Four Big Ten teams played in Friday night with two at home and two playing on neutral courts. It was a chance for the conference to regroup after an up and down week.
Game of the Night: Iowa vs. Syracuse
After falling to Texas, Iowa was slated to play Syracuse on Friday night. The Orange had a pretty rough outing against California, but were able to come back and beat Iowa 66-63. It was really just three players that did the work for Syracuse in Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney, and Chris McCullough. These three guys combined for 63% of the team's scoring and were the only players to score double digits. Iowa struggled to score the ball with an underwhelming 0.91 points per possession and 28.6% from 3PT range. This is certainly due to a tough Syracuse defense, but the shooting was far from impressive in this game. The loss of Devyn Marble was certainly a concern for outside shooting, but Jarrod Utthoff was the only guy that really was a big time threat against the Orange. Iowa needs to do better there to make an impact.
For Iowa, this is a disappointing loss. It's not disappointing in terms of significance, but both games in this trip to New York are going to be seen as "what if" games for the Hawkeyes. Iowa has struggled to close out big games over the last few years and this is just the latest in a long series. They did get a few big wins last season, but there have been so many "what if" games for Iowa. It's impossible to project what will happen over the next few months, but Iowa was in position to beat Texas and Syracuse. Iowa faded down the stretch against the Longhorns, but they were firmly in control for pretty big segments of that game. To lose both of those games is a major disappointment. Iowa needs to get better at winning these type of games. Maybe part of it is finding that player to fill the role Devyn Marble had last year.
Austin Peay at Illinois
This one was a snoozer. Illinois beat Austin Peay by a final score of 107-66. By halftime, this game already looked like it was over and the Illini ran away with it in the 2nd Half. The big thing worth noting was a huge performance from Kendrick Nunn. He had been a little quiet in the first two games, but he came alive against Austin Peay. He scored 16 points, had a red shot 183 offensive rating and made 4 of 4 attempts from 3PT range. If Nunn can stay at this pace and continue to do a little work on the boards, it would be huge for Illinois. Rayvonte Rice was also big offensively and led the team in scoring with 16 points.
Loyola (IL) at Michigan State
Another game that was never in doubt for the Big Ten team. The Spartans walked to 87-52 win. The big performers were Branden Dawson and Travis Trice. Dawson had 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists. Trice continues to look like one of the Big Ten's best players with 13 points, 7 assists, and 2 rebounds. Maybe it's a bit early to say this, but Trice could very well be the best player on MSU's team this year. Matt Costello also finished with a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. The final big thing to note was freshman Marvin Clark, who had 15 points and 3 rebounds. Clark made 3 of 4 from 3PT range. If Clark can be a spark off the bench, it would be huge for MSU's team that is looking for offensive playmakers and perimeter shooters. Clark put up those numbers in 12 minutes, by the way.
Penn State vs. Cornell
The final Big Ten game of the night was a thriller between Penn State and Cornell. Penn State ended up topping Cornell and "Big Brown Bear" by a final score of 72-71. The game came down to a late inbounds pass where Geno Thorpe intercepted the pass and DJ Newbill made the winning shot. After falling in double overtime to Charlotte earlierthis week, it was pretty cool to see Penn State pull this one off. It was also a big win in terms of team performance as Cornell is rated a dreadful #283 overall on KenPom. This would have been a devastating loss, especially to go on top of an unfortunate loss to Charlotte. Notably, DJ Newbill scored 26 points and shot 4 of 5 from 3PT range. It was one of the best offensive performances of this season season by an individual Big Ten player.