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Big Ten Notebook

February 25, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big Ten Conference Notebook

by Alan Rubenstein

Upset of the Week: Minnesota 73 Indiana 71

This week’s upset special is sponsored by the Indiana Hoosiers. Entering the week, IU was 12-10 and appeared to be in good shape to improve that to 14-10. Fighting for their NCAA tournament lives, the Hoosiers lost for the sixth time in seven games and four in a row at home to fall to 12-12. Indiana’s losses to both Minnesota and Ohio State were a surprise. Ohio State’ resume did included a win at Purdue. Minnesota entered the Assembly Hall with one only conference victory. The Gophers victory over Indiana rated a bigger surprise than Ohio State’s 59-56 victory over IU.

The Gophers have ridden the considerable shoulders of freshman Kris Humphries to any success they have had this season. Humphries had his best game of his young Gopher career finishing with 36 points and 12 rebounds. The 36 points were his career high and the most against IU this season. Humphries hit two free throws with 3.6 seconds left to give Minnesota the victory. Humphries was fouled by IU’s George Leach and went to the line after rebounding Ryan Tapak’s missed shot from long range.

The Gophers’ 11-2 run over the final 3:32 clinched the victory. The Gophers had put themselves in position for the win after Brett Lawson three-point play tied it with 17 seconds remaining. Humphries gave the Gophers a chance to tie the game after cutting the margin to three with 44 seconds on the clock.

Leach had the best game of his career with 26 points and eight rebounds. AJ Moye has 15, Bracey Wright 14 and Marshall Strickland 12 for Indiana.

Honorable Mention:

Michigan 71 Wisconsin 58
Ohio State 59 Indiana 56

Indiana’s loss to Minnesota was devastating, but the defeat to Ohio State might be the one that ends their 18-year NCAA tournament run. Using a dominating inside game, they battered Indiana for a 40-16 edge in the paint. Velimir Radinovich had a career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds and Terrance Dials added 16 and 10. JJ Sullinger’s floater from the baseline with 17 seconds to play provided the winning margin. Strickland led the Hoosiers with 12. Bracey Wright had a brutal game finishing with nine and points and hitting only one of 12 from the floor.

Wisconsin’s two-year reign atop the Big Ten might be over after a 71-58 loss at Michigan. The Big Ten driver’s seat now belongs to Illinois and Michigan State. If the Illini and Spartans finish in a tie for the title, Illinois would be the number one seed in the conference tournament. Illinois defeated MSU in Champaign earlier this season in their only meeting of the year.

Michigan shot a lights out 58 percent. Included was a 75 percent first half to earn their first victory over a team in the nation’s top 15 in five years. Using a balanced offense, the Wolverines took control with a 22-5 run late in the first half. Lester Abram finished with 17, Courtney Sims 14 points, five rebounds and three blocks and Bernard Robinson jr. 11 points and six assists.

Big Blue was also able to rely on its defense by holding the Badgers to 37.5 percent and three for 20 from the launching pad. Devin Harris led Wisconsin with 18 but on five of 20 from the field and one of 10 from long distance. Mike Wilkinson added 14 for Wisconsin.

Game of the Week: Illinois 65 Wisconsin 57

For Illinois to stay in the Big Ten Race this was a game they had to have. Wisconsin entered the Assembly Hall with a share of first place in the Big Ten, a one game lead over Illinois and a win over the Illini at the Kohl Center. A Badger win would bury Illinois for the Big Ten race. They left Champaign a half game behind Michigan State and case of too much Deron Williams.

The Illini’s top candidate for all conference scorched the Badgers for 31 points and a career high five three pointers. He didn’t put his first points on the board until 10:17 remained in the first half. Williams put the Illini on his back the rest of the way. The Illini took their first lead of the game with 34 seconds left in the half. They took the lead for good with 16:27 left in the second half and cruised home from there. Playing with the lead, Illinois forced the Badgers into an uncharacteristic 17 turnovers. Wisconsin came in averaging ten turnovers per game. The Illini were effective in limiting Badger All-America candidate Devin Harris. Harris finished with 16 points, five below his conference average.

Player of the Week

Velimir Radinovic highlighted his senior season by earning his first ever conference player of the year award. Rad made 77 percent of his field goal attempts and averaged 19.5 points per game and ten rebounds to help the Buckeyes split the week. Rad set a career high with 23 to match ten rebounds to help the Bucks defeat Indiana. He also passed the 700 point mark for his career with a 16 point ten rebound effort at in a loss to Iowa earlier in the week. Radinovic produced double-doubles in consecutive games for the first time. The 7’0 senior from Toronto now has three on the season and five for his career.

With his shot stuck on automatic, Radinovic raised his season shooting percentage to 67.9. If he continues at that pace, he will have the highest percentage in the Big Ten since 1990. Stephen Sheffler established the conference record at Purdue with 76.7 percent accuracy.

Michigan State (13-9, 8-3)

Michigan State continues to make noise in the Big Ten and after an 0-2 week by Wisconsin, the Spartans took sole possession of first place. The Spartans began the week with a 62-55 victory over Purdue. After using strong shooting on its run to the top, the Spartans went back to traditional Izzo ball to top the Boilermakers.

The game featured 48 fouls, 49 fouls shots, 30 turnovers and a combined four for 32 from three point range. Michigan State hit 24-26 from the free throw line and held Purdue to 34 percent shooting and 2-17 from three-point range. The boost defensively was timely as the Spartans shot only 40.9 percent themselves. Michigan State’s free throw shooting proved to be the difference. The Spartans made all ten of their charity shots to ice the game in the final 3:33. Paul Davis led Michigan State with 21 points and a career high 12 rebounds. He also connected on all 11 of his attempts from the line. It ended a two game slump for Davis in which he failed to reach double figures.

Returning to 2004 Spartan ball, Michigan State shot 54 percent to defeat Northwestern 66-55. The 54 percent performance against NU raised MSU’s shooting percentage to 53 percent in the second half of conference games. Michigan State is on pace to become the most accurate shooting team in East Lansing since the 1986 led Scott Skiles squad shot 55.3 percent.

Michigan State used great balance as four players reached double figures. Chris Hill led the way with 16. The win extended the Spartans win streak to seven out of eight and improved their record to 12-1 at home this year.

Illinois (18-5, 9-3)

After an emotional win against Wisconsin earlier in the week and a 43 point obliteration of Penn State in the previous match up this year, Illinois was primed for a let down in Happy Valley. The Illini struggled but eeked out a hard fought 66-58 victory. After Deron Williams had the Illini season watermark with 31 points versus the Badgers, Dee Brown took his turn as Chief Illiniwek.

Playing his best game of the season, Brown scored 24 points, hit six threes and had five assists. Nineteen of his 24 came after intermission. It was his high mark of the year and the first time he topped 20 since the season opener. Brown showing signs of breaking out of his slump will be important down the stretch. Entering the Penn State game, Brown was shooting just 35.7 percent overall and 30 percent on threes. Saturday he was 8-13 and connected on 6-10 from Never-never land. Williams had 12 points and five assists and Luther Head finished with 14.

Wisconsin (17-5, 8-4)

Entering the week, the Badgers were in the driver’s seat for their third straight Big Ten Championship. After their first back-to-back losses in over a year, Wisconsin is now looking up at Michigan State and Illinois in the standings. Following home games with Penn State and Purdue this week, the Badgers will travel to Michigan State for a possible showdown for the title. For that to happen Wisconsin will hope for Illinois to stumble. The Illini are on the road for three of its last four games.

The Badgers struggles continued on the road. In their trip to Champaign and Ann Arbor, the Badgers offense went south. Against Michigan the Badgers reached only 37.5 percent of their shots and made only 3-20 from three-point range. For the second straight game, Devin Harris’ lack of marksmanship did Wisconsin in. Harris hit on only 5-20 shots and 1-10 from beyond the arc. Harris was effective from the line to finish with 18 points and Wilkinson had 14.

Iowa (14-9, 7-5)

Entering the week in a four way log jam for fourth place, Iowa used their 78-67 victory over Ohio State and losses by their fourth floor roommates to emerge with the quad themselves.

Brody Boyd has been making big shots for the Hawkeyes all season. Saturday he took his turn as the Hawks go to guy all game. Boyd finished with a career-high 25 points, including nailing 6-9 from beyond Noahland. Boyd has owned the Buckeyes this season. In their victory in Iowa City, Boyd had all 19 of his points in the second half. Pierre Pierce had 19, Jeff Horner 12 and seven assists and Glen Worley 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Iowa hit 56 percent and have now placed eight of their last nine in Ohio’s capital city.

Purdue (17-9, 7-6)

Purdue continued it’s up and down Big Ten Season. In their loss at Michigan State, the Boilers had another game in which their offense sputtered. Only their 19-23 performance at the free throw line saved them from dipping below 40 points for the second time in their last four games. Keady’s crusaders managed only 34 percent from the field and 2-17 from three point range. Brandon McKnight with 16 and Brett Buscher with 11 were the only Boilers in double figures. Purdue’s leading scorers Kenneth Lowe and David Teague bellied Purdue’s offensive ineptness. They each hit only one of eight shots and combined for only seven points. Lowe is averaging 13.3 and Teague 12.3.

Inconsistency up front has hurt Purdue all season. The Boilers were outplayed by Michigan State’s frontline. Ivan Kartelo and Matt Kiefer both struggled. They both picked up their fourth fouls halfway through the second half.

Purdue got back to playing hard nosed defense and came out with intensity early to earn a key 65-47 victory at Minnesota. The Boiler frontline rebounded from a sub par game at Michigan State. Prized freshman Kris Humphries scored only 14 points and had a season low three rebounds. He had to work for every point he put on the board with a 5-16 performance. The Boilers held Minnesota to 29.6 percent.

Taking the lead early was the key. Purdue jumped to an 11-3 lead early and it extended to 32-18 late in the first half. The Gophers did score the last six of the first half to cut the deficit to eight, but the Boilers never trailed. Melvin Buckley led Purdue with 15 and Teague recovered from his poor outing in East Lansing with 13. Kenneth Lowe had his second straight rough game with ten points on only 2-8 from the floor.

The Boilers might be headed to Wisconsin Sunday with a depleted front court. Matt Kiefer played only three minutes against Minnesota after he injured his foot and Matt Carroll has been having shoulder problems. Ivan Kartelo might be facing a suspension after being arrested from public intoxication after their victory over Minnesota.

Michigan (14-8, 6-6)

With the middle of the pack teams trying to assert their independence, each game for the remainder of the season will be a key. To earn an NCAA bid, the games against each other and the Big Ten’s top teams will prove to be especially important. With that in mind, Michigan played inspired to gain an impressive 71-59 victory over Wisconsin.

Michigan came out hot in the first half. The Wolverines hit three-quarters of their tries in the opening 20 minutes and finished at 58 percent.

Bernard Robinson Jr. put on a show with 11 points and six assists. He was forced from the game with 9:26 to go when he was hit by an unidentified flying elbow. The win over Wisconsin was the Wolverines first over a ranked opponent this season and the first time they have beaten a top 15 team since they defeated the Badgers in 1999. Lester Abram led Michigan with 17 and Courtney Sims had 14 points, five rebounds and three blocks.

Earlier in the week the Wolverines put themselves in position to regain their status on the bubble. Michigan has used the formula of balanced offense and strong defense for success all season. In their 76-53 victory over Penn State, Big Blue used that theorem to perfection. Robinson jr. threatened a triple double with 11 points, seven rebounds and eight assists and Sims hit all six of his shots for 13 points and Abram paced the attack with 16.

Northwestern (11-12, 6-6)

A sluggish start stymied Northwestern’s chance for another stunning upset. The Wildcats were able to pull within four at the half. NU was competitive in the second stanza before a 10-2 MSU run ended any debate about the outcome. The Spartans 66-56 win kept them in sole possession first place in the Big Ten.

Jitim Young scored 25 points in an impressive performance against one of the Big Ten’s elite teams. Young was the only Wildcat to have success against the Spartans. Mohamad Hachad and T.J. Parker were the ‘Cats next highest scorers with eight. Their inability to move the ball led to the dominant performance by Young, NU had only eight assists to MSU’s 16 and committed 14 turnovers.

Indiana (12-12, 6-7)

When judgment day arrives for the 2004 college basketball season, this past week will be the one that might have cost Indiana its streak of 18 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. Home losses to Big Ten basement dwellers Ohio State and Minnesota dropped the Hoosiers to 500 instead of 14-10 with only a road game at Northwestern this week.

Both losses were another case of getting dominated inside. Leach did all he could to prevent the loss to Ohio State. With four guards and Leach in the Starting lineup, IU has been manhandled inside all season. Sean Kline’s injury has also crippled Mike Davis’s rotation. Kline had surgery on his knee and will be out for the remainder of the season. He is expected to make a full recovery for next year.

Bracey Wright has had a much better season on the road than he has at the Assembly Hall. The Naismith finalist connected on only 6-26 from the floor and 1-11 from three point range. For the season, Wright is shooting 32.7 percent at home and 43.2 percent on the road. The Hoosiers are now only 2-4 in Big Ten home games. Their inability to close out games has also become all too apparent. IU’s last five losses are by a combined 14 points.

Ohio State (12-13, 4-8)

The Buckeyes continued to be an enigma. After losing at home to Iowa, their victory at Indiana was unexpected. The modus operandi for the Buckeyes to be victorious this season has been the combination of Radmanovic and Terence Dials. When the Buckeyes are successful they are getting the ball inside. In both victories in the Hoosier State, the Bucks had a decisive advantage in points in the paint and/or on the backboards.

The Buckeyes inability to shoot the three also surfaced last week. Their three point defense did pick up in the victory over Indiana. The Hoosier hit only 6-22 rocker launchers.

The loss to Iowa was a different story. The Hawkeyes were successful on 9-15 treys, while the Buckeyes managed to make only 5-20,

Freshman Ivan Harris had his first double figure scoring outing in three months with 11. Tony Stockman hit 1,000 points for his career. The junior transfer from Clemson had 716 as a Tiger.

Penn State (3-9, 9-14)

Penn State all freshman backcourt continues to give valiant efforts, but the Nittany Lions seem to have the hit the proverbial wall. The Nittany Lions have now lost nine of their last ten games. Freshmen Ben Luber and Marlon Smith keep giving Ed DeChellis and the Nittany Lion faithful reason to be optimistic about the future. Luber played all 40 minutes against the Illini, the tenth time he has gone the distance this season. Smith also played the duration against Illinois marking the sixth time he has played the whole game this season.

Smith had one of his best weeks of the season, averaging 17.5 points, five rebounds and three assists. Luber had 14 versus Illinois. Aaron Johnson had a solid game on the interior with 11 and nine rebounds at Michigan.

Minnesota (10-15. 2-11)

After Kris Humphries offensive explosion at Indiana netted the Gophers their first conference road win of the season, they returned home and were stagnant offensively. Humphries had possibly his the worst game of his career with 14 points and only three rebounds on 5-16 against the Boilers. He is still inline to become the first Big Ten freshman ever to lead the conference in scoring and rebounding. His only threat is to catch for scoring honors in conference games is Wisconsin’s Devin Harris. Humphries currently sits at 21.0 PPG, while Harris is at 20.8.

Ben Johnson has given Dan Monson a good secondary option. Johnson scored 27 points last week as he is approaching the twilight of his collegiate career. That ran his streak to four straight games in double figures.

Key games of the Week

Illinois at Iowa, Wednesday

After moving into sole possession of fourth place, Iowa will now be looking for a marquee victory to ad to their resume. Both teams have a strong presence on the perimeter. Brody Boyd, Jeff Horner and Pierre Pierce make Iowa a dangerous team outside and capable of putting up high numbers offensively. The difference could come inside. With Jared Reiner and Sean Sonderleiter both likely to miss the rest of the season, the Hawkeyes have seen their inside depth depleted. Glen Worley and Greg Brunner have played well.

The Hawkeyes will find it difficult to match the Illini firepower. Six different Illinois players have led them in scoring during the conference part of the schedule. Six straight wins and convincing victories over Wisconsin and Michigan State indicates the Illini should leave Iowa City with a victory.

Purdue at Wisconsin, Sunday

Gene Keady has lamented his team’s lack of consistency offensively. With two weeks remaining before the Big Ten Tournament, the Boilers trip to Madison is important in Purdue’s hopes for a ticket to the big show.

The Badgers have supplied a new meaning for Madtown. Twenty-six straight home wins and 22 in the Big Ten have made life for visiting teams unpleasant at the Kohl Center. Both teams use a balance between inside and outside and feature all conference guards. With Kartelo, Kiefer and Carroll all likely to be sitting the trip to Madison out, the Boilermakers will face an uphill battle. Add in that the Badgers are still fighting for a Big Ten title, and Wisconsin should roll in Madison.

     

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