Well the Big Ten overcame a rough start last night to force a tie in the Big Ten / ACC Challenge for the second year in a row, though the conference very well should have won the event. The two conferences tied in 2012 as well, with the Big Ten winning the three prior events. As this year was a wash, the Big Ten hasn't lost the challenge in any of the last five years. While it was nice to see the Big Ten go 4-2, it was a bit of a surprise that top ranked Michigan State fell to a North Carolina team that hasn't been very good so far, but then again it is Roy Williams and Tom Izzo...
Last night started off slowly for the Big Ten and the conference got off to a much better start for the most part. Ohio State looked impressive against Maryland, opening up an early lead and keeping the Terrapins at bay the duration of the game. LaQuinton Ross led the way with 20 points and Ohio State was never threatened.
On the other major ESPN network was Wisconsin. It should probably be noted that Virginia head coach Tony Bennett was an assistant at one point under Bo Ryan, so the plodding pace of the game should be no surprise. In an ugly dog fight Wisconsin prevailed 48-38, answering every late Virginia rally as the Cavaliers could never cut the deficit all the way down. The Badgers were led in scoring by Josh Gasser's 11 points, making him the only player on either team to hit double digits. While Wisconsin's 28.8% field goal shooting was atrocious, it beat Virginia's 22.9% from the field, on their way to 11 baskets the entire night. In what was a relatively balanced game on the road, it's a nice win for Wisconsin as they improve to 9-0.
The other early game wasn't exactly an enjoyable game for fans of the conference, with Northwestern tripping out of the gates and struggling to score all night. The Wildcats finished with only 20 points in the first half and ended up losing 48-69 to a North Carolina State that hasn't been impressive at all so far this season. The loss drops Northwestern to 4-5 and pretty much makes it clear that Northwestern will be one of the bottom three teams in the conference, if not the worst. Drew Crawford led the way with 17 points but did it on 5 of 16 shooting. Off of a strong week, Jershon Cobb had a disappointing day as he missed all seven of his shots. Center Alex Olah also had a rough night, shooting a poor 1 of 8 from the field. Northwestern ended up shooting a mere 25% from the field in the ugliest game of the night for the conference.
In the nights biggest surprise, the #1 ranked Michigan State hosted a disappointing North Carolina team in East Lansing and looked overmatched from the very beginning. Sparty did manage to cut the gap down but could never get in sync long enough and the Tar Heels pulled away down the stretch. We can joke about Izzo's inability to beat Roy Williams, but this game still should have never played out like this. Michigan State has one of the best trios in the nation with Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling, but besides the three stars the rest of the roster combined for a total of 19 points on 7 of 24 shooting. Mix that with Appling and Harris both only hitting on 33.3% of their 15 shots and you had a poor offensive outing while North Carolina saw five different players hit double digits. North Carolina also managed to get to the line quite a bit off of unnecessary fouls and won the rebounding battle by 11. Michigan State should bounce back but it was still an ugly night up in Michigan.
So when it came to the later games the most impressive team by far was the Purdue Boilermakers. For a team that just squeaked by Siena, Purdue looked very, very impressive. The Boilermakers ended the night with 88 points thanks to shooting 51.4% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. The team still can't shoot free throws to save their life but when their offense is clicking and the defense looks good, it really isn't that big of an issue. The team spread the ball around with 11 players scoring and it seemed like every other minute someone else was making a nice contribution to the score. We had everything from Sterling Carter three pointers to Jay Simpson put backs and Kendall Stephens jumpers. Even the Johnson brothers looked good from the field and Basil Smotherman looked very impressive tonight. There's still the free throw issue, as well as Ronnie Johnson (and big brother Terone at times) still repeatedly running the court and throwing up ill advised shots, but the teams mistakes didn't matter tonight as they steam rolled Boston College.
Ending the night was Nebraska in an ugly dog fight with Miami that saw the Hurricane score a whopping 13 points in the first half. This Miami team has struggled considerably this season and the team we saw last season is long gone, but the Nebraska defensive effort was still impressive. It's a nice win for Tim Miles and it solidified the tie for the Big Ten, so both of those are positives. The Cornhuskers didn't exactly impress on offense, but when you can hold your opponent to 32% from the field it's not a huge deal. The night could have been even uglier for the Hurricane if it wasn't for Rion Brown, scoring 25 of the teams 49 points. Outside of Brown the team ended up shooting 8 of 36 from the field and 2 of 14 from deep, with the next highest scorer only having five points.
So while the Big Ten saw impressive performances from Ohio State and Purdue, with Wisconsin and Nebraska picking up nice wins in ugly games, the Big Ten still suffered a bit of a black eye thanks to the Michigan State loss. While the Big Ten didn't pick up the W when it very well should have, the tie is better then losing to the ACC. Also, for what it's worth, two of the ACC wins came from teams just plucked from the Big East, while the Big Ten only had one win from a former Big 12 team. Solid tiebreaker, right?
Either way, the Big Ten / ACC Challenge was an exciting two nights of action and the Big Ten has continued to provide plenty of thrills since the season tipped off almost a month ago. Now we'll have a few days to relax before the Big Ten is back in session this weekend.
See you guys Saturday.
- Big Ten / ACC Challenge 2013: Night Two Open Thread
- Big Ten / ACC Challenge 2013: Boucning Back From Last Night
- Big Ten/ACC Challenge: Wisconsin vs. Virginia Preview
- Big Ten / ACC Challenge 2013: Recapping the First Night
- 2013 Big Ten / ACC Challenge: Michigan vs. Duke Recap