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Around the Conference: Big Ten Has Strong Weekend

The Big Ten went 10-1 this weekend, with Nebraska being the only team to lose.

Ryan Young

After tying in the Big Ten / ACC Challenge, the Big Ten picked up the pace this weekend, winning all but one of their eleven games. Conference darling Michigan State had a bye week, letting their loss to an unranked North Carolina sink in a bit more, but besides Nebraska's flat performance against Creighton, the rest of the Big Ten looked relatively good on the day.

Kicking off the Saturday set of games was Michigan, hosting Houston Baptist. The Wolverines may have their fair share of problems, but Houston Baptist isn't exactly Duke (or even Charlotte) and the Wolverines had their way with the Huskies in route to a dominating 107-53 victory. Of course it's easy enough to win when you shoot over 64% from the field and 16-26 from three. Regardless, it was nice to see the Wolverines spread the wealth around, with Stauskas having a big day (6 of 9 from 3) and Glenn Robinson III putting up a season high 17 points. Michigan will now face a considerably more difficult matchup next Saturday when they go up against Arizona.

The second game of the day was Purdue's game against Eastern Michigan as they looked for revenge from last year's upset up in Ypsilanti. The game wasn't pretty for the Boilermakers, which makes sense when you realize the team has a tendency to struggle with the zone. Time and time again they simply keep passing around the perimeter and throwing up contested jumpers when opposing teams run a zone defense. It happened again yesterday and Purdue only managed to hit on 40% of their shots while shooting 6 of 21 from deep. The free throw shooting was atrocious as well, shooting 60.5% from the line on 38 attempts. While free throw shooting like this will cost Purdue games in Big Ten play, after a poor 11 off 22 start they at least managed to finish 12 of 16 down the stretch. Purdue closed out the game with a few clutch free throws, turnovers and a slew of A.J. Hammons blocks to seal the deal. It wasn't pretty but at least they're sitting at 8-2.

In search of a tenth victory to start the season, Wisconsin hosted Marquette in what looked like another grueling slug fest. The game was slow and low scoring in the first half, with Wiscy going into the half up 28-25. The pace picked up a bit and Wisconsin managed to keep Marquette at bay long enough to pick up the win. While Marquette saw big days from Jamil Wilson (22 points) and Davante Gardner (16 points), the rest of the team shot a mere 8 of 25 from the field. As for the Badgers, all five starters reached double digits with Sam Dekker leading the way with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Wisconsin also benefited from keeping control of the ball, only committing six turnovers on the day.

The next two games were relatively easy blowouts for Minnesota and Penn State. Led by Andre and Austin Hollins, the Gophers opened up a huge lead over New Orleans and then spent the second half on cruise control. Minnesota was a bit sloppy with the ball but shot 49% from the field and 81.5% from the line and improved to 8-2. The Nittany Lions also picked up a win, jumping out early against Marshall and keeping control throughout the entire game. All five starters scored in double figures, with Ross Travis leading the way with 20 points. Tim Frazier had a pretty solid day even though he didn't score too much, recording 11 points, 9 assists and 4 steals against the Thundering Herd. Penn State is now 7-3 and will travel to Duquesne on Wednesday.

Ohio State's basketball team had a considerably better Saturday than the football team, beating Central Connecticut State 74-56. It wasn't always the prettiest game for the Buckeyes, though. While Ohio State kept opening up a sizable lead, Central Connecticut State repeatedly put the game back within striking distance. However Ohio State was always able to answer back and eventually pulled away down the stretch. The Buckeyes struggled from deep and the free throw line, but LaQuinton Ross dominated down low with 23 points while guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. adding an additional 17 points.

In the ugliest game of the weekend, Northwestern beat Western Michigan 51-35. Western Michigan ended up with 12 points in the first half, 10 total field goals and shot 24.4% from the line. Their point total would have been even worse if they wouldn't of gotten to the line for 25 free throws. Of course Northwestern wasn't much better, though their 32.7% shooting was good enough to win here. The ugliest number on the day? The teams combined for 4 of 34 from three. Drew Crawford paved the way for the Wildcats, adding 15 points and 9 rebounds, while JerShon Cobb and Alex Olah were the only two other Wildcats to score at least ten points.

Playing at night while everyone was watching football, Indiana and Iowa closed the night with two easy enough victories. Indiana saw Evan Gordon have a big day off the bench, scoring 15 points in 19 minutes, while Noah Vonleh recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Indiana struggled from the charity stripe and outside, but their defense slowed North Florida and the Hoosiers were effective down low. As for Iowa, their defense had some issues in the first half before eventually settling down. The second half performance was much nicer for the Hawkeyes, only giving up 26 points. While Iowa shot 3 of 18 from deep, they outrebounded Drake by 19 and got to the line 20 more times. Mix that with 17 offensive rebounds, only 5 turnovers and a big night from forward Melsahn Basabe and you have a nice Iowa win as they improve to 9-1.

Sunday was another painful reminder for Auburn fans that their basketball program is light years away from the football team, as the Tigers were held to 17 points by Illinois in the first half. Rebounding nicely from an inexcusable loss to Georgia Tech, the Illini straight up dominated Auburn from the very beginning. Rayvonte Rice continued his early season success, scoring 22 points and leading the Illini. John Groce probably won't be happy with all of the turnovers, but other than that Illinois looked impressive.

While the Big Ten was undefeated coming into Sunday evening, Nebraska couldn't close out the weekend. The Cornhuskers looked terrible in the first half, heading into the break down 25-51. They saved face a bit, cutting the final deficit down to 15 points, but never contended here with Creighton. Nebraska did see nice performances from Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields, scoring 43 points, but the remaining seven players scored 24 points and no one else had more than 6 points on the day. The loss drops Nebraska to 6-3 and made it pretty apparent that Nebraska is likely going to spend the season towards the bottom once again. While Tim Miles is dealing with a young team, it still can't sit well with how poorly the team came out and played in one of their biggest non-conference games.

So the Big Ten couldn't pull off the perfect weekend, but the rest of the teams outside of Nebraska looked pretty good. Now Iowa will look to pick up their tenth win tomorrow night when the Hawkeyes face off against Fairleigh Dickinson.