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Big Ten Notebook

March 9, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big Ten Conference Notebook

by Alan Rubenstein

As the Big Ten heads into its final weekend four key games will determine the Big Ten championship and the seedlings in the conference tournament.

Saturday

Iowa at Purdue: The Hawkeyes invade West Lafayette after losing a chance to wrap-up a bye in the first round of the Big Ten tournament The Hawkeyes will have to overcome a late loss at Northwestern allowing the Wildcats to tie them for fourth place in the Big Ten. Northwestern owns the tie breaker after sweeping the season series with the Hawkeyes. Purdue also lost a heartbreaker when Luther Head scored on a put back with 0.9 seconds remaining to give Illinois the win.

The match up should focus on the perimeter. Both teams have been depleted by injuries on the frontline. It will come down to a contrast in styles. Iowa brings the second ranked offense in the Big Ten to Mackey Arena. Purdue is second in the conference in scoring defense.

The Hawkeyes have six players averaging over 8.5 points per game. Pierre Pierce is a dangerous slasher and Brody Boyd and Jeff Horner are deadly from beyond the arc. Greg Brunner and Glen Worley are undersized but give Iowa scoring and toughness inside

For Purdue to be successful they will need a big game from David Teague or Kenneth Lowe. They are the only two Boilers posting double figures. Inside, Ivan Kartelo will have to play more focused after being suspended for the first half of the Wisconsin game last Sunday. Kartelo finished with ten points and seven rebounds against Illinois Wednesday night. That was his first double digit scoring effort in nearly a month. After playing well in the middle of the season, Brett Buscher has fallen off as of late. He did play well in the loss to Illinois with a 12 point, five rebound effort.

Both teams have a lot on the line. Iowa wants to win to clinch a bye in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Senior day at Mackey Arena will be emotional for six seniors. This one is a toss up. With the game at Mackey, Purdue should be able to keep the score down. The game should come down to the last few minutes. Iowa has more shot makers and the Boilers will have the crowd behind them. This should be the most competitive game of the weekend.

Michigan at Northwestern: The Big Ten’s second hottest team also resides in the land of Lincoln. With Illinois winning ten straight games, Northwestern has barely been noticed while winning six of their last nine.

If the Wildcats defeat Michigan Saturday, they will earn a bye in the Big Ten Tournament for the first time. The ‘Cats rely on the 1-2 punch of Jitim Young and Vedran Vukusic. NU will try to slow the pace and maximize possessions. The last two weeks Bill Carmody has had only six healthy scholarship players. Evan Seacat is expected to return against the Wolverines and gives NU an exceptional three point shooter off the bench. Northwestern needs a win to ensure a .500 season and become eligible for the NIT.

Michigan is a sharp contrast to the Wildcats. The Wolverines have a deep and athletic lineup. They began the Big Ten season by thumping Northwestern 78-54 at Crisler Arena.

NU has gone 6-1 at home during conference play and has improved during the second half of the conference schedule. In front of the home crowd expect the ‘Cats in a tight low scoring game.

Wisconsin at Indiana: Wisconsin will get a chance to put the pressure on Illinois when they play at Indiana Saturday. After a 79-45 demolition over the Hoosiers earlier in the year and the Hoosiers 3-4 conference record at home should give Wisconsin a psychological edge.

The Badgers have struggled on the road in the Big Ten, but earned its biggest victory of the season at Michigan State Tuesday. The Badgers play the best team ball in the Big Ten, with each player understanding his role. Devin Harris is the overwhelming favorite to earn Big Ten Player of the Year.

The Hoosiers should be able to match up with Harris. A.J. Moye and then Donald Perry should get the assignment on Harris. Bracey Wright and Marshall Strickland will likely rotate on Harris at times as well.

Mike Wilkinson could pose match up problems inside. George Leach is the only Hoosier big enough to handle Wilkinson. Leach seems to finally be recovered from his knew injury that caused him to miss nine games. Leach has put up 13 points and seven rebounds per game over the last four.

Wilkinson and Harris have combined to lead Wisconsin in scoring in all but three games this year, including the last 17. Indiana has been burned by physical defensive teams all season. With the Big Ten title still on the line, the Badgers should be inspired.

Indiana showed improvement in its victory over Michigan on Wednesday. With a win, IU would have a chance to finish as high as fourth. The Badgers strength inside and the Big Ten title at stake should be enough to give the Badgers the win.

The Badgers will then return to Madison and get snug on Sunday and watch Illinois and Ohio State, hoping the Buckeyes can pull the upset. That could create a three-way tie atop the Big Ten between the Badgers, Illinois and Michigan State. A Wisconsin win and Illinois loss gives the number one seed in the conference tournament to Wisconsin.

Penn State at Minnesota: Not many will notice, but Penn State will travel to Minnesota with tenth place on the line on senior day at the Barn. Minnesota has been improving lately with a victory at Indiana on its resume.

The Lions have been in a free fall since starting the conference season 2-0. Michael Bauer, Ben Johnson and three other seniors will be playing in their last game at home. In front of the home crowd the Gophers should prevail.

Sunday

Illinois at Ohio State: For Illinois the task is simple, beat Ohio Sate and grab their first outright Big Ten title in 52 years and the number one seed in the conference tournament. With a loss the Illini will share the conference title with Wisconsin and Michigan State and will be seeded second in Indianapolis.

In a year with three teams separating themselves from the rest of the conference, the number one seed in the tournament is exceptionally important. The prospect of not having to face Michigan State in the conference semifinals looms large for the Illini. Illinois did defeat MSU 76-51 in their only meeting of the season.

The Illini invade Columbus riding a ten game winning streak and an emotional victory over Purdue Wednesday night. They have one final step before reaching the summit of the Big Ten. The difficulty of their task will depend on which Ohio State team shows up. The Buckeyes have had an up and down season, struggling with team chemistry.

Ohio State has had its most success when they go inside. Velimir Radinovic was the Big Ten player of the week two weeks ago and Terrence Dials has had an outstanding sophomore season after sitting out the 2002-03 season with back problems. On the perimeter, Tony Stockman has played very well since returning from a one game suspension. He is averaging 22.7 points per game over the last three.

The Illini have been successful by using their balance to keep opposing defenses guessing. Dee Brown seems to have broken out of his season long slump. Brown has put up 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and five assists over his last four games. He earned the conference player of the week last week. Deron Williams has had a sensational year for the Illini and is a candidate for Big Ten player of the year. Williams and Brown are interchangeable at the guard spots.

The Illini has had everyone in their rotation step up during the ten game winning streak. Luther Head scored 19 points and had the go ahead basket at Purdue. Inside, James Augustine, Roger Powell and Nick Smith are all capable of big games. Smith has earned the favor of the coaching staff and has been receiving increasing minutes at crunch time.

Ohio State has a chance to tie for sixth place in the conference standings with a win. A sixth place finish will give them a match up with Indiana or Minnesota. A loss means a likely meeting with Indiana or Michigan.

The Illini express should roll out of Columbus with a win. Don’t expect it to be easy. Ohio State has good size and the ability to score in the paint and block shots. Illinois has too much fire power and on the perimeter and greater experience in big games.

Player of the Week

Dee Brown, Illinois

Brown helped the Illini to close the month of February with a 7-0 record. During the last week of the month he averaged 19 points per game and shot 58 percent from the floor as the Illini won games at Iowa and at home against Northwestern.

Illinois (20-5, 11-3)

After a dominating performance at Iowa, Illinois looked forward to avenging a loss to Northwestern earlier in the season. The Illini took advantage of a fatigued Wildcat squad that was down to six scholarship players because of injuries. Illinois’ defensive intensity was particularly impressive. The Illini held NU to six of 25 from beyond the arc. Dee Brown continued to improve. His 20 points led Illinois for the third straight game. Brown’s hoop late in the first half put Illinois ahead to stay. Nick Smith and Roger Powell’s inside presence overcame a poor performance by the usually steady James Augustine. Smith had had 14 and Powell 13 giving Brown and Deron Williams open looks in the second half. D-Will had 13 points and eight assists. Smith played a season high 26 minutes.

The Illini honored its lone senior, Jerrance Howard, before a two game road trip to conclude the regular season. Howard aspires to become a coach at the end of his career. Looking forward, if Illinois wins its last two games, they will earn the number one seed in the conference tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Michigan State (17-9, 11-4)

The comeback at Michigan seemed to wake-up the Spartans, Michigan State used another blistering shooting performance and stifled Penn State offensively to run away to a 67-42 victory over the Nittany Lions. It was a combination of old school Izzo with the new high octane model that led Michigan State to a victory on senior day at State College.

The Spartans made 51 percent of their field goals and 41 percent from trey land to smolder the Lions defense. Michigan State also smothered the Lions offense. Penn State finished just 14 of 40 from the floor, 11 of 20 from the line and three of 11 from three point range. The more physical Spartans also banged Penn State around, having been called for 23 fouls to the Lions’ nine. The win was MSU’s eighth in their last nine games and fifth in a row. Paul Davis had 16 points along with four rebounds and six assists, Kelvin Torbert had 15 and Chris Hill 14. Hill, Torbert and Maurice Ager combined for ten of 21 from beyond the arc.

The last few years have seen Spartan assistants leaving to head their own programs. Stan heath left for Kent State and then Arkansas, Brian Gregory for Dayton and Mike Garland Cleveland State. The same is expected for current Spartan assistant Doug Wojcik. Wojcik reportedly turned down an offer to become the head coach at his alma mater, the Naval Academy.

Wisconsin (19-6, 10-4)

The Badgers began the week by dismantling Penn State. With every game a must win, the Badgers did not waste any time with the Nittany Lions cruising to a 68-45 victory. The game marked Wisconsin’s 27th straight home win. Devin Harris and Mike Wilkinson continued to lead the way at home for the Badgers. Harris paced the Badger attack with 25 points, giving him eight games past the 20 point milestone this season. Wilkinson has been Harris’ deputy all season. The Badgers used the formula perfectly against Penn State. Wilkinson finished with 14 and nine rebounds.

Wisconsin jumped out to a 19-4 lead and never trailed. Penn State was able to get back in it with a 12-0, seven minute run spanning both halves. The Badgers answered that with an 18-4 run of their own to end Penn State’s hope for an upset. Wisconsin looked like it wore down the Lions with an 18-0 advantage off the bench. Using a killer instinct all season, the Badgers recorded their eighth twenty point plus win of the year.

The Badgers extended their home domination in their complete demolition of Purdue. On Senior day in Madison, the Wilkinson and Harris show had its second stellar performance of the week. Wilkinson posted his third double-double of the season with 23 points and 12 rebounds, and Harris had 16. Dairyland’s version of the dynamic duo accounted for 50.9 percent of Wisconsin’s points at home during conference games this season.

On senior day, the Madtown faithful bid farewell to Wilkinson, Freddie Owens, Dave Mader and Ike Ukawuba. Ukawuba had a career high with four points. Wisconsin’s extended its home court winning streak to 28 games, tops in the Big Ten. They have also won 24 in a row a home in conference games and are 43-2 at home under Ryan. Ryan has helped take the Badgers to new heights. The win against Penn State was their tenth in the Big Ten this year, the third year in a row the Badgers have accomplished that feat. The last time Wisconsin had double digit victories in the Big Ten in three straight seasons was completed from 1912-14.

Iowa (15-10, 8-6)

After being dominated by Illinois earlier in the week, Iowa wanted to make sure their seniors went out the right way against Minnesota on Senior Day in Iowa City. Hawkeye seniors Glen Worley and Brody Boyd ensured the last regular season home game of their careers would be a victorious one as Iowa defeated Minnesota 66-62.

Worley’s basket with 4:14 to go ended a seven minute Iowa drought from the floor and Boyd had a late steal and three free throws in the final minute. Boyd led Iowa with 16 points, as Boyd, Worley, Sean Sonderleiter and Jared Reiner were honored in front of the Carver-Hawkeye faithful. Worley and Greg Brunner’s late heroics helped stem a 19 point Minnesota comeback.

Boyd’s backcourt mates Pierre Pierce and Jeff Horner had 12 and 14 and Brunner had 13 as the Hawkeyes used a balanced offense to hold on to sole possession of fourth in the Big Ten.

Reiner is going to appeal for a fifth season of eligibility. Reiner played 13 games this season, which represents 46 percent of the Iowa schedule. To be eligible for a medical redshirt, a player can play in no more than 20 percent of his team’s games according to NCAA bylaws. Iowa is banking on Reiner being diagnosed in December and playing through the injury as a basis for a fifth season.

Purdue (17-10, 7-7)

The log jam for fifth place in the Big Ten and ever important bye out of the first round persisted as the Big Ten entered its final week. Purdue had a chance to tie Iowa for fourth place with an upset at Wisconsin. Defeating the Badgers in Madison under Bo Ryan has been a nearly impossible task. The Boilermakers fell apart after halftime in an 82-46 loss,

Purdue’s offense needed a search party after halftime. Trailing by eight at the intermission, the Boilers shot only six for 22 after the break to finish at 37 percent for the afternoon. With the entire week to prepare for Wisconsin, Purdue still lacked the intensity to compete with the Badgers.

Gene Keady was forced to deep into his bench because of injuries and suspensions. His frontline was severely limited. Injuries to Matt Carroll and Matt Kiefer had already plagued Purdue when senior center Ivan Kartelo was arrested on February 22 in West Lafayette. The arrest stemmed from Kartelo’s night of celebrating after Purdue beat last place Minnesota. Kartelo allegedly hit an employee at a bar and was eventually charged with battery and public intoxication. As a punishment for the incident, Keady did not play Kartelo in the first half against Wisconsin and only played him 10 minutes during the second half debacle. Senior center Kevin Garrity who had only received 26 minutes of playing time before the Wisconsin game played 18 versus the Badgers. He finished with one rebound and one assist and committed three fouls and a turnover.

The Boilers will be fighting for their NCAA tournament life this week. In order to have a chance at a bye they will have to beat Iowa in West Lafayette and then get some help.

Northwestern (12-13, 7-7)

For the second year in a row, Northwestern defeated Indiana at Welsh-Ryan Arena with a 63-59 win. Northwestern used its formula of Vedran Vukusic and Jitim Young to put them in position to play for a bye in the Big Ten tournament. Vukusic finished eight of eight from the line as NU hit 16 of its 20 charitables as a team. Young finished with 18. The win gave Northwestern victories over Indiana in consecutive years since 1969 and 70.

The Wildcats were unable to complete a sweep of the week falling 66-56 at Illinois. Vukusic and Young both had 16 and Mohamed Hachad had 14. The ‘Cats struggled from three point range hitting only six of their 25 shots.

Michigan (16-9, 7-7)

One of the key elements to making the NCAA tournaments is quality wins. Michigan blew a golden opportunity for a huge win by blowing a 13 point second half lead in their 72-69 loss to Michigan State at Crisler. Freshman Courtney Sims had a spectacular game with 19 points on seven of eight field goals to go along with nine rebounds.

The Wolverines have been on and off the bubble too many times to count in the last month. A chance at fourth or fifth place and a first round bye in the Big Ten tournament is also at stake. Hosting Ohio State was a game Michigan was expected to win. On senior day in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines honored Colin Dill and Bernard Robinson jr. Tommy Amaker gave Dill the start and Robinson had 13 points, five assists and four rebounds to help the Wolves put one in the left had column, 75-64 over the Buckeyes.

Lester Abram gave way to Dill and came off the bench to lead Michigan with 20 points and freshman Brett Pettway tied his season high with 12 points and added eight rebounds and three blocks.

Indiana (12-13, 6-8)

The third portion of Indiana’s season persisted to take a nose dive. The Hoosiers shooting went missing yet again as Indiana shot only 38.2 percent from the floor and connected on just five of 23 from three point range losing at Northwestern 63-39. The Hoosiers poor shooting has been a barometer of their play all season. IU now has an 0-10 record when they make less than 40 percent of their shots.

Bracey Wright has had trouble handling the focus of opposing defenses. No one else has stepped up on a consistent basis. The Hoosiers have been doomed to the Big Ten’s second division after a 5-1 start to the conference season. Wright was five for 17 on field goals, zero for eight from beyond the arc and hit just seven of 11 from the foul line. Wright did lead the Hoosiers with 17 points. Wright’s struggles had been confined to the Assembly Hall earlier in the year. They have now spread to both home and away. The sophomore shot just 16-64 from the field and three of 23 from three point range over a four game span ending with Northwestern. Despite the poor showing, IU showed some moxie. The Hoosiers were able to get back into the game after trailing by 12 in the first half and by ten at halftime.

What was encouraging was IU’s 43-24 edge on the boards. Freshman Patrick Ewing jr. tied his career high 12 caroms. The loss to NU gave Indiana its first losing record 25 games into a season. The collegiate schedule used to be 24 games.

Ohio State (13-13, 5-8)

Ohio State had another up and down week with a 70-59 victory at Minnesota and a 75-64 loss at Michigan.

In the victory at Minnesota, the Buckeyes showed a lot of toughness. The Golden Gophers charged to a 10- lead and expanded it to 22-10 with 9:19 left in the first half. The Gophers held a nine point lead just inside of the four minute mark Ohio State’s 10-2 run to end the first half cut the lead to one at the intermission. The Buckeyes amplified its defense and Tony Stockman led the Ohio State charge in the second half. The Buckeyes held the Gophers to two field goals through the first 16 minutes of the half and Stockman finished with 21 points helping Ohio State reach .500.

Against Michigan, Stockman had another outstanding outing finishing with 22 points, but he didn’t receive and help on the perimeter. Terrence Dials and Velimir Radinovic played well inside finishing with 13 and 11. Michigan held on to a comfortable lead throughout the second half.

Buckeye mentor Jim O’Brien announced he won’t need surgery after the season to repair nerve damage in his throat. He had suffered the damage during an operation on his neck last summer. Assistant coach Rick Boyages has had to shout instructions frequently during games and practice. O’ Brien has also been using a wireless microphone to help him project better.

Penn State (9-6, 3-11)

Fortunes can’t get much worse than what Ed DeChellis has had to go through. Penn State lost by a combined 48 points last week to fall to 11 losses in their last 12 games.

At Wisconsin, it was a case of too much Devin Harris. The Big Ten’s likely player of the year scorched the Nittany Lions for 25 points. Despite holding the Badgers scoreless for eight minutes spanning the two halves, the Lions never had a chance. Jan Jagla paced Penn State with 16 points and seven rebounds and Marlon Smith had 15.

On senior day at State College it was more of the same. Penn State was never able to get into a rhythm offensively. Smith was the only Lion double figure scorer with 15. Rob Fletcher and Ndu Egekeze had only three and one respectively in their final game at the Bryce.

Smith’s emergence offensively has meant fewer shots for Jagla. Jagla seems to have had enough as rumors are circulating that he will return to Europe after the season to play professionally.

Minnesota (10-17, 2-13)

The season formally known as Minnesota basketball keeps rolling towards infamy. After jumping to a 10-0 lead and extending it to 12, the Gophers fell apart late in the first half eventually succumbing to Ohio State 70-59 at the Barn.

Playing the ninth place Buckeyes was a Golden Gopher opportunity to tie Penn State for tenth place. The Gophers were among the Big Ten’s most productive offensive teams during the non-conference part of the schedule. Relying on their offense during Big Ten play has not been easy. Traditionally known as a defensive conference to begin with, Minnesota has made the entire Big Ten’s defensive statistics more impressive. Against Ohio State, the Gopher shot only 35 percent. Included was star freshman Kris Humphries’ 4-18 performance. He did hit nine of his 12 free throws to finish with 17 points and also grabbed 10 rebounds. After leading by one at the Half, the Gophers were outscored 41-29 after intermission.

At Iowa it was more of the same. Playing at Carver-Hawkeye during senior night was not an easy proposition for a team that has struggled. Playing without Kris Humphries made the task even tougher. Humphries suffered an ankle sprain earlier in the week that forced him to the sideline. Humphries being out did not deter the Hawkeye game plan which was to deny the post. Jeff Hagen stepped in for Humphries at center and was held to five points and five rebounds.

Michael Bauer led Minnesota with 16 points, Aaron Boone had 14 and Aaron Robinson finished with a career high 12 points and four of eight from three point range.

     

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