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Big Ten Notebook

March 2, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Big Ten Conference Notebook

by Alan Rubenstein

Big Ten Games of the Week

Michigan State 72 Michigan 69

If Michigan finds itself on the outside looking in when the NCAA tournament bids are announced in less than two weeks, this might be the game they point to for the reason why. In a year when bubbles seem to burst and be reformed on a game by game basis, Michigan personifies the profile. After easily defeating Wisconsin a game earlier, the Wolverines seemed to be on the verge of their second straight upset. Holding a 52-40 lead in the second half, big blue hit a seven minute dry spell as Michigan State went on a 15-5 run to even the game. Kelvin Torbert nearly took the game over by himself during the run with 12 of the Spartans 15 points.

The Spartans took control down the stretch by hitting the big shots. Four Spartans finished in double figures paced by Chris Hill’s 19 points, six rebounds and four assists and Torbert with 18.

Freshman Courtney Sims had a career high 19 points and pulled down nine rebounds and Bernard Robinson jr. gave Tommy Amaker another outstanding all around game with 15 points, six assists and four steals.

Wisconsin 82 Purdue 46

In a game both teams need to reach their goals, Wisconsin turned a competitive game into their own personal embarrassment of Purdue. The Badgers outscored the Boilermakers 53-25 in the second half. The 36 point margin was the largest ever for Wisconsin in the series that dates to 1906. The win extended Wisconsin’s home winning streak to 28.

Mike Wilkinson finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds and Devin Harris had 16 points, five rebounds and four assists to lead the Badger romp. The Badgers dominated this one in everyway possible. Wisconsin hit 31 of 60 shots to just 16 of 43 for the Boilers. Toss in a 14 turnovers to seven steals to just one for Purdue and a 38-19 rebounding edge and it seems that the Boilermakers never had a chance.

The second half was particularly abysmal. They connected on 6-22 from the floor, while Wisconsin made 19-33. David Teague was the lone Boiler in double figures with 12.

Illinois 78 Iowa 59

The Illini continued their blitz through the second half of the Big Ten Schedule with a dominating performance at Iowa. The Illini out shot the Hawkeyes 58.5 to 39.6, held Iowa to 31.6 on treys and out rebounded them 38-25. The Illini set the tone in the first half with a 24-12 edge on the boards to take a 39-28 lead into the locker room.

Dee Brown paced Illinois with another superstar performance. He finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Luther Head had 16 points and ten rebounds and Deron Williams had 13. Jeff Horner had a game high 20 for Iowa and Greg Brunner backed him up with 18.

Preview of the Week

Wisconsin at Michigan State

In a game many will view as the Big Ten’s biggest of 2003, Wisconsin will travel to East Lansing for a Super Tuesday match up that might decide the Big Ten Title.

Both teams will need help from Purdue and Ohio State to seize the number one seed in Indianapolis. Michigan State currently sits a half game ahead of Illinois and a full game ahead of the Badgers in the race for the conference title. Tuesday’s showdown in the Great Lakes Capital will be the Spartans regular season finale. Illinois will travel to Purdue and Ohio State to conclude their pre-planned segment of the 2004 schedule. If both MSU and Illinois win out, the Illini and Spartans would share the Big Ten title after the Illini dismantled MSU 76-51 in Champaign in February.

If the Badgers win on Tuesday, they would need Illinois to lose one of its two remaining games to gain a share of the Big Ten championship. In the case of the three way tie atop the standings, Wisconsin would earn the number one seed in the Big Ten tournament with Illinois second and Michigan State third. With a sharp drop off after the Big Ten’s big three the team with the number seed will avoid having to face the other two until the conference final.

The match up in East Lansing could come down to the Badgers defense. Michigan State has lit up Big Ten opponents to the tune of a 53.3 field goal percentage. Michigan State leads the conference in shooting percentage and is the only Big Ten team that makes more than half its shots in conference games. The Badgers defense is third in the league in shooting defense at 42.3.

The Super Tuesday showdown will also feature Wisconsin’s dynamic duo versus Spartans balanced attack. Mike Wilkinson and Devin Harris have been the offensive mindset for the Badgers this season. They have led the Badgers in scoring in all but three games. The supporting cast for the Badgers is counted on for the dirty work. Andreas Helmigk, Dave Mader and Zach Morley will take turns with Wilkinson on Spartan star center Paul Davis. Boo Wade and Freddie Owens will have to have well rounded games to take some pressure off of Harris and counter act the Spartans firepower.

Other than Davis, the Michigan State attack lies on the perimeter. Chris Hill, Shannon Brown, Kelvin Torbert and Maurice Ager are all capable of offensive explosions on a given night, Alan Anderson is Tom Izzo’s Mr. everything. The junior can play four positions on both ends.

The difference should come down to rest and energy. Michigan State has an extra day off and is at home. The Badgers have been unbeatable at home for two years, but has had its share of problems on the road. In front a senior night crowd at the Breslin Center, the Spartans should cruise home for a six to ten point victory.


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