It was an incredible day filled with upsets and tight games in the Big Ten conference. Here's a look at all the action from around the league on Saturday.
Game of the Night: Ohio State 74, Kentucky 67
Who said that the Buckeyes weren't any good this year? Despite what many considered a shaky start with home losses to Louisiana Tech and Texas Arlington, Ohio State got a major victory over Kentucky at the Barclays Center as part of the CBS Sports Classic. The Buckeyes entered the contest 5-5 and stood as the clear underdogs against a top 5 team in the Kentucky Wildcats. Ohio State came out hot in the first half and was able to withstand a late run by Big Blue in the second. The Buckeyes looked like an entirely different ball club this Saturday.
The first half of this basketball game belonged to the Buckeyes who quickly ran out to a 12 point halftime lead. The Buckeyes took advantage of the Wildcats' inability to make shots, but Jamal Murray was picking up the slack for his teammates. The freshman Murray connected on 13 of 23 field goals, including 7 of 9 from downtown, for 33 points on the night. His hot hand in the second half helped Kentucky claw its way within one possession just under the 5 minute mark. Despite Murray's heroic efforts, the Buckeyes made their free throws down the stretch and held the Wildcats to just 2 points in the final 2 minutes. They would go on to get by far the biggest win of their season.
Ohio State had an excellent showing from a number of different young guns. As one of the most inexperienced teams in the Big Ten, Ohio State has been learning to play together as a team and correct mistakes that other teams can easily exploit. Saturday's showing against Kentucky was as good of a game as Ohio State has played all year. Marc Loving and Keita Bates-Diop combined for 26 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists. Jae'Sean Tate had 10 boards, and Trevor Thompson and JaQuan Lyle both scored in double digits with 10 and 11 respectively. The key for Ohio State moving forward is playing team basketball. The Buckeyes have a number of talented players who are just learning how to be successful on a collegiate level; the best way to accomplish that is by playing well as a team and getting solid contributions from a number of different players.
Kentucky suffers its second loss on the season after many thought it would have a chance to run the table in the non-conference slate of its schedule. The Wildcats undoubtedly struggled on the offensive end all night long, with the exception of Jamal Murray. It is promising for John Calipari to know that he can rely on Murray as a consistent scorer, even when his other players are struggling, but if you're Kentucky, you need to find a way to win this game. The Buckeyes were outmatched in the frontcourt and the backcourt and were still able to pull this one out. Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe, and Skal Labissiere were a combined 6 of 38 from the floor. Credit Ohio State's defense, but if you're Kentucky, you need to make shots in order to win basketball games.
Illinois fans had the pleasure of witnessing the Malcolm Hill Show when South Dakota came to town. The junior put up a career high 34 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for the Illini. His nickname (The Butcher, The Baker, and The Candlestick Maker) is fitting in games like these where he seems to do it all for the Fighting Illini. Illinois controlled this game with a comfortable lead throughout, despite letting the Coyotes cut their deficit to 6 in the final few minutes. The Illini get their fourth straight win and now look forward to the Braggin' Rights Game against Missouri this Wednesday.
The Hoosiers looked to be out of this game right from the start as they allowed Notre Dame to build a comfortable double digit lead in the first half, but the Crossroads Classic did not disappoint. Indiana managed to rally from a 15 point deficit to tie and eventually take a lead that would hold for the final minute of regulation. Indiana got a much needed win for its resume, as the Hoosiers have struggled against good opponents this year. Indiana's Troy Williams scored 18 points while Robert Johnson followed right behind with 17. Notre Dame's Bonzie Colson led all scores with 24.
Iowa Hawkeyes 70, Drake Bulldogs 64
Iowa was able to pull away in the second half to survive a scare from the visiting Bulldogs. Drake went up 42-38 with just under 15 minutes to play in the ball game, but Iowa would use its home court advantage to shut down its opponent and seal the deal on the victory. Mike Gessel was a big reason that Iowa emerged victorious as he connected on 7 of 8 field goals to score 17 points. The Hawkeyes had a tough time stopping Reed Timmer who dropped 25 on the night.
Maryland remains a one loss team after it had little trouble taking down Princeton on Saturday night. Both teams came out shooting on fire in the first half, but Princeton cooled down after the first five minutes. The Terrapins outscored their opponent by 17 points in the second half to cruise to an easy victory. Jake Layman was the leading scorer with 19 points. He also had 8 rebounds on the night.
Michigan cruises to yet another easy victory at home as it takes down Youngstown State. The Wolverines pick up their third straight victory to move to 9-3 on the season. They shot 62% from the floor and were led by Caris LeVert with 19 points. Derrick Walton Jr. had a triple double with 10 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds. On Wednesday, the Wolverines will host Bryant before opening up Big Ten play in Champaign against Illinois.
Michigan State, though it looked as if it was going to be battle tested all game long, was able to run away with this one late in the first half. The Huskies stuck with the Spartans in the opening ten minutes, taking a 15-10 lead, as they beat Michigan State to just about every loose ball and got a number of second chance opportunities. Tom Izzo reinvigorated his team as it closed the first half on a 7-2 run and never looked back. Denzel Valentine was the star of the show yet again as he notched 17 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds, but he also committed 5 turnovers. Zach Stahl of Northeastern led the Huskies with a game-high 18 points, but the Spartans went into Boston and took care of business to stay undefeated.
The Wildcats needed overtime to outlast inner state rival DePaul on Saturday en route to their 10th victory on the season. Northwestern's battle with DePaul was pretty back and forth all game until the Wildcats were able to pull away at the end of overtime once and for all. Tre Demps led the way for Northwestern with 18 points, though he shot just 7 of 20 from the field. DePaul's Myke Henry led all scores with 24 points and also tallied 8 rebounds. Northwestern has two more home matchups before moving into the conference slate of its schedule.
Penn State, after being down by as many as 17 points, was able to rally and beat the Drexel Dragons in Philadelphia; they even managed to cover the spread. Penn State's Payton Banks was a huge part of the comeback, as he notched 20 points on the night. Drexel was led by Terrell and Tavon Allen with 18 and 16 points respectively. Penn State has now won three straight and looks to carry its moment into the Las Vegas Classic where it will face Colorado on Tuesday.
Purdue suffers its first loss of the season at the hands of instate rival Butler. As part of the Crossroads Classic, the two teams met in Indianapolis and put on a quite a show in a hard fought game. Butler led for almost the entirety of the game, but Purdue cut a double digit lead down to 2 in the final seconds. Despite an inspired comeback, the Bulldogs were able to hold on. Though Purdue hadn't won a game this season by fewer than 10 points, its toughest opponent of the year, Butler, was able to end that streak thanks to Purdue's inability to take care of the basketball. The Boilermakers turned the ball over an astounding 17 times, giving the Bulldogs 11 extra possessions. Butler was led by Roosevelt Jones with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Despite 7 turnovers, Caleb Swanigan had a great night scoring for the Boilermakers as he notched 25 and even managed to pull down 11 rebounds.