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Big Ten Notebook

January 30, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big Ten Conference Notebook

by Alan Rubenstein

Turning Back the Clock

Indiana and Michigan State will go retro when the Hoosiers travel to East Lansing on Saturday. Both teams will be fitted in 1980 era jerseys. The announcers for the game will also be fitted in disco era threads. Graphics from the period will also be used. The Turn back the Clock night is in deference to ESPN’s 25th season of broadcasting college basketball.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Bob Knight continues to haunt Indiana. Knight is appealing an Indiana judge’s decision to dismiss his lawsuit against IU for his firing. The appeal challenges Monroe County Circuit Judge Kenneth Todd’s ruling that the Hoosiers didn’t violate Knight’s contract when former President Myles Brand discharged the General in September of 2000.

Playing the Nation’s best

Iowa’s 84-76 loss at Iowa State concluded the Non-Conference schedule for the Big Ten until the postseason. The Big Ten has struggled this season against the other elite conferences. Against BCS conferences the Big Ten has posted a 13-31 record. Against the SEC and Big XXII combined, the Big Ten has only been able to win three out of 19 games. Last season they were 10-19 against the nation’s two most powerful football conferences. Overall the Big Ten has an 82-44 non-conference record. That is its second lowest winning percentage in the past four years. Wisconsin at number 11 has the highest RPI in the Big Ten.

The results against the power conferences are surprising given that the Big Ten is more mature than a year ago. In 2003, the Big Ten had 448 games started by freshman while this season has seen only 96 games started by first year players. Minnesota freshman Kris Humphries continues to put up monster numbers for the Gophers. He remains the Big Ten leader in points, rebounds and double-doubles and has started all 17 games.

Players of the Week

Bracey Wright and Mike Wilkinson helped lead Indiana and Wisconsin to a share of the lead in the Big Ten by contributing mightily as the Badgers and Hoosiers each finished the week 2-0.

Wilkinson averaged 21 points, 9.5 rebounds and shot 67 percent from the floor as Wisconsin rolled to wins over Michigan and Illinois. Wright put up 25 points per game, played all 85 minutes, shot 57 percent from three point range and 92 percent from the free throw line in road wins at Minnesota and Ohio State.

Spotlight game of the Week

When the college basketball season commenced in November, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan State were the prohibitive favorites to pace the Big Ten. Wisconsin and Illinois both had long home winning streaks entering the season and high expectations. The Badgers had trumped through the first half of their season 12-3 while Illinois has had more than a few bumps in the road. Purdue ended the Illini’s 23-game home court winning streak earlier in the season as the Illini strode into Madison 12-4.

The Badgers only Big Ten blemish entering the Illinois game was a two-point loss at Purdue. They buzz sawed through Michigan State and Michigan at home and were in a four-way tie with Indiana, Purdue and Michigan State before they took on the Illini. Badger mentor Bo Ryan has done a commendable job to keep his young team together. Alando Tucker has participated in only four games this season because of a stress fracture in his foot. Senior guard Freddie Owens is also out indefinitely with the same injury.

Devin Harris and Wilkinson took over the game nearly outscoring the Illini by themselves. Harris finished with a career high 30 points and Wilkinson established his career watermark with 24 in the Badgers 76-56 victory. The win was Wisconsin’s 24th consecutive at home and 20th straight Big Ten win at the Kohl.

Wisconsin’s defense continued to handcuff its opponents. The Illini shot only 36 percent from the floor, including only 2-15 from three-point country. Illinois has lived and died by its backcourt all season. Dee Brown didn’t hit the scorebook until 8:25 remained and finished with only four points. Deron Williams scored eight on 3-13 from the floor. Roger Powell kept Illinois from total destruction by totaling his own career high with 26.

The Badgers spurtability played an important role in the outcome of the game. After Illinois cut the Wisconsin’s lead to four with an 8-0 run, the Badgers answered with their own 15-2 outburst to extend their lead to 17. Wisconsin also began the game with a 17-6 advantage.

Surprise of the Week

Penn State looked impressive in home victories over Minnesota and Ohio State to begin the Big Ten part of the schedule. The wins gave the Nittany Lions an early season share of the Big Ten lead and had the Bryce rocking. After being completely taken apart by Illinois earlier in the week, the Nittany Lions figured to bounce back when they returned home to host Michigan on Saturday. After lackluster losses at Michigan State and Wisconsin, the Wolverines road prowess was far from intimidating.

After Penn State scored the game’s first four points, Michigan went on a 21-4 run to seize control of the game on their way to a 69-59 victory. The key to the first half surge was the Wolverine defense. Penn State connected on just 36 percent of their field goals and missed all seven three point attempts in the first half as the Wolverines established a ten-point lead at the break. Penn State leading scorer Jan Jagla mirrored his teammates’ first half performance by scoring only two of his 13 in the opening stanza. The win extended Michigan’s dominance over the Nittany Lions to 15-8 all time.

Lester Abram paced Michigan with 19 points on 6-8 from the floor and 5-5 from the line. Dion Harris had 15 and Daniel Horton finished with 13 points, five assists and five rebounds.

Penn State placed four players in double figures for the first time in five games.

Michigan (11-5, 2-3)

The Wolverines began the week with game two of a three game road trip at Wisconsin. Michigan became the latest Wisconsin victim at the Kohl Center. The Badgers began the second half with a 20-5 run and maintained control the entire second half. If not for Bernard Robinson, Jr. the Wolverines might have left Madison with an even bigger loss. The senior forward finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Tommy Amaker’s trio of talented guards, freshman Dion Harris and sophomores Lester Abram and Daniel Horton struggled to the tune of 8-26 from the floor and only 19 total points. The Wolverines bounced back nicely with the win at Penn State.

Penn State (8-8, 2-3)

If losing a game at home wasn’t bad enough, the Nittany Lions were completed embarrassed in an 80-37 loss at Illinois. Penn State’s offense was the pure definition of anemic in Champaign. They shot 21 percent from the floor, made only one of 13 from three-point range and the Illini held a 39-29 rebounding edge. The Lions were only able to hit five of 37 shots in the second half. Aaron Johnson’s 15 points kept the Illini from naming the final score.

Jan Jagla continued to struggle. The 7’0 junior from Germany sat during most of the second half in foul trouble and his five points were his second lowest output of the season. Jagla, who had been averaging 17.4 points per game through the season’s first 13 games, has scored only 18 in the last three games. Against Michigan State, Illinois and Michigan, Jagla has shot only 24 percent and had ten turnovers.

Penn State passed out bobble head dolls of head coach Ed DeChellis to attendees of the Michigan game.

Illinois (12-5, 3-3)

The Illini have been a tough team to figure out all season. The 63-point swing in their two games last week will attest to that. The ambush of Penn State brought a few standards that haven’t been seen in Champaign in a long time. It was the Illini’s largest margin of victory in a Big Ten game since 1956, the fewest points they have allowed in a Big Ten game since 1948 and Penn State’s 21 percent shooting set an Assembly Hall record for futility. The Illini have called the Assembly Hall home since 1963.

Illinois’ top players against Penn State were Powell with 16, Williams with 12 points and eight assists and James Augustine with nine points and 12 rebounds.

Wisconsin (13-3, 4-1)

The Badgers continue to roll at the Kohl Center. Wins over Illinois and Michigan allowed the Badgers to extend their home court winning streak and keep pace with Indiana and Purdue in the race for the conference title. The win over Michigan was classic Bo Ryan basketball. The Badgers used a 20-5 run in the second half to take control of the game. Wisconsin was able to overcome a season low five points from Devin Harris. Wilkinson finished with 18 points and ten rebounds and former walk-on Clayton Hanson scored a career high 17 points to fuel the Badger offense. Hanson was a blistering 5-6 from three-point range.

Purdue (14-4, 4-1)

The Boilermakers earned a pair of victories to maintain a share of first place in the Big Ten. After sprinting to a 15-point lead at the intermission, Purdue had to hold on to capture a 72-65 victory over Minnesota. An 11-0 run by the Golden Gophers brought them even at 58. Purdue slowed down Minnesota’s high-octane offense and turned the game into a half court, physical contest. Kris Humphries left the game in the second half after being hit by an errant Brett Buscher elbow. Humphries was made to work for every point he earned finishing with 19 points and 14 rebounds on just 5-15 shooting. He also made all eight of his free throws.

The Boilermakers exploited Minnesota’s poor defense. Purdue entered the game with a 33.7 three-point percentage, but hit 7-11 against the Golden Gophers. They also shot a season high 53.5 percent from the field.

Purdue got a key win with a 76-70 overtime win over Michigan State on national television on Sunday. Kenneth Lowe led four Boilermakers in double figures as Purdue rallied late to force the overtime. Michigan State seemed to be in good shape when Alan Anderson stepped to the free throw line with eight seconds remaining. Anderson, an 84 percent free throw shooter, missed the front end of a one and one giving Purdue one last chance. Brandon McKnight drove the length of the floor to tie it at 62. Mc Knight finished with ten points, seven assists and three steals. Buscher continues to provide valuable minutes in Chris Booker’s absence with 17 points and eight rebounds.

After taking a two-point lead in the extra session, the Spartans missed their next eight shots and Purdue went on a 7-0 run to seal the game’s outcome. The Boilermakers survived a nine-minute stretch of the second half without a field goal.

Melvin Buckley missed his fourth consecutive game with a sprained ankle and Booker sat for the eighth straight contest for unspecified academic issues.

Michigan State (8-8, 3-2)

If Michigan State could shoot the ball every game the way they did at Northwestern the Spartans would be hard to stop. Maurice Ager scored a career high 24 points, 22 before the break as MSU prevailed 73-61 in Evanston. Ager connected on six three pointers in the opening stanza and Michigan State hit nine of 13 from long distance in the first 20 minutes. Only a late 15-3 run by Northwestern made the game respectable. Chris Hill finished with 17 and helped the bombardment by connecting on 3-5 from three-point land.

Against the Boilermakers, the Spartans scoring droughts cost them a chance to earn an important road victory. A 6:39 drought in the first half allowed Purdue to obtain an 11 point cushion and their 3:21 drought in the overtime essentially gave Purdue the victory. Hill turned in another solid performance with 18 points, four rebounds and six assists.

Northwestern (7-8, 2-3)

The dream of sharing the Big Ten lead came crashing back to a hard cold reality for Northwestern. They must have thought they were witnessing a laser light show the way Michigan State shot the ball in the first half against them. Michigan State hit two-thirds of its shots in the first half and finished at 61.4 percent for the night. Northwestern dug themselves an insurmountable 17 point hole by only making nine of 24 shots in the first half. Jitim Young led NU with 16 as five Wildcats finished in double figures for only the second time in the Carmody era. Vedran Vukusic returned to the lineup after sitting out the previous game against Indiana with a knee injury. Vukusic played 38 minutes, scored 13 points and hauled in four rebounds.

Minnesota (8-9, 0-5)

The Gophers continue as the Big Ten’s only winless team after three weeks of conference action. It appeared that they might steal one on the road with an impressive second half comeback at Purdue. The Gophers rallied after trailing by 15 at the half. Humphries injury seemed to effect his concentration in the second half. The freshman noted after the game he was having difficulty focusing on the rim after the elbow by Buscher.

The Gophers fell short after rallying from a big deficit for the second game in a row. An eighteen-point deficit in the first half didn’t phase the Gophers. Playing without third leading scorer Maurice Hargrow, the Gophers valiant comeback fell short in an 86-81 overtime loss to Indiana. Humphries used the free throw line to overcome another poor shooting night. He finished 7-26 from the floor, but hit 10-12 from the line, scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Before the game, Hargrow announced his intentions to seek a release and transfer to another school. Hargrow had been averaging 11.4 PPG, in 31 minutes. He said his decision to leave the land of 10,000 Lakes was nothing against the coaching staff, but was something he felt he needed to do for his best interests. His minutes and production had dipped recently. In his final four games as a Gopher, Hargrow was only putting up 5.5 PPG and shooting only 29 percent. Hargrow was taken out of the starting lineup in his final appearance and did not play the last 15 minutes in the game before that at Ohio State. Hargrow had apparently grown tired of the Golden Gophers losing ways. Arkansas appears to be the front-runner for his services. Current Razorback assistant Ronnie Thompson recruited Hargrow and Arkansas has a scholarship available.

Stan Gaines stepped in admirably and played his best game of the season. Gaines set season highs with 16 points, eight rebounds and 37 minutes played. Gaines will give the Gophers more size than Hargrow provided.

Kris Humphries was one of only two freshmen to be named to the Wooden Watch list. Chris Paul of Wake Forest was the other. The Watch list is a preliminary list used to help determine the Wooden All-America team announced at the end of March and then the Wooden Award in April. Humphries leads the Big Ten in scoring, rebounding and double-doubles.

Indiana (10-6, 4-1)

The Hoosiers won their third straight Big Ten road game, breaking a five year losing streak in Minneapolis in the process and kept pace with Purdue and Wisconsin for the conference lead. The Hoosiers once again rode the shoulders of Bracey Wright who finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists. IU’s balance is ultimately what won the game for them. George Leach seems to be recovered from his knee injury, scoring all 12 of his points in the first half along with seven rebounds. Sean Kline provided inside scoring in the second half with 13. A.J. Moye had a season high 20.

Bracey Wright put on another show with 20 of his 28 points in the second half as Indiana picked up a key road victory at Ohio State. Indiana’s speed overcame the Buckeyes size in a sloppy game. Marshall Strickland pitched in with 19 as IU’s perimeter game proved to be the difference. The Hoosiers made seven of 14 three-point shots and converted 22 of 25 from the line to earn the victory. Indiana’s lack of size continued to plague them. Terrance Dials’ 19 and Velimir Radnovic’s 16 gave the Hoosiers trouble all game. Ohio State had a 33-27 edge off the glass and a 37-18 advantage in frontcourt scoring.

Ohio State (9-9, 1-4)

Ohio State is known as a football school and the basketball team seems to be trying to emulate their gridiron brethren. After a sloppy home loss to Indiana the Buckeyes traveled to Iowa City. Fifty-Seven fouls, 74 free throws and 24 turnovers later and Ohio State took home its fourth loss in five conference games. The second half was a parade to the free throw line after the whistle was heard frequently. Ohio State was in the bonus with 15:19 left and the double bonus at the 13-minute mark. Iowa hit the double bonus with 9:51 remaining.

The biggest story entering the Iowa game was Jim O’Brien decision to leave leading scorer Tony Stockman in Columbus. O’Brien was upset with Stockman’s practice habits and said the junior could rejoin his teammates when he makes a greater commitment to them and shows he wants to be a part of the team.

Brandon Fuss-Cheatham started at the point in Stockman’s place and scored a misleading 17 points. Ten of Fuss-Cheatham’s points came in the last 2:53. J.J. Sullinger finished with 15 in the perimeter oriented game.

After dominating Indiana on the Interior, Radinovic and Terrance Dials failed to establish a rhythm against Iowa. Radinovic finished with five points and seven rebounds and Dials didn’t do much better with seven and eight.

As it has all season, three point shooting had a big role in a Ohio State game. Ohio State’s inability to shoot and defend from long distance had been a problem since they were scorched by San Diego State in Maui. Iowa shot 8-16 from beyond the arc, while the Buckeyes managed only 3-15.

Iowa pulled away after holding Ohio State without a field goal during a seven and half minute stretch of the second half. Indicative of the game, Ohio State went 9-15 from the line during the interval. The Hawkeyes were still able to extend their lead from nine to 17. The Buckeyes finished the game at 36 percent from the floor.

Iowa (10-6, 3-2)

Iowa’s defeat of the Buckeyes broke a four game home losing streak to Ohio State. The Hawkeyes used their advantage on the perimeter to earn the victory. Jeff Horner finished with 20, Pierre Pierce finished with 16 points, six rebounds and three assists and Brody Boyd had 19 points and four steals.

Earlier in the week, Iowa concluded the Non-Conference season for the Big Ten with a loss at in-state rival Iowa State. Too much Jackson Vroman and Jake Sullivan for the Hawkeyes to handle. Vroman’s line was 18 points, 16 rebounds and five assists and Sullivan had 23 points and five three pointers.

Iowa shot 55 percent in the second half, but was unable to overcome 23 turnovers. The Cyclones took much better care of the ball with only nine turnovers. Iowa State shot only 41 percent.

Jeff Horner had a career high 26 points with six threes. With Jared Reiner sidelined, Glenn Worley stepped up his game and finished with 13 points and nine boards.

Iowa and Iowa State are working on moving the game to early December for the next four seasons. They are likely to play the game on a Friday night. The scheduling for the game has been tricky because of an Iowa school policy that prohibits games the weekend before and after finals.

     

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