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Big Ten Notebook

February 10, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big Ten Conference Notebook

by Alan Rubenstein

Home on the Range

The importance of winning at home has a direct correlation to who captures the Big Ten championship. Over the last 13 seasons the team that claimed Big Ten Gold has not lost more than one home game during the conference schedule. Indiana was the last conference champion to lose more than once at home in the same season. The Hoosiers lost two conference home games in 1991 when they shared the title with Ohio State. Michigan State and Wisconsin are the only teams yet to have a home blemish on their conference records this season.

Big Ten road teams are on pace for their best conference record in three years. They have won one third of their games thus far and went 5-5 last week.

Bring it On

The Big Ten teams have not been shy about playing the nation’s best teams this season. Michigan State has led the way with the nation’s toughest non-conference schedule and Indiana has competed nationally against the third hardest out of league schedule.

Game of the Week – Illinois 51- Indiana 49

It was a game that neither team seemed to want to win. Illinois and Indiana combined to miss the last eight shots from the field as the Illini escaped the Assembly Hall in Bloomington with a 51-49 victory. Nick Smith’s basket with 2:53 remaining put the Illini in front and was the last basket scored. IU missed its last nine shots from the field on its own. Their last basket came with 9:53 remaining.

Indiana’s success or failure has hinged on Bracey Wright most nights this season. With high school teammate Deron Williams shadowing him, Wright finished only 2-10 from the floor and finished with nine points. It was only his second game in single digits this season. A.J. Moye put up another solid game with 14 points and eight rebounds and Marshall Strickland contributed 12.

Indiana was able to take control of the game in the first half and seemed headed to victory with a 27-20 lead at the break. The Illini’s 20 point first half and 51 total points tied season lows. The Hoosiers extended the lead to 11 in the second half and held an eight-point lead with 9:26 left. A four for 26 performance after halftime did IU in.

In spite of their second half troubles, the Hoosiers still had a chance to win it late. Misses on the front end of one-and-ones by Luther Head and Dee Brown put the ball in Bracey Wright hands twice in the waning seconds. Wright had a three blocked by Nick Smith with 4.4 seconds left and missed a 40 footer at the buzzer.

The Hoosiers’ cold second half allowed Illinois to overcome its own frigid shooting. The Illini finished the game at 39 percent and only hit two of 16 from three-point range. The Illini depth seemed to ware Indiana down. Illinois had 45 minutes played off its bench, while the Hoosiers only had 25. Roger Powell led Illinois with 15 points and eight rebounds and Deron Williams had 12 points and eight assists.

Player of the Week

Iowa’s Jeff Horner turned in a pair of stellar performances as the Hawkeyes spilt their two games. The sophomore point guard averaged 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Horner scored 17 points, had 10 rebounds and scored the winning basket in Iowa’s double overtime win at Indiana. The double-double was only the second guard point-rebound double in the Big Ten this season. Northwestern’s Jitim Young had the other. Horner has played exceptional over the last three weeks. He has scored twenty points in five of the last seven Hawkeye contests after not hitting for more than 13 earlier in the season.

Upset of the Week

Wisconsin had been on a role and Devin Harris seemed unstoppable. Harris scored 97 points and shot 72 percent in the Badgers last three games. Northwestern’s defense was sub par in their loss earlier in the week at Ohio State. In front of their own fans, the Wildcats turned up the intensity, particularly on the defensive end. Wisconsin shot only 35 percent, and Harris converted only four of 18 shots as the Wildcats knocked Wisconsin off the perch of the Big Ten with a 69-51 upset victory.

With only seven players under scholarship, Northwestern has had to increasingly rely on its big five of Vedran Vukusic, Davor Duvancic, Mohamed Hachad, T.J. Parker and Jitim Young to play the majority of the minutes. Duvancic came off the bench to play 35 minutes in relief of starter Ivan Tolic who only received run for only five minutes.

Duvancic received starter’s minutes and played like it. The junior from Split, Croatia hit four three point field goals for 12 points. When Northwestern has had success in 2003-04, usually Jitim Young and Vedran Vukusic have been behind it. They used that formula to perfection in their upset of the Badgers.

Vukusic scored 18 points and pulled down seven rebounds and Young had 17 as NU grabbed control of the game in the first half and led by double digits for most of the game. A 34-11 run over the last 13 and half minutes set the tone. Wisconsin opened the game 8-2, but the decisive run gave Northwestern a 34-11 halftime lead.

Zach Morley played all 40 minutes for Wisconsin and finished with 15 points. Freddie Owens played only 20 minutes and was held scoreless. He is still having trouble with an injured foot that sidelined him for three games. Mike Wilkinson had a tough night with only eight points and three rebounds. Boo Wade missed his second consecutive game after being suspended.

Preview of the Week – Michigan State vs. Illinois

After beginning the season 5-6 many predicted doom for Michigan State. The Spartans mediocre start included an 0-5 record vs. ranked teams and a loss at UCLA. Throw in the unenviable task of having to begin the Big Ten season at Wisconsin and the Spartans found themselves at 5-7 one game into the Big Ten season. Suddenly, halfway into the conference schedule, Michigan State finds itself looking down on the other 10 conference teams. An 0-6 record against ranked teams could hurt their chances to garner an NCAA tournament bid. They have however, seemed to have turned the corner and have a favorable schedule for the second half of the Big Ten schedule.

The early part of the Big Ten schedule had some unexpected teams at the top and many claiming Illinois and Michigan State were overrated. Eight Big Ten Teams have nine games completed and three teams have eight games in the books. As expected, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Illinois pace the Big Ten at the halfway point.

When Michigan State invades Illinois Tuesday night, the Illini will be faced with a near must win. The Spartans travel to Champaign with a half game lead over Wisconsin and a one game lead over Illinois.

The two most athletic and talented teams in the Big Ten could produce an explosive evening in Champaign. Deron Williams earned a victory over his high school teammate last week. Dee Brown will try to duplicate the feat against State’s Shannon Brown.

The outcome of the game will likely be decided on the interior. Illinois and Michigan State match up fairly evenly on the perimeter. The Illini hold a decided advantage inside. Paul Davis will be the best post player in the game, but he is the Spartans lone inside scoring threat. Jason Andreas provides rebounding, toughness and defense off the bench but not much scoring and Matt Trannon joined the team at midseason after playing on the gridiron for John L. Smith

Michigan State relies on its perimeter to produce to the majority of its points. Spartan point guard Chris Hill has played exceptionally well over the last ten games. Hill has averaged a very efficient 14.7 points per game. In that span he has shot 55 percent from the field and 50 percent from long distance. On any night, Davis, Hill, Brown, Kelvin Torbert and Maurice Ager are all capable of an offensive eruption any night. Alan Anderson is the Spartans Mr. Everything.

When Brown and Williams have had off nights, Bruce Weber has looked to his inside players to pick up the slack. James Augustine has drastically improved his numbers over his freshman season. In 2003, Augustine provided 7.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG and shot 57 percent in Brian Cook’s shadow. This season, he is bringing 10.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG and is shooting 63.2 percent. Roger Powell has been the Illini’s most consistent player.

The Illini pasted Michigan State in Champaign last season after surrendering by seven in East Lansing earlier in the season. This year’s meeting in Champaign will be the only time the Illini and Spartans face-off in the regular season. With a raucous Orange Crush behind them, the Illini should win a very competitive game in the 70’s. Pay close attention to points in the paint, rebounds and three-point shooting as the key statistics that decide the outcome.

Michigan State (12-8, 7-2)

Michigan State put it offense into high gear as they are starting to play up to expectations. The Spartans shot 61 percent and averaged 86.5 points per game in victories over Iowa and Ohio State.

They began the week with an 89-72 victory over the Hawkeyes. Incredible balance fueled the Spartan win. Four Izzones reached double figures and two others scored eight as the Spartans helped Tom Izzo win his 200th game as head coach. Izzo also became the third coach at Michigan State to reach the Bi-century mark. His 200th win also placed him in elite company in East Lansing. Only Jud Heathcote (340 wins) and Benjamin VanAlstyne (232) have also hit the milestone during the tenure in the Great Lakes capital city.

He became only the second Big Ten coach to get to his 200th win by his ninth season. His next win will be his 100th Big Ten win. Only Gene Keady and Bob Knight have accomplished those figures by their ninth season at a Big Ten school. Knight also reached 200 overall wins by his ninth season.

Davis paced the Spartan attack with 19 and Torbert had 18. The Spartans turned up the defense against Iowa holding the Hawkeyes to 41.1 percent shooting. They shot 51.7 percent themselves and are shooting 50.2 percent at home this year. The Spartan bench also came up big with a 17-4 advantage. Michigan State is now 42-2 at home in conference play since 1999.

As good as MSU was against Iowa, they were nearly unstoppable at Ohio State. The Spartans shot an astounding 81 in the first half on their way to a 73.3 percent afternoon. That was good enough for the third highest percent in Big Ten history as MSU won 84-70. If not for missing their last four shots, Michigan State would have set the NCAA record for field goal percentage in for a game. The Spartans did set records for most field goals made and highest shooting percentage at Value City Arena and the highest shooting percentage ever against an Ohio State opponent. It took the Spartans 28 minutes to miss consecutive shots. Michigan State thoroughly controlled this game. They held a double digit lead for the last 32 minutes.

Maurice Ager came off the bench to lead five Spartans in double figures with 18 and Hill had 16.

Wisconsin (15-4, 6-2)

At the midway point of the season, Devin Harris appears to have cemented the Big Ten’s player of the year award. In a three game stretch ending with the Badgers 80-66 victory over Minnesota, Harris scored 97 points; hit 71 percent from the floor and 87 percent from the line.

In the victory over the Gophers, the Badgers’ junior point guard scored a career high 38 points, hit 10-12 from the field, 5-7 from three point range and 13-14 from the line. Harris’ 38 point performance was the most by a Badger since 1994.

The win extended Wisconsin’s home winning streak to 25 games and their record under Bo Ryan at home to 40-2. The school record for consecutive home victories is 33, set between 1911 and 1913. Zach Morley continued to play well with the Badgers depth depleted. The 6’8 junior finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out. Mike Wilkinson had 15 and eight. The deciding factors proved to be the Badgers 25-33 performance from the foul line and a 16-0 advantage in points in the paint. Minnesota was only 10-13 on free throws.

The B

adgers visit to Northwestern was a different story. Harris struggled for his 16 points. He converted only 4-18 field goals, but did manage six rebounds and six assists. After their dominance of Minnesota, the Wildcats turned the table on Wisconsin. The Badgers hit only 35.8 percent of their shots. Morley was the only other Badger in double figures with 15.

Guard Boo Wade has been reinstated to the Badgers. The sophomore guard from Milwaukee had been suspended after an alleged altercation with an ex-girlfriend. He missed Wisconsin’s two games last week.

Illinois (15-5, 6-3)

The Illini tuned up for the their big match up with Michigan State this week by grabbing an essential road win at Indiana before traveling to winless Minnesota.

The Illini earned the victory at Indiana with big contributions from their bench. Smith’s two key baskets late and the block on Wright spurred the Illini victory. Their second half defense and ability to make big plays put Illinois back in the race for their third Big Ten title in four seasons.

The opening five minutes at Minnesota, the Illini seemed to expect victory by just showing up. The Gophers gave the impression that they were the hungrier team jumping out to a 22-7 lead at the 15:10 mark of the first half. The Gophers captured the lead by hitting their first seven shots.

The Illini got back into the game with a 13-0 run to take their first lead of the game at 32-30 before trailing 44-43 at intermission. Illinois held the Gophers without a basket for nearly nine minutes in the second half and finished off their road trip with a 79-69 victory.

Williams led the Illini brigade with 19 points and 11 rebounds, Brown finished with 18 and Smith had 13 off the bench.

Purdue (15-7, 5-4)

To win any conference title, the key is to capture victories on the road. Purdue earned an impressive triumph by firmly beating Penn State 62-47 at the Bryce-Jordan Center.

After a tight initial eight minutes, the Boilermakers broke the game open by outscoring Penn State 26-11 over the first half’s final 12 minutes. Purdue earned the victory despite only three free throw attempts. They used a smothering defense, holding Penn State to 31 percent shooting. Ivan Kartelo continued to play well in starting role with 13 points and ten rebounds and David Teague had 14.

Purdue showed a lot of heart after falling behind by 16 at Michigan in second half. Purdue held Michigan without a field goal for 11 minutes. Daniel Horton hit two key shots late to provide the Wolverines with a bit of a cushion, but Purdue would eventually take the lead on a runner by Brandon Mc Knight with nine seconds left. With one final possession and trailing by one Michigan needed a Courtney Sims tip-in with 1.4 seconds remaining to secure the victory. Teague led Purdue for the second straight game with 14 points and seven rebounds and three Boilers complemented him with 10. Their 15 turnovers marked the first time in seven games Purdue finished with double digits miscues.

Chris Booker’s Purdue career has commenced. The senior center’s appeal to the university to regain eligibility was denied by the school. He fell behind in a class during the first semester and made up the work to be readmitted to school. The work was not accomplished in time to regain his eligibility.

Kenneth Lowe might return for Wednesday’s home game against Northwestern. Lowe has missed the last three games with a sprained elbow. His return would help the Boilers depth and return their best defender and leader to the lineup.

Iowa (12-8, 5-4)

Riding the Big Ten’s player of the week, Jeff Horner, Iowa finished the week 1-1. They ran into the Michigan State buzz saw to begin the week The Hawkeyes were stymied by the Spartan defense shooting just 41 percent from the field. Michigan State also lit up the Hawkeye defense for 54 percent shooting. Horner and Pierre Pierce led Iowa with 21 points and Greg Brunner finished with ten points and 13 rebounds.

The Hawkeyes traveled to Indiana for the conclusion of a two game road trip upset the Hoosiers 84-82 in double overtime in what might be the Big Ten’s best game of the year.

Twice IU stung the Hawkeyes in the late stages of regulation. After falling behind in the second overtime, the Hawkeyes used a runner by Horner with 1.7 seconds left to escape the Assembly Hall with a victory. Brunner and Glen Worley ate IU up inside. Brunner finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds and Worley had 20.

Indiana (11-9, 5-4)

Three and a half weeks into Big Ten play; Indiana had a share of the conference lead. They appeared to be recovered from three thirty point losses and at 1-6 were a likely NCAA tournament team. The loss to Illinois was a game the Hoosiers let slip away. With Iowa visiting Bloomington, most Hoosier fans had to be confident about halting a two game losing streak.

Even with two great plays by Bracey Wright, the Hoosiers lost 84-82 in a memorable double overtime thriller. Wright helped IU get to the overtime by intentionally missing a free throw with the Hoosiers down by two. Patrick Ewing jr. tipped in the miss with 0.2 seconds remaining, in the first overtime, Wright tied the score on a three with ten seconds left.

Sean Kline’s lay-up with 1:16 remaining in the second overtime gave the Hoosiers the lead, but they were unable to hold on. The loss put IU back on the bubble. Their three game losing streak comes after a five game winning streak. Wright led Indiana with 25 and Moye had 20. Wright and Marshall Strickland played all 50 minutes. The consecutive home losses in conference play was the first time that has occurred in Bloomington since 1990.

Michigan (13-6, 4-4)

The win against Purdue was the Wolverines only game of the week. The victory over the Boilermakers could give Michigan the push they need to separate themselves from the pack in the Big Ten. With March approaching quickly, Michigan will be seeking its first NCAA appearance since 1997.

Sims clutch play highlighted a day in the spotlight. The freshman scored 11 points, pulled down a career high 15 rebounds and blocked five shots. The Wolverines lead the Big Ten in blocked shots and steals. Bernard Robinson jr. finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Daniel Horton helped Michigan out its deep scoring drought in the second half with two key shots late and finished with 19 points and five assists. The sophomore has shot only 35 percent this year and seen his average decline 3.1 per game and his assists go down 1.3 per game from his freshman year. Horton has taken on more responsibility than he had as a freshman. Part of that includes guarding the other team’s best player.

Northwestern (9-11, 4-5)

The ‘Cats began the week with a short trip to Columbus to face Ohio State. The Buckeyes came out firing and played possibly their best game in the conference this season to post a 72-64 victory.

NU has now lost 25 straight games in Columbus and 10 straight to Ohio State overall. They have also yet to post a win over the Buckeyes under Bill Carmody. The ‘Cats were able to stay in the game, but Ohio State’s hot shooting is what won it for them. The Buckeyes finished the night 57 percent from the floor and 47 percent from three point range.

Ohio State took a 17 point lead in the second half, but Northwestern refused to wilt. Led by Vukusic, the Wildcats fought within three, but were never able to tie it. Freshman Vince Scott showed promise with two key threes in the second half. Northwestern showed excellent ball movement. At one point in the second half, the ‘Cats were able to move the ball around to hit five straight point field goals.

Vukusic scored 24 to lead Northwestern before fouling out in the last minute.

Jitim Young started his 107th and 108th career games at Northwestern. The senior from Chicago is closing in on the all time school record of 113, which he should reach a in a few weeks.

Penn State (9-10, 3-5)

After posting a pair of home victories to begin the season, the Nittany Lions have faded from the Big Ten’s upper echelon. The conference teams have seemed to figure out the way to stop the Lions is to make someone other than Jan Jagla beat you. Jagla finished with nine points, seven rebounds and four assists in the loss to Purdue. Freshman guards Marlon Smith and Ben Luber have played a ton of minutes and have been key contributors. The vast amount of playing have seemed to ware on them however. Against the Boilers, Luber and Smith combined for 10 points on 3-25 from the field.

With brighter days ahead in Happy Valley, the Penn State athletic department will honor the school’s only Final Four team. The February 21st game against Illinois will include the fortieth reunion of Penn State most successful season. Penn State all time leading scorer and rebounder Jesse Arnelle and the captain of the ’54 team Jack Sherry are scheduled to attend.

Ohio State (11-11, 3-6)

Tony Stockman has seemed to get the message. After being sat for the Iowa game a couple of weeks ago, the transfer from Clemson has turned up his play. The Buckeyes used the bomb squad to beat Northwestern. Stockman hit five threes to pace the OSU’s 8-17 performance from long range. Stockman hit 6-10 on his way to 22 points and dished out six assists. Ohio State has used the duo of Terrance Dials and Velimir Radinovic to their advantage during the conference season. They each scored 14 points and had eight rebounds as the Buckeyes used their decided size advantage.

At Michigan State, the Buckeyes lack of defense caught up with them again. Not many teams would have been able to defend Michigan State performance at Value City Saturday. Stockman again led the way with 18 and Radinovic had 17 points and seven rebounds. Stockman hit 5-8 from three point range for his second consecutive game with five three pointers.

Minnesota (8-13, 0-9)

The nightmare season continues for Dan Monson. If the Gophers could somehow get the Big Ten to agree to 20 minutes games, the than Gophers would be much more competitive. The first five minutes against Illinois, it seemed like the Gophers were on their way to their first Big Ten win of the season. The Gophers hit their first seven shots including five three pointers in the first five minutes of the game to race to a 22-7 lead.

The eleven minute second half drought was typical of Minnesota’s after halftime this season. Kris Humphries repeated his fine performances with 23 points and nine rebounds. The Illini were able to force Humphries to shoot often from outside as he made only eight of 21 shots from the floor. The loss left the Gophers still hungry for their first Big Ten victory this season as UM fell to 0-9 in the conference.

Against Wisconsin, the Gophers ran into too much Devin Harris. Harris’s 38 point performance was the second highest by a Big Ten player this year and this most in conference games. Humphries tried to keep Minnesota in the game with the Badgers by having a more efficient 24 points and eight rebounds. He earned his points on 12-21 shooting. Ben Johnson had his Big Ten high of 17 versus the Gophers’ neighbors to the West.

     

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