NCAAMB: What we learned from the first week of Big Ten play

The Big Ten basketball season kicked off to an early start this year. Normally, the season would begin in late December early January. This update to the schedule is to accommodate the fact that the Big Ten tournament will be played a week earlier than normal.

The first week of Big Ten basketball played out in high-intensity games, leads being squandered, and an unexpected victory in many of the games.

Here are recaps of each Big Ten team and how they started conference play.

Purdue

At Maryland 80-75, Northwestern 74-69 (2-0)

Purdue heads into the week after Big Ten play ranked at No.21. Currently sitting at (2-0) in the conference, places them at the top of the Big Ten with Minnesota, Ohio State, and Michigan State.

If Purdue is going to continue to win games they will need strong play from their center Isaac Haas and guard Dakota Mathias. Haas had 21 points and 5 rebounds in the game against Maryland. Mathias had 20 points and 5 rebounds, but most importantly his assist to turnover ratio proved just why Purdue can be so successful.

In the game against Maryland, he had 9 assists and 2 turnovers, while against Northwestern he had 5 assists and 2 turnovers. Purdue needs to keep taking care of the basketball and feeding the big man. If they can do this then they’re on track for another successful season.

Penn State

At Iowa 77-73, Wisconsin 63-64 (1-1)

Penn State went to Iowa to face-off against the Hawkeyes. Iowa was looking to defend the homestead and raise their record after some defeats in the first half of the season. Penn State started the game strong, outscoring Iowa 14-4 in the first four minutes of the game. Iowa would eventually pull closer to make the score 39-34 at half. Iowa outscored Penn State in the second half 39-38 but that was not enough to win. Both teams turned over the ball and could not execute easy baskets. This win is the first Penn State has had at Iowa since 2001.

Coming home is usually the easy part, but that was not true for Penn State. Wisconsin was looking to avenge their disappointing loss to Ohio State to begin Big Ten play. Wisconsin saw great play from their guard Khalil Iverson. He scored 14 points in the first half, making him Wisconsin’s leading scorer. Wisconsin headed into the half up 31-25 on the road. Penn State came out and shut down Iverson, as he only scored two points the rest of the game. Penn State lost the game in the final minutes losing by one point, as they were unable to score in the final 43 seconds.

Michigan State

Nebraska 86-57, at Rutgers, Monday (1-0)

Michigan State is the favorite to win the conference ranked No. 3 heading into conference play.

They began play at home against Nebraska. The Spartans ran away with the game, Nick Ward lead scorers with 22 points and attempted 13 free throws.

The only disappointment for Michigan State this game was their three-point shooting percentage, shooting only 26 percent from behind the arc. To be successful the Spartans will have to focus on getting it inside or giving the ball to future NBA star Miles Bridges.

Michigan State will head to Rutgers on Monday night.

Ohio State

At Wisconsin 83-58, Michigan 71-62 (2-0)

Ohio State traveled to the Kohl Center to face off against Wisconsin. New head coach for the Buckeyes, Chris Holtmann proved he came to play in the Big Ten. Before the first half was over Ohio State had run away with it, as the score was 49-26 heading into the half.

Keita Bates-Diop had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. It was not Diop’s play alone that helped Ohio State blow out Wisconsin it was their shooting.

Ohio State shot 66 percent from the field and 54 percent from three.

This same shooting would carry Ohio State to another victory against the Michigan Wolverines.

Ohio State rallied from down 13 at half to eventually win the game by nine.  Ohio State again out-rebounded their competition helping them secure another promising win.

Ohio State could be the underdog the Big Ten conference never saw coming.

Wisconsin

Ohio State 58-83, at Penn State 64-63 (1-1)

Wisconsin let a big one slip at home to Ohio State. Wisconsin has easily been one of the more disappointing teams in the Big Ten so far, this season.

Ethan Happ only scored 7 points against Ohio State, normally being the standout player on the team, Wisconsin will have to find a way to compensate when he is not playing to his usual standard.

Wisconsin was handed a 20-point loss at home, and then they had to travel to Penn State.

Happ again underperformed against Penn State, scoring only 9 points but he had 10 rebounds on the night.

Wisconsin squeaked out the one point victory with help from the Penn State bench. The Nittany Lions bench scored one point and played a total of 49 minutes.

Wisconsin evened their Big Ten record to (1-1) with this victory and now will head to Temple on Wednesday in hopes of evening their overall record.

Indiana

At Michigan 55-69, Iowa 77-64 (1-1)

Indiana had a lot to look forward to heading into this season. Backed by new head coach Archie Miller, brother of Sean Miller, the team had a lot riding on this season.

Beginning with Michigan was not going to be easy. Michigan won the Big Ten Tournament last year and went on to win the first round in a nail-biter against Oklahoma State. At the time, Oklahoma State was coached by Brad Underwood now the current coach of the Fighting Illini.

Expectations for Indiana were high, with a few bad losses under their belt this season hopes have dwindled.

They did not dominate the shooting, which a typical Indiana team would. Indiana shot 29 percent from three and scored 55 points in total on the night.

The bright light in this game for Indiana was junior Juwan Morgan who scored 24 points in 32 minutes and had 8 rebounds. He will be the key to Indiana’s success but they need to learn to share the scoring across players. Indiana’s bench had a total of 9 points on the night.

Minnesota

Rutgers 89-67, at Nebraska, Monday (1-0)

Minnesota had a lot to be happy about when they played Rutgers at home. Nate Mason scored 26 points and got to the foul line making six of seven. Jordan Murphy had his ninth-straight double-double to start the season. Minnesota shot 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from behind the arc.

Minnesota will travel to Nebraska on Monday night to finish out the first week of conference play.

Maryland

Purdue 75-80, at Illinois 92-91 OT (1-1)

Before Big Ten play began Maryland had two loses both of which were by two points, on came in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge where they lost on the road to Syracuse and the other loss was to St. Bonaventure Bonnies. The latter made many Maryland fans concerned because it will weigh down their record come tournament time and their star player Anthony Cowan Jr only scored 13 points.

Maryland started their season at home against the Purdue Boilermakers. Heading into the season Maryland knew just who their standout player would be, Anthony Cowan Jr. Cowan proved he meant business against Purdue, scoring 20 points and making all six of his free throws. Losing the game in the final minutes to Purdue set a fire under Maryland.

They headed to the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois to face the Fighting Illini. Maryland began the game on the road outscoring the Illini 10-0. Maryland headed into halftime up 45-26 and eventually would take a 22-point lead at the beginning of the second half. Illinois switched up their strategy at halftime deploying a new defender, Mark Alstork, on star point guard Cowan. By nearly the end of the second half, Cowan had only scored two points and the Illini had tied the game. The game remained tied through regulation, heading into overtime Maryland seemed to be the more focused team.

Both teams exchanged buckets the entirety of the OT. Maryland eventually won being fouled on a jumper as time expired. If Maryland wants to keep winning they will need to get Cowan the ball and stop turning the ball over, they turned it over 25 times against the Illini.

Northwestern

Illinois 72-68 OT, at Purdue 69-74 (1-1)

Northwestern faced off against their in-state rival, the Fighting Illini, to open Big Ten play. Neither team pulled away during the game and kept the score close. This closeness resulted in the game heading into OT. The Illini missed easy lay-ups and Northwestern seemed to be scoring baskets easier than their rivals. Northwestern came out of the game victorious but both teams have a lot to learn, especially when Northwestern returned their four of their best players from last year’s tournament team.

Northwestern then traveled to Purdue to face off against the best team in the Big Ten. Both teams match up closely but the height advantage goes to Purdue, and with the dominant presence of Isaac Haas, it would be difficult for Northwestern to score inside. At halftime, the game was tied 33-33. Neither team seemed to pull away but Purdue shot 24 free throws compared to Northwestern’s five. Haas then hit a go-ahead bucket to put Purdue ahead of Northwestern and give them the win.

Northwestern played strong against Illinois but never could run away with the game. Same could be said for the game against Purdue. Northwestern needs to focus on their play from McIntosh and Lindsey if they are going to win, and learn how to play good defense without fouling.

Nebraska

At Michigan State 57-86, Minnesota, Monday (0-1)

Nebraska went to the top-ranked team in the Big-Ten, Michigan State. The Cornhuskers did not show much promise in this game. They shot under 30 percent for the game and got out-rebounded by a margin of 14. If there is a bright side to see from this game it is that Nebraska took care of the basketball committing only five turnovers.

On Monday night Nebraska will play at home against Minnesota. Minnesota is a team looking to rise in the ranking, currently ranked No. 14.

Rutgers

At Minnesota 67-89, Michigan State, Monday (0-1)

Rutgers faced off against No.14 ranked Minnesota to begin Big Ten play. Before facing off against Minnesota, Rutgers lost a close one to Florida State 78-73. Rutgers was down by 10 at half and it did not get any better for them. Rutgers shot 32 percent on the game, and 28 percent from three.

Rutgers will face off against the No. 3 Michigan State on Monday night.

Iowa

Penn State 73-77, at Indiana 64-77 (0-2)

Iowa started conference play at home against Penn State. From tip-off, Iowa could not seem to gain a lead from Penn State.

Even though Iowa’s field goal percentage was higher than Penn State, they lost out in the category of three-point percentage. Penn State shot 20 percent higher than Iowa from behind the arc.

Iowa had their chances to win, as they were down by two with less than a minute left but they could not find the basket.

Iowa looked to redeem themselves on the road against Indiana. The game stayed within three points until the five-minute mark of the first. Then Indiana made their run resulting in a halftime score of 41-26.

In the beginning of the second half, Iowa got it back to three points but could never take back the lead. Indiana then began to run away with the game again. Iowa committed 18 turnovers and only shot 9 free throws compared to Indiana’s 23.

Going (0-2) to begin Big ten play Iowa will have to reexamine their play and learn to better execute down the stretch. Most of Iowa’s mistakes are self-imposed and have cost them games, they returned almost all their players but it is hard to tell so-far this season.

Illinois

At Northwestern 68-72 OT, Maryland 91-92 OT (0-2)

Illinois had a rough two games to start conference play and that does not even begin to describe it. Illinois participated in the two only overtime games of the first week of Big Ten play, losing both.

Illinois first traveled to their rival Northwestern, the Fighting Illini had won the past two meetings.

The Fighting Illini started out hitting three-point shots. They struggled earlier in the season from behind the arc but had seemed to find their rhythm but it did not last long. The Illini shot only 16 percent from three-point range. The stats on rebounds, turnovers, and field goal percentage ranked within four of each other.

Illinois did use some of their signature moves against Northwestern, getting to the foul line is key to this team’s success and they executed well, shooting 81 percent from the foul line. Most of their miscues were self-imposed. Many turnovers and traveling calls resulted in missed opportunities which ended up being key to the game because it went to OT.

In OT Northwestern came out calm and composed. Scottie Lindsey for Northwestern scored five of his 22 points in OT. That helped the Wildcats of Northwestern secure the win.

The Fighting Illini then headed home to face Maryland who also lost their Big Ten opener.

Illinois started the game on an 0-10 slide. Illinois came back from 22 down to begin the second half. Again, many miscues on the Illini resulted in Maryland sending the game to OT.

With 4 seconds left freshman for the Illini, Da’Monte Williams threw the ball away on an out-of-bounds play. Maryland then got the ball back and with seconds left scored to send the game to OT.

Both teams exchanged baskets in OT, the Illini shot 100 percent from the field. Sadly, this was not enough for Illinois with one second left Cowan was fouled on a two-point jumper. As time, expired Cowan made one of two free throws and won the game by one point.

These two heart-wrenching games for the Illini do not look good on their resume but it does show signs of hope for them. The Illini lead the Big Ten and rank eighth nationally in turnovers forced averaging 20.2 a game. Mark Alstork had a coming out party against Maryland so look for him to be the key to the Illini’s success along with the best three-point shooter in the nation, Aaron Jordan.

Michigan

Indiana 69-55, at Ohio State 62-71 (1-1)

Michigan proved to come out with fury to begin Big Ten play. Four minutes into the game Michigan was up by ten and Indiana never came close to them again. Michigan held a strong lead of 34-21 heading into the half and maintained that confidence throughout the game.

Michigan executed across the board, rebounds, field goals, and spreading the points out across players.

Michigan then traveled to Ohio State, a team on a hot streak, but then again so was Michigan.

Michigan maintained a steady lead all the way to the fifteen-minute mark of the second half. After that, the defense collapsed and the offense made sloppy mistakes, as they went cold.

Shots that seemed easy for Michigan now became strained and Ohio State took advantage.

With three minutes left Ohio State took the lead back for good and won the home game, turning Michigan to (1-1) in the conference.

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