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Big Ten Notebook

January 27, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Big Ten Conference Notebook

by Alan Rubenstein

Former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle would cite the Big Ten Standings as the model of his perfect league. Just one game separates ten of the 11 teams after two weeks. Next season should be less taxing for Big Ten teams. To ease some of the pressures of travel, the Big Ten will limit the amount of consecutive road games to two. They will also balance the weekday/weekend games as well as the amount of home and road games during the first and second halves of the season.

Player Movement

Players deciding to leave the nation’s second oldest conference have been making news recently. Versatile Penn State forward De Forrest Riley-Smith announced he is leaving Happy Valley to return home to Cincinnati and attend Xavier. Riley-Smith was averaging 13.1 PPG, 5.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game through the Nittany Lions first ten games.

Brandon Cotton of Michigan State will be transferring his skills to Detroit Mercy. The former McDonald’s All American was dissatisfied with his playing time. Cotton only played 16 minutes in three games scoring three points. There was speculation at the beginning of the season that Cotton would command the point for Tom Izzo. An injured foot and time spent away from the team after the shooting death of an uncle hurt Cotton’s playing time.

Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo commented on Cotton’s decision before he severed ties with the Spartans a couple of weeks ago after an MSU practice. “To me, it’s a sad situation because I think a lot of people got in his ear, and as I told you before, he’s had a variety of personal problems and he’s had the injury…It’s been a lot of people, maybe, getting involved instead of the few people who should have been involved.”

Iowa has become the latest Big Ten team have one of its players defect. Sophomore forward Nick Dewitz will be taking his game to Oregon State where he will walk on and have his eligibility commence December eleventh. Dewitz’s grade point average was above a 2.0, but his unspecified GPA was not up to the standards at Iowa in order to maintain his playing status. Freshman guard Mike Henderson has also been declared academically unfit to play. Henderson will stay at Iowa, but will not play or travel with the team for the remainder of the season.

Conference Milestones

Purdue coach Gene Keady became the second coach in conference history to win 500 games at his institution with the Boilermaker’s 53-51 victory over Wisconsin. Keady joins his long time adversary Bob Knight who compiled a 661-240 record in 29 years at Indiana.

Knight also reached the Big Ten news with a call to former player Steve Alford. The former Indiana All American used a zone defense to help his Iowa Hawkeyes capture a road win at Minnesota. Alford mentioned that he couldn’t speak with Knight until his third phone call to his pupil because he and his coaching staff were in a film session. During the course of their conversation, Alford said he was trying to explain why he used the zone, and Knight told him to shut up and let him talk.

Chris Hill of Michigan State is the newest member of the Big Ten’s 1,000 point club. Hill scored 17 points in Michigan State’s 76-58 victory over Penn State. Hill’s five three point field goals also secured his place in Spartan lore as only the third player at MSU to record 200 three pointers in a career. Purdue’s Kenneth Lowe is next on the list with 928 points.

Indiana’s A.J. Moye is on pace to become the first Hoosier under 6’4 to since Jim Thomas in 1982 to lead the team in rebounding. The 6’2 senior is pulling down 6.4 boards a night. Thomas was an unsung member on Indiana’s 1981 National Champions and a former IU assistant coach.


Injuries, defections and academic casualties are issues that every college coach must contend with. The Big Ten has been no different this year.

After originally being diagnosed with having to miss six to eight weeks in late October due to a stress fracture in his right foot, Alando Tucker returned in early December and put up 14.0 PPG and 4.5 rebounds in four games. The sophomore from Lockport, Illinois re-aggravated the foot and has not played since December 27th against Ohio.

The Wisconsin medical staff has yet to clear Tucker to return to practice. The possibility exists that Tucker will redshirt. The current NCAA bylaws state that a player cannot play in more than 20 percent of his team’s games or appear after the halfway point of the season. The four games that Tucker has played in constitute 14 percent of the Badger schedule. Their loss to Purdue last week was the halfway mark of the Wisconsin season. If Tucker tries the foot out in a game and it is not healed, he could lose the entire season of eligibility. If he decides not play another game this season, he would definitely be granted a fifth year. Wisconsin guard Freddie Owens sustained a foot injury in practice earlier in the week and will be out indefinitely.

Iowa’s Jared Reiner might want to try and get a group rate at the podiatrist with Tucker and Owens. Reiner’s stress fracture originally occurred in December. The initial X-rays did not show signs of a fracture. Reiner continued to play through the injury with a lot of pain. A further X=Ray last week indicated that there was a fracture and Reiner would require surgery. The early diagnosis is that he will miss about eight weeks, likely ending his collegiate career. The 6’10 center was second in the Big Ten in rebounds with a 7.2 caroms per game along with a 10.4 scoring average. Reports out of Iowa City have the Hawkeyes trying to appeal for a medical redshirt for Reiner. With the Rules as they currently stand, it will be difficult. Reiner had played in every game up until last week and the Hawkeyes are past the halfway point of the season.

Brokering a Deal

Looking to increase its exposure in the Chicago area it appears that Xavier is close to finalizing a deal to play a home and home with Illinois the next two seasons. The Illini will host Xavier in their annual “home” game at the United Center early next season and play the Musketeers in Cincinnati in November or December of 2005.

Player of the Week

Paul Davis helped Michigan State sweep their two games last week and earned the Big Ten Player of the Week for his role in their two wins. Davis averaged 16 points and 7.5 rebounds and was more assertive offensively in Spartans wins over Penn State and Michigan.

Upset of the Week

As far as rivalries go Northwestern and Illinois is not as vicious as the Big Ten’s other two instate opponents, Purdue-Indiana and Michigan State-Michigan. Illinois entered last week’s meeting with a 116-33 advantage. Northwestern followed up its victory at Iowa by rallying from nine down at halftime to conquer Illinois 70-60 in Evanston.

Appearing at Niketown the evening before, Illini Head Coach Bruce Weber lamented his team’s inability to get the ball inside and reliance on three point shots in a loss to Purdue in their previous game. The Illini did an excellent job in the first half by getting the ball inside and canning six threes. The second half was a different story. Using a 1-3-1 zone defense, Bill Carmody was able to frustrate Illinois and the Illini suffered in the second half shooting only 21 percent. They had shot a blazing 57 percent in the first half. NU countered by shooting 61 percent after halftime and outscored the Illini 41-22 after the break to grab the victory.

Northwestern’s second leading scorer Vedran Vukusic went down with a hyper extended knee in the first half. Davor Duvancic stepped in admirably for his roommate scoring a career high 22 points. Duvancic scored the first seven points of the second half.

Illinois’ poor shot selection late hurt them. The Illini finished the game 8-31 from three point range. Luther Head and Richard McBride each went 0-6. Dee Brown led Illinois with 19 and James Augustine finished with ten and a career high 14 rebounds. Northwestern was able to overcome a 44-30 Illini edge on the boards.

Northwestern (7-8, 2-1) – Duvancic was unable to sustain the offensive production he had against Illinois and the Wildcats lost 73-62 at Indiana. Northwestern has lost 31 straight games at Indiana and has never won at the Assembly Hall. The Wildcats were pounded on the boards for the second consecutive game as Indiana garnered 40 of the games 63 caroms. Mohamed Hachad led Northwestern with 18 points and five rebounds and Jitim Young finished with 17. Northwestern seemed to wear down in the second half. Only two players on scholarship off the bench have forced Carmody to play his key players more minutes than he would have liked.

Indiana (8-6, 2-1) was well prepared for the “Princeton Offense” The Hoosier’s did an excellent job protecting the backdoor cut. Marshall Strickland continues to improve with his fourth double digit performance in his last six and finished with 15. Roderick Wilmot had his second straight solid outing with seven and A.J. Moye compiled eight points and ten rebounds. The ten boards gave Moye his third double digit rebounding game of the season. Davis wants IU to work on taking better care of the ball. Indiana turned the ball over 15 times to Northwestern’s six.

Illinois (11-4, 2-2) came out blistering in the second half with an 11-0 run to erase a five point halftime deficit and reign in an 88-82 victory over Iowa. The Illini seemed to buy into Bruce Weber’s advice to get the ball inside and look for better shots instead of shooting early in the shot clock. Illinois played aggressive against an Iowa zone that had shut down Minnesota earlier in the week at the Barn. The Illini looked for open shots and finished 7-14 from three point range and 58 percent overall. They also had 20 assists.

Iowa (9-5, 2-2) earned an all important road victory when the Hawkeyes went up to Minnesota and outplayed the Gophers in an 83-68 victory. Shooting on both ends of the court was the key to the Iowa win. The Hawkeyes shot 53 percent from the floor, 45 percent from three point range and hit 32-41 from the line to bury the Gophers.

At Illinois, the Hawkeyes missed the inside presence of Reiner and the Illini raced to the triumph. Pierre Pierce led Iowa with 26 points and four rebounds and Brody Boyd contributed 20 points with a 9-11 performance from the free throw line. The Hawkeyes had their second straight outstanding free throw performance 25-31.

Minnesota (8-8, 0-3) lost its third consecutive Big Ten game and is the only team without win after two weeks of conference games. In addition to the loss to Iowa, the Gophers lost 73-62 at Ohio State. Minnesota’s inconsistent offense continued to haunt them. The Gophers entered the Ohio State game second in the Big Ten in scoring, but were bogged down with only two scores in their last 15 possessions of the first half. Ohio State did an excellent job on Minnesota’s Fab Frosh Kris Humphries. Humphries had only five points through the game’s first 29 minutes. He finished with 19, but the game was already decided when he scored his final 14 points.

Minnesota was unable to crack Iowa’s zone hitting only 41 percent of their field goals, six of 20 from long distance and ten of 14 from the line. Humphries hit only 5-14 field goals, but concluded with 17 points and eight rebounds. Aaron Boone had 13 points and five assists.

Ohio State (9-7, 1-2) The Buckeyes were able to use the inspiration of 24 former captains in attendance to capture the basement bowl. The Buckeyes victory over Minnesota pushed the Gophers into sole possession of last place in the Big Ten. A stifling defense, excellent offensive balance and pounding the ball inside were the elements the Buckeyes used for victory. Terrance Dials 14 points and nine rebounds paced four Buckeyes in double figures. Ohio State’s 39-25 rebounding edge showed a greater commitment to the interior game.

Michigan State (7-7, 2-1) appears to be on the road to recovery after a 2-0 week. The Spartans stopped Penn State 76-58 and reclaimed the Great Lakes State bragging rights with a 71-54 victory over Michigan. The Wolverines had broken Michigan State’s 13 game winning streak in their only meeting last season.

In the victory over Penn State, the Spartans returned to vintage Tom Izzo basketball. A 33-23 rebounding advantage and stellar defense was the recipe for victory. Penn State forward Jan Jagla entered the game averaging 17.4 PPG was rendered meaningless with a season low two points on 1-8 shooting. A 20-8 beginning to the game fueled Michigan State. Chris Hill led the Spartans with 17 and Shannon Brown had 13 as the Izzones shot 57 percent.

After starting out quickly, the reunion with Michigan turned into a slugfest. Each placed only one player in double figures. Michigan State shot over 50 percent for the second straight game and Davis led MSU in scoring with 22 points and seven rebounds, converting 9-1 from the charity stripe. The tough Spartan defense was illustrated by making the Wolverines leading scorer Daniel Horton work for every points. The sophomore finished with 20 but converted only 5-15 shots. Michigan shot 38 percent as a team.

Michigan (10-4, 1-2) After winning its Big Ten opener, Michigan’s offense has taken a nose dive. The Wolverines looked anemic in their loss at Michigan State. Their 36 percent shooting was the Wolverines low mark of the season.

Purdue (12-4, 2-1) used its only game last week as one for the Boilermaker record books, holding off a late Wisconsin rally to provide Gene Keady with his 500th win at Purdue. Keady is now 21-0 at Mackey Arena against Wisconsin. Kenneth Lowe led Purdue with 13 points. Lowe made all ten of his free throws. David Teague finished with 11, including three of five from long distance.

Wisconsin (11-3, 2-1) had a chance to pick up an all important conference road victory, but couldn’t get the shots to fall late in the loss to Purdue. Mike Wilkinson missed a free throw with 20.6 seconds remaining that would have tied the game and Devin Harris missed a three pointer at the buzzer that would have given the Badgers the win. Wisconsin did rally from a 39-28 deficit with 13 minutes remaining to get back into the game. Wilkinson finished with 12 points (only 2-8 from the field) and nine rebounds and Harris also had 12.

Penn State (8-6, 2-1) returned to reality after their road trip to East Lansing. Jagla’s shooting woes against Michigan State seemed to restrain Penn State’s offense all evening. Penn State abysmal night shooting and an inability to stop Michigan State led to the decisive outcome. Michigan State shot 57 percent and made 6-13 from three point range. The Lions shot only 38 percent and hit only six of 19 from long range. Aaron Johnson led Penn State with 17 points and Marlon Smith had 15.


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