Wednesday marked the second day of conference play this season and the day was packed with a full slate of games. Of course, what really made the day great is the fact that just about every game was competitive and a few put quality teams under pressure either at home or on the road.
Let's take a look at the action.
Game of the Night: Maryland Terrapins 70, Penn State Nittany Lions 64
The Terrapins were looking for an easy home win over Penn State, but the team's wishes wouldn't be fulfilled. Penn State came out playing well and held its own for the vast majority of the game. In fact, the Nittany Lions led 31-23 at halftime and had a 62-60 lead with just 3:12 remaining. This was a very competitive game that very well could have gone either way in the closing minutes.
Interestingly enough, the thing that likely kept Penn State in the game was a really underwhelming shooting night for the Terps. In fact, Maryland hit just 23.8 percent of three point attempts and just 38.9 percent of shots from two point range. Maryland ranks No. 90 in percentage of team attempts from three point range and No. 29 nationally in three point percentage at 39.7 percent.
Needless to say, Maryland's shooting numbers on Wednesday were far below average.
Of course, the major storyline from the game was the outstanding play from true freshman Diamond Stone. He finished with an incredible 39 points and 12 rebounds and had 25 free throw attempts on the night. Stone has had some really solid nights so far this season, but this is the first game where he truly looked like a superstar. If he plays at this level all year, watch out.
For Penn State, the team did get a big game from Brandon Taylor, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Shep Garner also had 17 points and Payton Banks had 12 points. Notably, Penn State played this well despite freshman star Josh Reaves only getting two points. It was a team effort that kept the Nittany Lions in the game for so long.
With the win, Maryland moves to 12-1 overall and stays undefeated at home. The Terps get an interesting road game against Northwestern on Saturday where the team could be on upset alert. Penn State remains the Big Ten's most dangerous "bottom" team and will travel to Ann Arbor to face Michigan on Saturday.
One other note. This game already has a rivalry feel. Just a matter of time before Maryland-Penn State is considered to be one of the Big Ten's better rivalries.
On paper, this game looked very one-sided. After all, KenPom gave the Hoosiers an 86.8 percent chance at victory before the opening tip and Rutgers had yet to beat a quality team. Nonetheless, the Scarlet Knights were able to get the offense going and hung with Indiana for the entire first half and a good hunk of the second half. Corey Sanders finished with 17 points and five assists and Omari Grier had 20 points on just 14 attempts. On the other side, Indiana was led by the 18 points and 14 rebounds from Max Bielfeldt and Yogi Ferrell's 20 points and seven assists.
With the win, Indiana moves to 11-3 overall and scored the team's first road game of the season. The Hoosiers have now won six games in a row and will face Nebraska on the road on Saturday. That matchup should be similar to this one as Indiana's only goal will be to "take care of business." With the loss, the Scarlet Knights drop to 6-8 overall and have now lost four games at home. Rutgers will face Wisconsin on the road next.
This looked like one of the most intriguing games of the day and opening week of conference play as there was a lot to gain and lose for each side. Michigan needed a quality road win and Illinois needed a win to help preserve its NCAA Tournament hopes. The game started sloppy early on, but Michigan's shooting came around and the Wolverines were able to separate in the second half.
The key players for Michigan were Mark Donnal with 26 points and nine rebounds and Caris LeVert with 22 points, 10 assists, and five rebounds. Kendrick Nunn had 23 points and Jalen-Colman Lands had 13 points for Illinois.
With the win, Michigan improves to 11-3 overall and the team has now won five games in a row and nine of its last 10 games. The Wolverines will get Penn State at home on Saturday in a chance to score another decent win. Illinois drops to 8-6 with the loss and now desperately needs to beat Ohio State on the road on Sunday. If the Illini lose to the Buckeyes, the team could very well open conference play at 0-4.
For weeks, nobody has really had any idea about what to make of this Northwestern team since the Wildcats played such a weak non-conference schedule. Well, Northwestern had a tricky road game against Nebraska on Wednesday and were able to score a solid victory.
The key players for the Wildcats were Derek Pardon with 28 points and 12 rebounds and Tre Demps with 17 points and four rebounds. For Nebraska, Andrew White had 22 points on 5-for-8 from three point range and Benny Parker had 17 points and five rebounds.
With the win, Northwestern improves to 13-1 and really helped to legitimize its record with the win. There are still plenty of questions about the Wildcats, but this is the team's third road win already. On the other side, Nebraska now sits at 8-6 overall and has failed to win back-to-back games since November 24th. If the Cornhuskers are going to make some real noise this year, beating Indiana at home on Saturday will likely be a piece of that.
The Buckeyes continued to trend up on Wednesday with a solid win over Minnesota at home. Marc Loving finished with 20 points and six rebounds and JaQuan Lyle had 13 assists on the night. On the other side, Nate Mason, Carlos Morris, and Jordan Murphy all scored double-digits.
With the win, Ohio State is now 9-5 and has won five games in a row and seven of the team's last eight games. Granted, just one of those wins came against a top 100 team (Kentucky), but the Buckeyes are quietly trending up. For Minnesota, this is another tough loss and drops the team to 6-7 overall. Perhaps Minnesota can pull off a massive upset against Michigan State on Saturday to get back on track.