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February 19, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big Ten Conference Notebook

by Alan Rubenstein

Game of the Week: Illinois 76 Michigan State 51

Illinois took a step forward in their quest for a third Big Ten title in four seasons. A dominant 76-51 victory over Michigan State placed the Illini into a second place tie with the Spartans, a half game behind Wisconsin. They blew open a tight game with a 12-0 run to take a 35-20 lead to the locker room. Four straight three point plays by four different players came in the last 5:43 before halftime. MSU went without a field goal for the last 6:23 before the break. Champaign’s heroes were able to continue their dominance with a 13-6 run early in the second half and erase any doubt about the outcome.

Illinois won the game by taking advantage of their size and speed. The Illini were able to force 15 turnovers while only committing seven of their own. Illinois outscored the Spartans 24-8 in the paint and rode James Augustine inside. The Illini center played one of his best games of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Spartan center Paul Davis, a candidate for Big Ten player of the year finished with only eight points and three boards. Illinois was led by Luther Head with 17 points and five three pointers and Deron Williams had 16 and six assists.

Upset of the Week: Northwestern 40 Purdue 39

In a game that Norman Dale would have been proud of, Northwestern pulled off another shocker. After beating Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin earlier in the season, the Wildcats confidence has been growing. Playing great team defense, NU was able to overcome not having a single player reach double figures in scoring. Evan Seacat had the team high with nine. The 79 points set a record for the lowest combined score at Mackey Arena. Playing the Princeton offense to a T, the Wildcats slowed the pace of the game, played a variety of different defenses and used timely shooting to move up another notch in the Big Ten Standings.

Seacat’s nine points came on 3-7 from three point shooting and Mohamad Hachad’s bomb with 1:55 to go put the ‘Cats ahead to stay. Purdue was stayed in the game as Northwestern went 0-6 from the line including missing the front end of three one and ones in the last 45 seconds.

Jitim Young overcame a sub par game offensively by coming up big on the defensive end. Young stripped Brandon McKnight with five seconds left and then Kenneth Lowe as the buzzer sounded to preserve the win. The victory was NU’s first in West Lafayette since 1993.

Player of the Week

Devin Harris continued to spark Wisconsin’s run to their third consecutive Big Ten Title. Harris scored 13 of the Badgers final 17 points as they held off a late Iowa rally to win 54-52. Harris then dominated Ohio State on his way to 33 points, six rebounds, four assists and 16-18 from the line as the Badgers thumped the Buckeyes 78-48. Harris is in line to receive the conference player of the year award. The junior from Milwaukee, tabbed as the pre-season player of the year by the coaches, is averaging 27 points per game through his last six.

Preview of the Week

Wisconsin (17-4, 8-2) at Illinois (16-5, 7-3), Wednesday

Wednesday’s match-up in Champaign will go a long way towards deciding the 2004 Big Ten title. The Illini will hope to follow up last week’s must win with a needed victory against Wisconsin. Wisconsin presently has a one game lead over Illinois and a half game over Michigan State. The Spartans host Purdue Tuesday night.

Wisconsin took control of the Big Ten race early in the season when they whacked Illinois 76-56. The outcome could prove interesting. Neither team has been adept at close games, ranking one-two in the Big Ten in scoring margin. Spurred by the home crowd, Illinois has marched to a 10-1 home record. The Illini have been a more potent team at home. In front of the Orange Crush, the Illini are putting up 74.8 PPG. In enemy arenas, the Illini average only 61.5 PPG.

Wisconsin and Illinois earn points differently. In Big Ten play the Illini use a balanced offense. Six Illini score at least 8.8 points per game and anyone can lead them on a given night. For the Badgers to win, they rely on Harris or junior forward Mike Wilkinson to carry them. Only Harris, Wilkinson and forward Zach Morley match the Illini six at 8.8 PPG.

The best way for the Badgers to bury Illinois from the Big Ten race is to force a half court game. Illini sophomore guards Deron Williams and Dee Brown are at their best in the when the Illini offense has the pedal to the metal. Forcing Illinois to shoot the ball in the half court has given them fits. The Illini have made only 30 percent of their shots from long distance in Big Ten games. The Badgers hit 37 percent of their long-range bombs.

Illinois has much more on the line than Wisconsin. A loss would virtually eliminate the Illini from the title chase. Illinois has been the hottest team in the Big Ten over the last three weeks. With the home crowd behind it, Brown, Williams and company should have the Illini running game at top speed. Illinois’ depth should wear Wisconsin down. Expect a 6-10 point Illinois victory with the hosts reaching the upper seventies.

Wisconsin (17-4, 8-2)

The Badgers picked up a key 54-52 victory at Iowa before returning home to crush Ohio State 78-48. The pair of victories kept the Badgers in first place and set them up for one of the key games of the 2004 Big Race at Illinois Wednesday night.

After leading by as many as 15 in the second half in Iowa City, the Badgers hung on late to grab the tense win. Bo Ryan wasn’t able to breathe easy until Iowa’s Jeff Horner missed a three-point field goal at the buzzer. With injuries and suspensions plaguing the Badgers, four Wisconsin starters played at least 34 minutes. Junior walk-on Clayton Hanson earned his first start and had 12 points.

After squeaking by the Hawkeyes, the Badgers completely dominated Ohio Sate at home. The win was Wisconsin’s 26th straight at the Kohl. Defense and a great point guard are the traditional recipes to success in college basketball. Wisconsin has used that to a T this season and it was illustrated perfectly against Ohio State. The Badgers held the Buckeyes to nine points in the game’s first ten minutes and then six for 24 shooting in the second half. The Badgers held Buckeye bigs Velimir Radinovic and Terence Dials to half their average.

Harris’s 33 points marked the third time in the last six games that he has hit the thirty point plateau. He also has a 29-point game during that stretch.

Boo Wade returned from a two game suspension last week. The sophomore guard was exceptional against the Buckeyes. He finished with eight points on 4-4 shooting and had three assists in 29 minutes. He had a bit of a slower start in the Iowa game with only four points and four rebounds. Wade’s return was important for the Badgers on defensive end.

This Week: AT Illinois Wednesday, at Michigan Sunday

Michigan State (13-9, 8-3)

The Spartans gave the impression they were suffering from a Champaign hangover after their loss to Illinois earlier in the week. Michigan State scored the first seven points of the game. After that, the first half was all Minnesota. The Gophers got back into the game and settled in 39-31 at the break.

The Spartans had to rally to win for the second time this season against the Gophers. MSU overcame a 23-point deficit to win in Minneapolis earlier in the season. The Izzones seized the game with a 38-19 obliteration in the second half. After a meager first half, the Spartans were fortunate to be down only 39-31 at the half. The Spartans played more inspired defensively after intermission. Minnesota shot 60 percent from the field and hit 14 of 17 free throws in the first half. MSU was able to limit the Gophers to seven of nine from the line in the second half and held them to 31.6 percent shooting. The Spartans also increased their offensive output by increasing their field goal percentage from 43.5 to 61.1 and their three-point shooting from two for 12 in the first half to four of ten in the second. With only eight points, Paul Davis had his second straight game in single digits.

Chris Hill led Michigan State with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists. Hill also converted four of nine beyond the arc. The Spartans 15 steals was a season high. Tom Izzo picked up his 100th Big Ten victory with the win. He becomes the 17th Big Ten coach to accomplish the feat and only the third to reach the milestone by his ninth season.

The loss at Illinois continued to ascertain the Spartans problems in big games this year. Illinois was able to completely shut down a hot Spartan team. Michigan State was coming off a victory at Ohio State where they shot 73 percent. At Illinois, the Spartans managed only 41.8 percent and connected on just five of 15 from three-point range. Once Illinois got in gear late in the first half, they were virtually unstoppable. With four of their last six at home, the Spartans appear to be in good shape for a tournament bid. The two road games remaining are a trip to archrival Michigan and a visit to Penn State.

This Week: Vs. Purdue Tuesday, Vs. Northwestern Saturday

Illinois (16-5, 7-3)

The victory over Penn State gave the Illini a temporary tie for second in the Big Ten. The Spartans moved a half game ahead of Illinois with their weekend victory over Minnesota. The Illini were idle. Playing in front of an energized Assembly Hall crowd, the Illini play inspired for the last 25 minutes. The 12-0 run to end the first half was accomplished with two three point plays and two three point field goals by four different players. The Illini defensive effort was impressive. Michigan State entered their showdown leading the conference in shooting at 56 percent in Big Ten games. They shot just 42 percent against the Illini.

Illinois faces another must win this week. A win over Wisconsin will put the Illini into a tie with the Badgers in the Big Ten standings. A loss would be devastating to Illinois’ title hopes. It would place them two games behind the Badgers in the conference standings with Wisconsin holding the tiebreaker.

Two former Illini hoopsters are finalists for induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Johnny Kerr and Jerry Colangelo are both being considered for the contributions they have made to the sport.

Kerr helped lead the Illini to the 1952 Final Four. At one time he held the NBA record for consecutive games played with 844. He played in the Association from 1954-65 and again in 1969-70. He earned the NBA’s coach of the year in 1967 for leading the Chicago Bulls to a playoff appearance in their inaugural season. He has been the Chicago Bulls analyst since 1975.

Colangelo also got his start with the Bulls as a scout and Director of Sales and Publicity. As a member of the Illini, Colangelo earned all Big Ten in 1961 and 1962. He became the Phoenix Suns first General Manager at the age of 28 and has been associated with them since. Colangelo earned the NBA’ executive of the year four times.

This Week: Vs. Wisconsin Wednesday, at Penn State Saturday

Purdue (16-8, 6-5)

Purdue overcame its dreadful performance against Northwestern to claim a share of the Hoosier state bragging rights with a 71-56 over Indiana. The Boilermakers used a well-rounded effort to earn the always hard fought victory over the Hoosiers. Their balanced attack included a 24-6 advantage in made free throws, a 36-27 edge on the boards and excellent defense. IU shot only 36.1 percent and its three-guard perimeter attack combined to make only 10-34 from the floor.

After leading by ten at the half, the Boilers quickly extended the lead to 16 early in the second half. Their lead never dipped below 11 after that and Purdue picked up a very important victory.

Kenneth Lowe played exceptional last week after missing the previous three and a half games with a sprained elbow. Lowe followed his 20-point performance versus Northwestern with 17 points on 7-10 from the floor against the Hoosiers. Lowe’s backcourt mate, point guard Brandon Mc Knight along with wing David Teague provided the perimeter defense that keyed the Boiler victory. Teague matched Lowe’s 17 points on 6-11 from the floor. Lowe’s 17 points placed him as the latest Big Ten player to join the 1,000 point club.

Inside, Ije Nwankwo tied Lowe and Teague for top honors on Purdue with 17. He also led them with seven rebounds and hit 13 of 14 charities. Nwankwo’s play the remainder of the season could prove to be a key. No one has stepped up and provided Gene Keady with consistent interior play this season.

Keady has been named as one of 16 finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame. In 24 years in West Lafayette, Keady has a record of 504-243. Keady is second all time in wins in Big Ten history, and is one of only two coaches to ever win 500 games at a Big Ten school. Under his guidance, the Boilers have captured six Big Ten titles and made two elite eights. Keady’s accomplishments have earned him seven Big Ten Coach of the Year awards and two National Coach of the Year awards.

This Week: at Michigan State Tuesday, at Minnesota Saturday.

Indiana (12-10, 6-5)

The Hoosiers inconsistency continued to rear its ugly head this week. After a 75-56 victory at Penn State, it appeared that the Hoosiers might be back on track after a three game losing streak.

The win at Penn State gave Indiana four conference road victories versus only two at home. IU was 1-7 in the conference away from the Assembly Hall a year ago. Bracey Wright led IU with 25 points and Marshall Strickland had 17. Mike Davis inserted Rodrick Wilmont into the starting lineup for Donald Perry. In eight Big Ten Starts, Perry has converted only five of 35 shots from the floor. Strickland was moved to the point to speed up the tempo. The move worked almost immediately. Indiana shot out to a 29-10 lead on seven of eight from three-point range. The Hoosier finished with 11 threes overall, Wright hitting four of them. Wright’s 25-point jaunt marked the seventh silver milestone for a Penn State opponent this season.

IU’s edge in quickness and experience on the perimeter led to a 27-0 advantage in points off turnovers. The Hoosier’s perimeter players have played with greater confidence on the road than they have at home. Indiana is hitting only 30 percent of their three pointers at the assembly Hall while connecting on 50.8 percent of their bombs while traveling.

Indiana assistants John Treloar and Thad Fitzpatrick did not make the trip to Happy Valley. Treloar traveled to Alabama to help care for his seriously sick father. Fitzpatrick was on a recruiting trip.

After a strong effort to earn an important win at Penn State, the Hoosiers suffered a let down t Purdue. They were dominated in virtually every stat category to fall into a tie for fourth place with the Boilers, Northwestern and Iowa.

The Hoosiers were out-rebounded 37-26 and their only inside presence, George Leach finished with only four points and three rebounds. Wright’s 16 points came on five of 18 shooting and Strickland finished with 12 on five of 14. Overall the Hoosiers connected on only 22 of 61 shots and six of 20 long range.

Leach was limited to 17 minutes after getting into first half foul trouble. Ryan Tapak was a bright spot with 11 points by dialing three of five from long distance.

The Hoosiers suffered from a lack of fundamental basketball. Leach and Patrick Ewing jr. both fouled out. The latter without scoring a point, while grabbing five rebounds. IU also had ten assists to their 13 turnovers, made only six of 13 from the foul line and committed 26 fouls to the Boilers 15.

For Indiana to continue their run of 18 straight NCAA tournament appearances, this will be a pivotal week. The host Big Ten cellar habitants Minnesota and Ohio State. For Indiana to continue their run of 18 straight NCAA tournament appearances, this will be a pivotal week. The host Big Ten cellar habitants Minnesota and Ohio State. It is going to be an even tougher road for the Hoosiers after losing back forward/center Sean Kline. Kline injured his knee in the Hoosiers loss to Purdue and will require knee surgery. Kline was providing Mike Davis with a solid 21.3 minutes per game and averaging 7.1 PPG and 4.0 RPG. Ewing will be the likely beneficiary in playing time with Kline absence. His play will be a key in the Hoosiers drive to reach the dance.

This Week: Vs. Minnesota Wednesday, Vs. Ohio State Saturday

Iowa (13-9, 6-5)

The 2004 Big Ten season has been defined by parity. The teams making up the middle of the pack need to distinguish itself and make a case why they deserve an invite to the formal. In order to do that, one of them will have to step up and defeat one of the Big Ten’s big three. Iowa nearly accomplished that feat against Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes rally from 15 down in the second half fell just short as Jeff Horner missed a three at the buzzer.

Injuries, defections and academic casualties have depleted the Hawkeyes roster. Steve Alford has had to shorten his rotation as a result. Iowa used only seven players in the loss to Wisconsin and their starters averaged 35 minutes. Glen Worley scored six points against the Badgers to pass the 1,000-point club.

Pierre Pierce paced the Iowa assault with 20 points and Greg Brunner put up ten points and 13 rebounds. The Hawkeyes played a solid all around game with a 38-30 lead on the boards and fueled their comeback by hitting four of nine three point shots after the break, while finishing 7-16 from beyond the arc for the night.

Iowa used a strong defense and rode a hot Jeff Horner to defeat Michigan 69-61. The win earned the Hawks their place in the four way fourth place logjam in the Big Ten. Horner scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half.

As a team, Iowa forced Michigan to 21 turnovers and a season low 32 percent shooting to avenge their 90-84 loss in Ann Arbor earlier this season. Pierce had 11 points and eight assists and Worley finished with 13 and eight rebounds.

This Week: At Ohio State Wednesday

Northwestern (11-11. 6-5)

Northwestern began the Penn State game where they left off after the win at Purdue with an anemic offense. Playing possibly their best stretch of the season, NU blitzed Penn State with a 30-2 run during the first nine and half minutes of the second half. The decisive run tilted a 25-23 halftime deficit into a 53-27 Northwestern lead. The Wildcats played a near perfect second half. They shot 55 percent overall and hit six of 13 threes.

The win gave NU its fourth victory in five games. Jitim Young and Vedran Vukusic continued to roll for the Wildcats. They shared high honors with 17 and were supported by an outstanding overall game from Mohamad Hachad with 16 points, five rebounds and five steals.

Penn State’s Jan Jagla knocked NU’s Evan Seacat and T.J. Parker out of the game. Parker would return after missing eight minutes. Seacat wasn’t as fortunate. He suffered a concussion and is unlikely to play Saturday at Michigan State. After a ten-minute delay, Seacat was taken to Evanston Hospital and spent the night for observation.

This Week: at Michigan State Saturday.

Michigan (13-8, 4-6)

Michigan’s 0-2 week might have knocked them out of the Big Ten race and eliminated any hope for returning to the NCAA tournament. The devastating loss was an 81-78 defeat at Minnesota. Minnesota earned its first Big Ten victory of the season after losing its first nine conference games. The Gophers also broke an eight game overall losing streak. Despite having five players in double figures and an 11-point halftime lead, Michigan succumbed to Minnesota’s hot second half. The Gophers shot 57 percent from the floor after intermission and hit 5-8 from three point-range. The Wolverines shot only 35 percent in the second stanza. Lester Abram and Daniel Horton led Big Blue with 15 each.

Michigan followed up the loss at Minnesota with its third loss in its last four games. After taking a 32-28 lead at the half, the Wolves failed to finish for the second straight game. Twenty-four percent shooting, 2-10 from three-point range in the second half, 21 turnovers and 25 fouls overall squashed any chance of Michigan gaining the ever-important road victory. Abram and Horton fouled out. Michigan’s 32 percent field goal shooting was their lowest of the season. Abram paced the Wolverines with 13 and 10 rebounds.

This Week: Vs. Penn State Wed, Vs. Wisconsin Sunday

Penn State (9-12, 3-7)

Penn State continued to nose dive after losing both of their bouts last week. The pair of defeats gave the Nittany Lions seven losses in their last eight games. Against Indiana, the Lions were never able to get out the hole they were in at 29-10 early in the game. Aaron Johnson played the game of his life with 28 of the Lions 56 total points and also had 15 rebounds. Both were career highs. Johnson outscored Penn State’s starting five by himself. The former walk-on has been a bright spot in what is turning out to be another disappointing season in Happy Valley.

Jagla had another tough game with the Big Ten defenses focused on stopping him. The seven footer finished with just six points. Penn State’ second leading scorer Marlon Smith had only seven on 3-14 from the floor.

Penn State was able to contain Northwestern in the first half. Normally an excellent three point shooting team, NU made only 1-9 from long distance before halftime. Jagla had his best game in nearly three weeks with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Johnson had another steady game with ten points and ten rebounds. The Lions came out flat in the second half and paid the price. Penn State had a 42—22 advantage on the boards but was unable to overcome 20 turnovers. The Cats committed only eight.

This Week: Wednesday at Michigan. Saturday vs. Illinois

Ohio State (11-12, 3-7)

A week after being seared by Michigan State’s 73 percent shooting, Ohio State was embarrassed in a 78-48 loss at Wisconsin. Quickly becoming the Big Ten’s Lion’s den, Wisconsin has now won 26 straight games at home and 22 in the conference. The only bright spot for the Buckeyes was J.J. Sullinger. Sullinger finished with 14 points and had four rebounds. Former Walk-on Nick Dials will be out for about a month with a stress fracture in his right wrist.

This Week: Wednesday vs. Iowa, Saturday vs. Illinois

Minnesota (9-14, 1-10)

Don Monson can breathe a big sigh of relief. The Golden Gophers picked up their first conference win of the season with an 81-78 victory over Michigan. The Gophers overcame an 11 point first half deficit to rally for the victory. A true team effort keyed the victory. Jeff Hagen had a career night with 16 points and ten rebounds. Kris Humphries continued his March towards the Big Ten’s freshman of the year with 20 and 10. Ben Johnson scored 20 and Aaron Boone finished with 11 points, five assists and five rebounds. The come from behind victory was noteworthy. The Gophers have struggled with finishing games this season.

The Gophers returned to form at Michigan State. Minnesota was unable to sustain a 39-31 halftime lead in East Lansing. The Gophers 19 point second half was their lowest twenty minute point total of the season. Minnesota practically collapsed after halftime. In the opening stanza, Minnesota shot 60 percent, converted 14-17 from the line and held Michigan State to two of 12 from the arc. The second half was a near about face. The Spartans shot 60 percent to the Gophers 31.6 percent and hit four of ten threes. Humphries finished with 17 points and nine boards and Johnson had 14.

This Week: Wednesday at Indiana, Saturday vs. Purdue

     

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