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Big Ten Notebook

January 15, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big Ten Notebook

by Alan Rubenstein

The Big Ten week that was

Inconsistency, unpredictability and ever changing lineups have marked the first half of the season for the Big Ten. The opening week of the conference season certainly illustrated that. Indiana defeated Michigan after being embarrassed by Wisconsin. The Wolverines dismantled Northwestern who then won comfortably at Iowa. Purdue lost at Iowa by ten and then went to Champaign and defeated Illinois after the Illini had throttled Ohio State by 22.

After one week of conference play, Wisconsin and (surprise!) Penn State are undefeated and Ohio State, Michigan State and Minnesota are winless. The Badgers and Nittany Lions each posted a pair of victories at home. The Buckeyes were the only team with two losses last week, losing by a combined 39 points at Illinois and Penn State. The Gophers and Spartans also lost on the road. After the home teams captured the first seven games of the Big Ten season, road teams put up three consecutive victories over the weekend. Indiana, Northwestern and Purdue were able to procure important wins away from home.

Jan Jagla and Devin Harris were named Big Ten Co-Players of the week after helping their teams to a share of first place. Jagla put up 20 PPG and 8.5 RPG in Nittany Lion victories over Minnesota and Ohio State. His 28 points and 10 rebounds against Minnesota was his fifth double-double of the season. Harris has been the most consistent player in the Big Ten this season and his numbers last week emphasize that fact. Harris averaged 18.0 PPG, 6.5 APG, 5.0 RPG and 2.5 steals as the Badgers disposed of Indiana and Michigan State at the Kohl.

Harris passed the 1,000 point barrier with 14 versus Indiana. The Badgers are off to their first 2-0 start in the Big Ten since 1994. Penn State’s 2-0 record is the first time they have won their first two conference games since 1996. Ben Johnson of Minnesota also passed the 1,000 point mark when he scored 14 at Penn State. Chris Hill should become the next Big Ten hoopster to hit for a grand. He currently sits at 994.

Watch out below and above

Ted Hillary had a rough weekend on the referee circuit. He twisted his ankle while officiating the Illinois-Purdue game on Saturday and then collided with Indiana’s Bracey Wright during the IU Michigan game Sunday. Hillary was okay in both instances.

On the Move

Former Mc Donald’s All American and Duke Blue Devil Michael Thompson has announced his intention to transfer to Northwestern. The 6’10 Center from Joliet, Illinois will begin classes this month. Thompson will become only the second McDonald’s All American to play for the Wildcats. Walker Lambiotte also made his way to Evanston from Tobacco Road. Lambiotte transferred to NU from North Carolina State and played for the Cats from 1988-90.

Purdue (11-4)

Gene Keady appears to be in excellent shape to pick up his 500th win at Purdue when Wisconsin pays a visit to West Lafayette this week. The Badgers haven’t won at Purdue since 1972. Keady is the second winningest coach in Big Ten history behind former Indiana tyrant Bob Knight. Knight went 621-240 in 29 years in Bloomington.

Keady hasn’t been happy with his players’ effort lately citing a lack of communication among his players. Keady banned portable stereos and cell phones from the team bus to Illinois. He has been particularly upset with his big men. Chris Booker’s absence from the last five games due to unspecified academic difficulties should’ve provided opportunities for other player to step up. Matt Carroll has not played in the last five games and Matt Kiefer has not played up to the coaching staff’s expectations.

Keady was extremely displeased with the Boilers’ effort at Iowa in their Big Ten opener. Iowa converted 29-37 from the line, while the Boilermakers managed only 7-10. Purdue committed 29 fouls to Iowa’s 16. Kenneth Lowe was the only productive Boiler finishing with 19 points. Purdue managed to shoot only 37 percent.

Purdue got the message loud and clear against Illinois. The Boilers flipped the free throw discrepancy hitting 14-16 while holding Illinois to 3-6 from the line. The win by Purdue ended Illinois’ 23-game home winning streak. After landing only Lowe in double figures in Iowa City, three Boilers hit the mark in Champaign. David Teague finished with 15, Kiefer had 12 and Brandon McKnight 11.

Illinois (10-3) opened the Big Ten schedule looking like the team expected to contend for a conference title. The Illini used six players in double figures to obliterate Ohio State, 85-63. Nick Smith will find it hard to ever duplicate his evening. The 7’2 center, that will start graduate school on January 20, scored 22 points and pulled down nine rebounds in 21 minutes without missing a shot. He finished 9-9 from the foul line, and hit all six field goal attempts including one three pointer.

The Illini raced out to a 39-22 lead at the half. Smith’s performance overcame poor nights from Deron Williams (two points on 1-9 shooting) and Dee Brown who managed 16, but hit only five of 14 shots. Luther Head sat out his second consecutive game after being arrested for driving with a suspended license.

Illinois was unable to sustain the intensity it had against Ohio State in its loss to Purdue. One game after six Illini hit double figures, only five Illini made into the scorebook in a 58-54 loss. Smith finished with 10, Brown 14 and James Augustine 16 points and 12 rebounds. After pushing the tempo against Ohio State, Illinois had no fast break points against Purdue.

Penn State (8-5) was the surprise of the Big Ten during week one. The Lions took advantage of opening the Big Ten season at home with significant victories over Minnesota and Ohio State. Jagla led the way, but freshman guards Marlon Smith and Ben Luber played large roles in the victories by playing all 40 minutes in both games. Penn State used phenomenal three point field goal defense, holding the Gophers and Buckeyes to a combined 3-31 from beyond the arc. Ndu Egekeze had 15, Smith 13 and Aaron Johnson 11 to support Jagla in the 75-72 victory over Minnesota.

Against the Buckeyes, the Nittany Lions matched their win total from 2003 by using a great team effort on both ends of the floor. The Nittany Lions shot 44 percent and forced 19 Buckeye turnovers. Penn State blew the game open in the econd half by outscoring Ohio State 37-21 after the intermission. Smith paced the Lion attack with 23 and Johnson finished with 12 points, six rebounds and two blocks.

Wisconsin (11-2) While Penn State’s residence in the Penthouse suite was a surprise, their suite mates certainly was not. Wisconsin looked like the two time defending champions they are in a pair of nationally televised victories over Indiana and Michigan State. The Badgers showed the nation there is more to Wisconsin sports than the Green Bay Packers.

The Badgers became the third team to knockoff Indiana by more than 30 points this season. A 15-0 Wisconsin run half way through the first stanza erased any doubt about the outcome. The Badgers led 37-15 at the half on their way to a 79-45 victory in the Big Ten opener. Mike Wilkinson scored 15 of his 20 points in the opening stanza and contributed 10 rebounds.

In the first eight minutes, Michigan State lived up to its preseason hype as the nation’s third ranked team and the favorite to capture Big Ten gold. The Spartans hit their first eight shots and grabbed a 17-5 lead. From that point on the game was all Wisconsin. The Badgers held Michigan State scoreless during a six-minute stretch and went on a 24-5 run during a ten minute period of the first half to earn a lead they would not relinquish.

Harris finished with 22, Boo Wade had a career high 15 and Zach Morley continued to provide a spark off the bench with 13 and four steals. Wisconsin’s 77-65 victory was the first time in 16 meetings that either team clipped the septuagenarian plateau. Wisconsin now has the Big Ten’s longest home court winning streak at 22 games.

With the game against Wisconsin the only one on the schedule for Michigan State (5-7) last week, the Spartans were able to use the time to regroup before welcoming Penn State.

Michigan State will have one less player on its roster. Freshman point guard Brandon Cotton has announced he will transfer. Cotton, who was a McDonald’s All American, missed a six games with a foot injury and two others because of the shooting death of an uncle. Cotton scored three points in 16 minutes this season. The door is still open for Cotton’s return.

Northwestern (6-7) appeared to be headed for another poor season after being humiliated at Michigan. Playing their first game in ten days, the Wildcats were unable to match Michigan’s intensity. The Wolverines shot 65 percent from the field and had a 31-18 advantage at the free throw line. Bill Carmody tried to shake up his lineup to end a three game losing streak. Vince Scott started in place of Davor Duvancic. Jitim Young with 20 and Vedran Vukusic with ten once again led NU.

Northwestern did a complete turnaround in a 77-68 victory at Iowa. NU used a 17-1 run spanning the first and second halves to seize control of the game at 44-29. Iowa answered with a 10-0 run of its own, but Northwestern responded 10-2 to put the game out of reach. Vukusic’s 22 paced the Cats and Mohammad Hachad had a career high 18. It was Northwestern’s first win in Iowa City in ten years.

Iowa (8-4) began the week with an impressive 73-63 home court victory over Purdue to inaugurate the conference season. They received support from two unexpected sources. Mike Henderson came off the bench to post eight points in the first half and Sean Sonderleiter six to help the Hawkeyes to the win. Iowa used a big advantage at the foul line to seal the win. The Hawkeyes hit 29-37 freebees, while Purdue went just 7-10 on handouts. Pierre Pierce led the Hawks with 19 points on 13-16 from the line and Jeff Horner finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Iowa was unable to maintain its level of play in its loss to Northwestern. Pierce led three Hawkeyes in double figures with 23.

With three 30-point plus blowouts this season it appeared that Indiana (7-6) was going to be an inept team that would challenge for last place. Their third 30 something loss was a 79-45 shellacking at the hands of Wisconsin in Madison to commence the Big Ten season. Sean Kline and AJ Moye were the only productive Hoosiers. Kline finished with 12 points and Moye had seven and 13 rebounds. As has been the case most of the season, the Hoosiers live and die on Bracey Wright’s performance. Wright finished with just seven points on 2-15 field goals.

After the debacle at Wisconsin not much was expected from the Hoosiers in their trip to Ann Arbor to face a Michigan team that had just taken apart Northwestern by 24. The Hoosiers took a ten point lead into the locker room and were able to maintain that until two minutes remained in the game. The Wolverines staged a furious rally but fell short, missing two chances to tie in the final ten seconds.

Indiana used the emotion and energy of the return of senior center George Leach, who had missed the previous nine games with a knee injury. IU’s offense was much more efficient than the last two games in their 59-57 victory. Marshall Strickland paced the Hoosier attack with 14 points including hitting 4-7 from three-point range and Wright finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. After scoring 12 points in the previous nine games, Roderick Wilmot matched that output against the Wolverines. Ryan Tapak did not play after starting the previous four games.

Like most of the teams in Big Ten, Michigan (10-3) resembled two different teams during the opening week of conference action. In their 78-54 dismantling of Northwestern, the Wolverines shot 65 percent and had a decisive 31-18 advantage from the foul line. The game was decided in the first half when Michigan shot 76 percent to take a 45-26 lead. Lester Abram scored a career high 27 and the Wolverines Mr. Everything Bernard Robinson Jr. finished with 18. The two combined to hit 16-19 field goals, and Abram made all ten of his free throws.

Michigan was outplayed by Indiana as the Hoosiers played with more desperation. Abram struggled with only nine points against IU. Robinson had 16 points and six rebounds. Dion Harris was the only other Wolverine in double figures with 15.

Ohio State (8-7) looked like a team without a sense of direction in a pair of blowout losses. Illinois scorched the Buckeyes 85-63 by placing six players in double figures. Terrance Dials’ 11 and Tony Stockman’s 10 represented the only Buckeyes to reach the double-digit terrain. Jim O’Brien was clearly frustrated in his post game comments saying that “(We Have) Nobody that will take charge of our team and be a leader for us”

At Penn State, the Buckeyes competed well in the first half, but seemed to be out worked in the second. Velimir Radinovich was the only Buckeye to play with a sense of urgency posting 16 points on 6-9 from the floor and 11 rebounds. No one else had above six. An 0-13 performance from three point range contributed to the 64-47 loss.

Minnesota (8-6) Penn State’s ability to get to the free throw line proved to be the difference after the Gophers missed an opportunity to take the lead late the in game. Penn State hit 21-25, while the Gophers hit all nine of their free throws. . Aaron Robinson missed a jumper after Ben Johnson stole the inbound pass in Penn State’s 75-72 win. The Gophers shot a miserable 3-18 from three-point range. Kris Humphries had another stellar performance with 20 points and 11 rebounds and Michael Bauer finished with 19 points and six boards.

The Gophers rode the considerable shoulders of Humphries to grit out a 57-53 non-conference victory over Princeton. Humphries finished with 21 points and eight rebounds as the Gophers used their size to post a 27-16 edge on the glass.

     

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