

Wisconsin and Marquette met for the 110th time when the Golden Eagles made the trip west on I-94. It looked like Marquette might make it easy, jumping out to an early 9-0 lead. Scoring droughts of their own ultimately did the Eagles in. Marquette would finish with at least five droughts of 2:30.

The Badgers hounded Marquette in the second half. The Eagles shot only 30 percent from the field after hitting on 56.5 percent of their shots in the opening 20 minutes. The Badgers’ defense down the stretch was a key element to victory. With the Badgers up one, Mike Wilkinson forced Marquette’s Scott Merritt into a travel with 22.4 seconds left.

Marquette’s last chance crumbled when Steve Novak missed a three with 13 seconds remaining. Alando Tucker grabbed the rebound and hit one of two from the line to secure the Badgers’ 19th consecutive home win.

Tucker played his first extended minutes of the season in his third game after returning from a broken foot. Following 12-minute stints in each of his first two games, the sophomore star logged 31 against the Golden Eagles. Tucker finished with 17 points and six rebounds. Devin Harris’ all around game marched on with 15 points, five assists and four rebounds and Wilkinson provided the dirty work with nine points and 10 boards.

The win was Bo Ryan’s 50th at Wisconsin and came on his birthday. The Badgers now have a 32-2 record at Kohl in Ryan’s tenure. With the win, Ryan became the fastest Badger coach to 50 wins.

Indiana has been dominated by Kentucky during the Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith eras. This year’s match up was one of the most lopsided in the series’ history.

Kentucky was able to extend a six-point halftime lead to 15 with a 9-0 run to open the second half and never let up outscoring the Hoosiers 48-15 in the final 20 minutes. Bracey Wright and Sean Kline were the only Hoosiers of significance. Wright finished with 23 and Kline with 15.

The Hoosiers were able to shake off the embarrassment against Kentucky to post a victory over Morehead State in Bloomington just prior to Christmas. Freshman Pat Ewing jr. contributed 12 points and 12 rebounds in his first career start. The Hoosiers were able to post the victory despite a sub par game from Bracey Wright. Wright finished with 19 points on 8-23 shooting. A.J. Moye finished with 14 points and six rebounds and Marshall Strickland had his best game of the year with 20 points on 6-7 shooting from beyond the arc.

Illinois continued its monopoly on braggin’ rights when it won the annual Braggin’ rights game with Missouri for the fourth straight year. For the third straight time, both teams entered the game in the top 25.

The first half looked like Illinois was going to have laughing rights to match their Braggin’ rights. The Illini forced the Tigers to miss 13 of their first 16 shots and held a 40-19 lead late in the first half.

Missouri was able to make a run in the second half when Travon Bryant tied the game with a three-pointer with 1:28 to go in regulation. When James Augustine responded with a lay-up 30 seconds later, the Illini grabbed the lead for good. Dee Brown’s free throws in the final 39 seconds secured the victory.

The win was Illinois’ fifteenth in the last 23 against Missouri and made Bruce Weber the fourth straight coach to win his first braggin’ rights game.

Penn State’s Jan Jagla became the first Nittany Lion in more than three years to win the Big Ten Player of the week. Jagla captured the honor after hitting for 18 points and 17 rebounds in the Lions victory over Arkansas State in the first round of the Lobo Invitational. The double-double was Jagla’s fourth on the year. He currently is in the top five in the Big Ten in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and free throw percentage.

After three straight losses, Penn State was able to earn victories over St. Francis (NY) and Arkansas State. Against the Terriers, the Nittany Lions rallied from an 11 point second half deficit to post the win. Penn State used a 35-25 advantage on the boards and 59.5 percent shooting to overcome 23 turnovers. Jagla led the Lions with 17 and Marlon Smith and De Forrest Riley-Smith helped out with 14 each. Riley-Smith also grabbed nine rebounds.

The victory over Arkansas State is Penn State’s most impressive of the season. The Indians had entered the game 8-1. The Lions won the game by kicking up the defense a few notches. They forced the Indians into missing 16 of their first 17 shots and held them to 7-36 from three-point range. In addition to Jagla’s brilliant performance, Ndu Egekeze’s had his best night of the year with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Riley-Smith’s 22 points led Penn State.

Northwestern’s Vedran Vukusic earned the award the previous week playing every minute in a NU win over Arizona State and a Cat loss to Illinois-Chicago. The sophomore from Croatia finished the week averaging 24.5 points, hit 16-27 from the floor, 8-13 from three-point range and 9-11 from the line.

Against the Sun Devils, the Wildcats used a length of the floor runner by Tony Parker at the buzzer to garner the upset. Jitim Young had forced a jump ball with 4.6 seconds left to give the Wildcats possession. Young finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists and Parker 12 points and eight assists. NU was able to keep their composure after losing a 13-point second half lead. ASU All American Ike Diogu was the only Devil in double figures with 23 points and 14 rebounds.

After entering the break down two to UIC, Northwestern wilted in the second half in a 90-71 loss. Three Flames crossed the twenty-point barrier. Aaron Carr led NU’s area rivals with 21 and Armond Williams and Cedric Banks finished with 20 each.

Young and Vukusic mustered the majority of the offense for NU. Vukusic’s 27 were a career high and Young added 23.

Minnesota posted its fourth consecutive victory with a 74-65 overtime win against Duquesne. The extra session was the second one at home against a team the Gophers were expected to handle easily. They had to play an extra five minutes against Furman earlier this season. Kris Humphries continued to lead the Gophers finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Adam Boone had one of his best games in a Gopher uniform with 21 points and seven assists. Minnesota rallied from an 18-point second half deficit and didn’t lead until 2:07 remained in overtime.

Iowa renewed its season after a 13-day layoff when Steve Alford met Bob Knight for the third time. They have never met twice while at the same schools and this was their first meeting in four seasons.

The Hawkeyes limped into the half down 39-27. They were able to claw their way back into the game by holding the Red Raiders scoreless during a six-minute stretch midway through the second half. The 52-48 deficit was as close as the Hawks would get. Texas Tech pulled away and captured the 65-59 victory.

Pierre Pierce with 18 and Jeff Horner with 11 were the only Hawkeyes to finish in double figures. Texas Tech will make a return trip next season when the two teams will match-up in Chicago.

Michigan spent the Christmas holiday in the middle of a five game home stand. Led by Lester Abram’s career high 24 and Bernard Robinson Jr’s 22 points, five assists and seven rebounds, the Wolverines posted an 85-75 victory over Central Michigan.

Michigan seized control of the game early, holding the Chippewas to two points in the first nine minutes. A 23-0 run in which Michigan scored on every possession further extended the lead. The Wolverines would settle in at the half with a 50-32 lead.

Central Michigan nearly capped off a spectacular comeback by cutting the Michigan lead to 78-75 with 2:23 remaining. The Wolverines were able to pull away by hitting their free throws to capture the victory. J.C. Mathis’13 rebounds were his best in a Michigan uniform.

Delaware State was the next Wolverine victim. For the second straight game, Michigan raced to a big lead before having to hold on for a late 55-50 victory. The Wolverines led by as many as 19 and held a 30-14 lead at the half. Daniel Horton scored six of Michigan’s last ten points after going scoreless in the game’s first 36 minutes.

Lester Abram led the Wolverines with 12, while Dion Harris had 11 and Bernard Robinson 10. Terrance Hunter scored 18 of his 22 in the second half for the Hornets.

UCLA made their inaugural visit to Ann Arbor for a nationally televised game. The Wolverines and Bruins exchanged runs to open the contest. Michigan scored the first eight points of the game before UCLA responded with a 12-0 run of their own to take their first lead. A 6-0 Michigan run would put the Wolves back on top. Two late threes by Daniel Horton allowed big blue to take a 36-28 advantage to the locker room.

Michigan maintained an 8-10 point margin for most of the second half before a late run by UCLA cut the deficit to three. The Wolverines captured the win by nailing their free throws down the stretch. As they have all year, Michigan used a balanced offense to fuel the win. Four Wolverines finished in double figures led by Harris with 19 and Robinson with 17.

Shaking up the starting lineup to provide energy and a new perspective seems to be the growing fad in the Big Ten. After a three game losing streak to Duke, Oklahoma and Kentucky, Tom Izzo inserted reserves Tim Borgrakos and Jason Andreas as Michigan State posted a 73-60 victory over South Florida. The game marked the first time in two years that Alan Anderson and Kelvin Torbert did not start.

The new look sparked the Spartans to an 18-4 lead, and an 18-1 finish in the first half en route to a 42-19 lead at the break. The Spartans fifth lineup this season provided them with a 36-8 advantage off the bench. Torbert finished with 17 and Anderson 10 as five Spartans finished in double figures. Paul Davis had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Chris Hill contributed 14.

Lack of offense hurt Michigan State again, as they dropped their fifth game this season with the national spotlight on them. Playing in front 75 former Bruins to honor the inauguration of John and Nell Wooden court at Pauley Pavilion, MSU dropped a 64-58 decision to UCLA.

Abysmal shooting ultimately did Michigan State in. They could only manage 35 percent shooting and shot just 8-24 from three-point range. UCLA overcame 16-34 from the free throw line by making 50 percent from the floor and 6-10 from three. Chris Hill with 17 and Paul Davis with 14 were the only Spartans able to generate offense.

Purdue captured their opener in the Blockbuster invitational with an 80-69 victory over Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne. Matt Kiefer posted a career-high with 25 and was supported by Chris Booker with 17. Gene Keady grasped his 496th career victory in the first meeting between the instate rivals.

The shocker from West Lafayette came in the Championship game. After scorching Miami (OH) for 35 points in the first round, SMU’s Bryan Hopkins managed only four against the Boilermakers. Two came on a lay-up with 25 seconds left to put SMU ahead as the Mustangs captured a 60-59 victory. Two misses by Kenneth Lowe in the final seconds denied the Boilermakers their 12th straight title. Their last loss in the Boilermaker classic was to Wisconsin-Green Bay in 1991.

SMU’s zone frustrated Purdue throughout. The Boilers settled for outside shots and wound up hitting only 36 percent for the night. Lowe earned the tournament’s most valuable player after scoring 19 in the championship game.

Ohio State’s up and down season continued with a 75-59 loss at Seton Hall. A late 17-3 dash saved the Buckeyes from an even worse fate. Using nine three point field goals and a 24-5 advantage to open the game, the Pirates bolted to a 41-19 lead at halftime. The loss snapped the Buckeyes three-game winning streak.

Ohio State coach Jim O’Brien became the latest Big Ten coach to shake up his lineup when he replaced four starters for a visit from Eastern Illinois. Velimir Radinovic was the only starter who maintained his spot against the Panthers and his 16 points placed him as the only Buckeye in double figures in the Buckeyes 69-50 victory.

In addition to Radinovic, O’Brien used three former walk-ons and seldom used junior forward Matt Marinchick to open the game. When the former starters entered the game and the Buckeyes up 11-7 the Value City arena crowd greeted them with a loud chorus of boos. Asked after the game why he replaced four starters O’Brien replied “I think the message was sent loud and clear tonight, this (team) is a blue collar operation.”

O’Brien kept nearly the same starters for the Buckeyes 71-58 victory over Dartmouth a few days later. Tony Stockman came off the bench to score 15 and J.J. Sullinger finished with 10. Ohio Sate used a big advantage in depth as ten Buckeyes reached the scoreboard. A 19-4 run early in the second half extended a 37-34 Ohio State lead to 17.

     

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