Anytime a powerhouse ACC program like Duke enters the mix, you know it's not going to be a normal Tuesday night in the Big Ten. That's what happened last night, as the Champions Classic pitted Mike Krzyzewski and his Blue Devils up against Tom Izzo and a reloading Michigan State team. If Sparty could just hang in there, it would mean solid early returns for the Big Ten.
Storyline of the Night
College basketball isn't known for making a big splash at the start of its season, but in recent years we've had the Champions Classic to look forward to in the middle of November. With Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and Michigan State putting star-studded squads on the floor year after year, this event has been consistently entertaining for college hoops fans who are craving big-time matchups early in the campaign. Even though Duke was considered more talented than Michigan State heading into last night, Sparty did not fail to compete with Jahlil Okafor and company.
Game of the Night: Michigan State vs. Duke
Considering how much talent they lost in the offseason, the Spartans put forth a good offensive performance vs. Duke, but it wasn't enough to keep the Blue Devils' firepower at bay. Michigan State shot 50 percent from the field thanks to heavy contributions from Travis Trice (15 points, eight assists, six rebounds) and Branden Dawson (18 points, nine rebounds) as well as some nice games from the role players. With Marvin Clark in foul trouble, Colby Wollenman made a surprise appearance off the bench and popped in four points to keep the score close at halftime.
By the end of the game, though, stopping the Duke attack proved almost impossible. Okafor went 8-for-10 from the field for his 17 points, while Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones provided expert guard play with a combined five three-pointers made, 10 assists, and 36 points. Duke pulled away in the second half and won 81-71. It was an awesome showing by a Blue Devil team that could feature one of the most powerful and balanced offenses in the country.
Marquette at Ohio State
The 74-63 score that Ohio State won by did not do a good job of representing the talent gap between these two teams. The Buckeyes shot 65 percent from the floor and 53 percent from three-point range while keeping the Marquette close with 18 turnovers. Thad Matta's team passed and shot the ball much more effectively than we're used to seeing Ohio State do those things. Shannon Scott provided a ridiculous 14 assists while Kam Williams was nearly unstoppable with 6-for-8 shooting and 15 points off the bench. Junior guard Steve Taylor Jr. shined with 20 points and seven rebounds for the Golden Eagles, but this night was the Buckeyes' from start to finish.
Central Arkansas at Nebraska
If this is the season than Shavon Shields finally plays up to his massive potential, it will be very tough for opponents to compete with Nebraska. The junior swingman scored 16 points on just seven field goal attempts and ripped down 11 rebounds to pace Nebraska to an 82-56 victory over Central Arkansas. Terran Petteway led all scorers with 23 points, and Tai Webster notched 13 of his own to boost a Huskers offense that shot 53 percent from the field. On defense, Nebraska forced the Bears into 33 percent shooting and 18 turnovers.
Western Kentucky at Minnesota
After opening up the season with a challenge from Louisville, Minnesota managed to earn its first win on Tuesday with a 76-54 trouncing of Western Kentucky. It wasn't a pretty game offensively for the Gophers. Andre Hollins scored just five points on 2-for-8 shooting while the team as a whole shot 43 percent from the field. Richard Pitino's squad still prevailed by a sizable margin thanks to 14 points from Mo Walker, a solid bench contribution from freshman Nate Mason (10 points in 20 minutes), and a defensive effort that held the Toppers to 32 percent shooting with 25 turnovers.