Both Minnesota and Penn State got fat in the non-conference part of the season by beating up on inferior opponents. Since Big Ten play, began, however, the teams have struggled to keep up with the increased level of play. Could either the Gophers or Lions get off the mat and into the win column?
Game of the night: Ohio State 74, Minnesota 72 (OT)
After weathering a first half that saw Buckeye freshman D'Angelo Russell score 20 points, the Gophers stormed back to erase a 12-point deficit. When Joey King crushed a three-pointer to tie the game at 60 with six minutes left, we had some serious drama on our hands. Minnesota had a chance to finally take the lead when Nate Mason was fouled with 31 seconds left, but he only managed to hit one of two free throws to tie the game. On the ensuing possession, Russell was stripped of the ball while trying to win the game for the Bucks, and Amir Williams picked up the ball only to leave a potential game-winning finger roll on the rim. We headed to overtime with the score 66-66.
Mason would prove crucial again in the extra period when he drove to the bucket with his team down by three. The freshman hit his layup while being fouled by Marc Loving, enabling Minnesota to tie the score. On the other end, Loving knocked down a short jumper with six seconds remaining to put Ohio State back up by two. The Gophers had one last chance to equalize, but Shannon Scott knocked an errant pass into the backcourt to avoid a barnstorming.
Even though Russell was shut out for the entire second half, he still finished with 27 points and five three-pointers to lead all scorers. Shannon Scott had 10 assists for the Buckeyes, while Maurice Walker led the way for Minnesota with 18 points and nine boards.
Michigan 73, Penn State 64
Tuesday night was the same old story for Penn State. The Lions got a lot from D.J. Newbill and not very much from everyone else. Newbill went 7-for-12 from the field for a game-high 20 points, and John Johnson had a hot shooting night to finish with 16, but Penn State was sabotaged by a horrific Brandon Taylor performance. The junior forward went 1-for-10 from the field to finish with just two points on a night when the Lions allowed Michigan to shoot 53 percent.
The Wolverines were led by usual suspects Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin. The paired combined for 35 points on 12-for-17 shooting to keep Newbill and company from getting too close down the stretch. With two wins in its first three conference games, Michigan is starting to put its miserable non-conference experience in the past, but the team will face stronger tests next week against Minnesota and Ohio State.