Tuesday night marked the official start of the Big Ten season as two of the three ranked teams in the conference in Purdue and Michigan State were featured in each game. If the first two conference games were any indication, we college hoops fans should be in for a treat ever Super Tuesday from here to March.
Game of the Night: Purdue Boilermakers 61, Wisconsin Badgers 55
In what has become a trend for Matt Painter and his team over the past few weeks, big man A.J. Hammons came to the rescue off the bench, scoring a game-high 24 points. Fellow Purdue 7-footer Isaac Haas has struggled of late, scoring just 6 points on Tuesday, making just 2 field goals for the third game in a row. But here lies the strength of the Boilermakers and why they are poised to challenge for the Big Ten title this year. Simply; it is very hard for any team to go up against a team that will have the biggest man on the floor at all times, and both of Purdue's options are highly skilled.
Wisconsin was able to hang with the No.14 team in the country throughout the full 40 minutes, as Nigel Hayes led the Badgers with 17 points. The Badgers forced 16 Boilermaker turnovers while only committing 7 themselves, which certainly helped keep the game close, but Wisconsin could not capitalize on the extra possessions, shooting 38-percent from the floor and 39-percent from beyond the arc.
The Boilermakers were able to seal the deal in the closing minute thanks to two 3-pointers from Dakota Mathias, an aspect Purdue was flat-out missing a season ago. Wisconsin will have an opportunity to bounce back on Saturday as it faces Rutgers on the road, while Purdue will host Iowa, who certainly had itself an excellent Tuesday evening.
The big question for the No.1 Michigan State Spartans is how they would fare in early conference play while Denzel Valentine continues to recover from a minor knee injury. Well, Tom Izzo used 14 different players in a game where the Spartans trailed the entire way, so not great. Eron Harris did manage to score 21 points and Matt Costello contributed 17 points to the effort, but the rest of the team struggled to put the ball through the hoop as the nine bench players managed just 18 points.
The Iowa Hawkeyes "punk'd" the Spartans, as Izzo put it in the post-game presser, dominating throughout. The Hawkeyes, led by a 25-point effort from Mike Gesell, jumped out to a 14-point first half lead, which grew to as much as 16, as Iowa cruised to victory. It took only one night for the first court-rush of the Big Ten season, as Iowa ended a 9-game skid against Michigan State.
The Big Ten has a full slate on Wednesday, as the remaining 10 teams play their first conference games. Tipoff starts at 1 with Indiana at Rutgers and goes all the way through Minnesota at Ohio State as the nightcap. So ignore all of your responsibilities, kick back, relax, and enjoy a full Wednesday of Big Ten basketball.