Believe it or not, there was more than one huge win for a Big Ten team on Saturday. There's not enough to say about Indiana's heart-stopping, last-second victory over a Kentucky team that many felt was the best in all the land. Despite their bizarre inability to feed Cody Zeller in the post, the Hoosiers pulled through and got a victory that will be a huge resume-booster down the road. Think of it as insurance in case they struggle in a few big conference games in February. Or if you're not as cold and calculated as I am, you can think of it as a huge emotional boost for a program finally emerging from and lengthy dormant period.
Anyway, Indiana won because even though his teammates did feed him enough, Cody Zeller fed himself with 5 offensive rebounds to go with 11 points. Victor Oladipo was only 4 of 12 from the field but had 13 points, 7 rebounds and one ridiculous dunk that is probably on YouTube already. Yep it is. Jordan Hulls contributed nicely with 11 points, 5 assists and 4 steals, but the real man yesterday was Christian Watford, who even before his game-winning mega clutch shot had 17 points and 5 rebounds. He may be as dynamic a scorer as the conference will see this season.
Oh nuts, I got all caught up in the excitement and haven't mentioned Michigan State yet. Well, like I said they had a huge win of their own. It was their eight in a row, and it was on the road, AND it was versus a ranked opponent. That ranked opponent was Gonzaga, who probably won't be ranked anymore after this week because they don't have a real quality win yet and they just lost to Illinois (on the road) and now to Sparty. Still, great win for Michigan State; Spokane is a really tough place to play and Gonzaga is loaded with talent. They will remain favored to win the WCC this season.
Draymond Green was basically a beast in this game and no one else was really close to his level of play. He shot 11 of 13 from the field including (remember, he's a power forward) 4 of 5 from long distance to net 34 points. No one else on the Sparty squad even scored in double figures so it's safe to say Green carried his team last night. After the game, head coach Tom Izzo said, "Draymond Green was the man tonight. I can't speak enough about him." How about telling us how the dancing bear became such a lethal three-point shooter? "This summer, he spent an incredible amount of time on his shot."
That work has certainly paid off. Green missed his first 6 three-point attempts of the season versus Duke and North Carolina, but now is 9 of his last 18. He's also averaged 9.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per contest. Green is a legit candidate for Big Ten player of the year, even with Jared Sullinger continuing to exist.
Helping out Green were Keith Appling with 8 points, 7 assists and only 2 turnovers, as well as Derrick Nix, who in just 18 minutes loaded up with 8 points (on 4 of 4 shooting) and a team high 6 rebounds. Izzo continues to show off his depth, as 9 players played at least 10 minutes versus Gonzaga. Rookie Brandon Dawson and verteran transfer Brandon Wood were surprisingly quiet in this one, but we're sure they're saving their good stuff for when Green can't find a telephone booth.
For Gonzaga, David Stockton (son of the Utah Jazz legend) came off the bench and lit up Michgan State for 19 points in only 22 minutes. Big man Robert Sacre had 16 points and 7 rebounds, and Gary Bell notched 13 points and 3 assists. Spartan defense did a great job on guard Elias Harris, who only managed 6 points on 2 of 11 shooting.
It wasn't all good news for the Big Ten on Saturday. Ohio State came into Lawerence, Kansas two for two in marquee games with wins already over Florida and Duke. However, with Jared Sullinger sidelined with back spasms, the Buckeyes fell to Kansas 78-67. Considering Ohio State was without their best player in a tough road arena like Phog Allen Fieldhouse, they put forth a good effort, but it's hard not to be scared by their lack of depth. Evan Ravenel and Lenzelle Smith Jr. were forced to play 25 minutes each and neither contributed much.
Instead, it was up to the trio of Deshaun Thomas, William Buford and Aaron Craft to keep the Bucks in the game. Now finally the best player on the floor, Buford showed he is capable of leading a squad and finished with 21 points and 5 rebounds. Despite hitting a few impressive field goals, Buford was less than accurate with only 8 makes on 23 attempts. It was still good to see him take the lead, though, after being second banana for most of his career.
Thomas pitched in with 19 points and 5 rebounds on 7 of 14 shooting, while Aaron Craft had 11 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Down the stretch, Craft had a couple of really impressive "and one" finishes that kept the Bucks alive until the very end of the game. Overall, without the big guy inside, Ohio State struggled on 39% shooting, but was boosted by an impressive 12 offensive rebounds.
Jayhawk stars Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor were a big reason why Kansas was victorious. Without much there to defend the interior, Robinson needed only 9 field goal attempts to score 21 points. Guarded by Craft, Taylor had quite a volatile afternoon, as he shot his team in the foot with 7 turnovers, but also helped his friends with a ridiculous 13 assists.
Also good for Kansas was the sharpshooting Elijah Johnson, who scored 15 points on 5 for 7 three-pointers. Usual benchwarmer Kevin Young came out of nowhere to score 14 points in a season high 24 minutes.
I'm not sure what to think of this game for Ohio State. On one hand, their secondary stars picked up a lot of the slack for Sullinger and kept the Bucks in the game against a great team. On the other, the interior defense was laughable and they were basically playing with a three-man team the whole game. Freshman Amir Williams could be a great interior player in the future, but he was very quiet in his 15 minutes with just 3 rebounds and 2 points to go with 3 fouls.
Alright! That's not all there was from the Big Ten this weekend, but that's all I can fit in this post. We'll be back later for more, including Wisconsin's big win over UNLV and whatever Illinois does tonight. Ta ta for now.