Thursday's action was full of postseason tournament implications. Penn State, Michigan, Minnesota were all looking for an additional win to bolster their NIT hopes. Illinois and Indiana were hoping to put themselves on the right side of the NCAA bubble and Iowa and Ohio State were looking to improve their seeding for the NCAA Tournament. Northwestern was looking to play the role of spoiler for Indiana. Let's see how things shook up.
Game of the Day
#13 Penn State Nittany Lions 67 - #5 Iowa Hawkeyes 58
Penn State needed a win in this game to keep their postseason hopes alive while Iowa was looking to improve their seeding for the NCAA Tournament. In the first half both teams struggled to shoot and there were long scoring droughts on both sides. Penn State went 9 minutes without making a field goal, but Iowa was unable to capitalize as they went through a 5 minute shooting drought during that time. Iowa went on to take an eight point lead into the half at 27-19.
Both teams traded baskets in the first few minutes of the 2nd half, and then the spark happened. D.J. Newbill drove through the lane, drawing the attention of the Iowa defenders. He then passed it off to center Julian Moore who went up and dunked it over Gabriel Olasini, drawing a foul in the process. Moore finished off the three point play and Penn State found itself down four, but the momentum shifted and Penn State never looked back. Penn State started to make a few shots and started getting the benefit of a few questionable calls. Iowa coach Fran Mccaffery was called for a technical foul after a potential goaltending non call, which sparked a 7 point outburst by D.J. Newbill in a span of 41 seconds that put Penn State up 7 with 7 minutes remaining. Iowa would pull to within 2 after a pair of Aaron White free throws. With 30 seconds remaining Ross Travis got the hoop and the harm on a beautiful reverse layup and Penn State sealed the game at the free throw line.
Ross Travis played the best game of his career on Thursday to lead Penn State. His 17 points were a season high and his 5 for 6 day from the free throw line was well above his 25% season free throw rate. D.J. Newbill added 18 points, just under his season average and Geno Thorpe added 11 points and an incredible 6 steals in the game.
For Iowa, Aaron White had his 2nd double double against Penn State this season. His 21 points were a game high and he added 13 rebounds. Jarrof Uthoff added 17 points and 7 boards for the Hawkeyes and Mike Gesell had 9 points and 5 assists. Iowa's 19 offensive rebounds wasn't enough to overcome their poor shooting. They shot only 26% from the field for the game.
Penn State will face #4 Purdue tomorrow at approximately 2:30 EST / 1:30 CT Friday afternoon on ESPN.
#9 Michigan Wolverines 73 - #8 Illinois Fighting Illini 55
Illinois came into the day on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble, needing a win against Michigan to stay in the hunt for an at large bid. Michigan started out the game on a 14-2 run, but Illinois was able to come right back to take a 19-17 lead with 8 minutes left in the half. Michigan then went on a 23-4 run to close out the half with a 40-23 lead. Michigan then continued to expand their lead early in the half, and they never let Illinois back into the game. They wouldn't cut the deficit to less than the halftime margin until the very end of the game when the cut the lead to 16 with less than 2 minutes remaining.
It was a disappointing effort by John Groce's team as they will now be relegated to the NIT for their postseason play. They had a real chance to pick up some quality wins in the Big Ten Tournament to boost their NCAA resume, but they fell flat out of the gate and never played with the passion and intensity that you would expect from a team that is on the bubble. Malcolm Hill led the team with 13 points while Rayvonte Rice and Leron Black added 10.
Meanwhile, Michigan keeps its postseason hopes alive for another day. 4 Wolverines scored in double figures, Aubrey Dawkins (18), Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (15), Zak Irvin (14), and Max Bielfeldt (10). It was a strong shooting day for Michigan as they shot 49% from the field and 47% from three. Even though Michigan won by 18, they had 3 players log 38 minutes, so fatigue may be a factor Friday when they face Wisconsin. That game will tip at 12:00 EST / 11:00 CT on ESPN
#7 Indiana Hoosiers 71 - #10 Northwestern Wildcats 56
Indiana needed a win against Northwestern to avoid the same fate as Illinois. They were sitting as the last team in the NCAA tournament according to ESPN's Joe Lunardi. The game played out just like the Illinois-Michigan game, except this time the team on the bubble was the victor. Indiana jumped out to a 24-6 lead 10 minutes into the game, and they never looked back. Northwestern was never able to cut the deficit to single digits, the closest they got was 11 at 47-36 with 10 minutes remaining in the game. Northwestern actually shot a better percentage than Indiana from the field and from three. The difference in the game though was that Indiana made 6 more three pointers and they out-rebounded Northwestern by 17, including 15 more offensive rebounds. Indiana dominated the glass, led by Troy Williams' 12 rebounds.
Northwestern was led by Bryant McIntosh and Alex Olah who had 13 and 12 points respectively. Indiana was led by James Blackmon Jr. who had 25 points on 8-15 shooting (5-10 from three) and 7 assists. First team All-Big Ten selection Yogi Ferrell added 17 points and 5 assists.
Indiana will face Maryland on Friday at 6:30 EST / 5:30 CT on BTN as they try to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive.
#6 Ohio State Buckeyes 79 - #11 Minnesota Golden Gophers 73
In the late game it was Minnesota who needed a big win to solidify their NIT position. The first half went back and forth with no team able to take firm control of the game. The half ended in a 35-35 draw after Minnesota came back from an 8 point deficit. Ohio State ended up taking a 44-42 lead, a lead that they would never relinquish. The Buckeyes were able to take an 13 point lead with 10 minutes left on the back of D'Angelo Russell, who had 15 of his 23 points in the 2nd half. But Minnesota would come storming back with a 15-4 run to cut the deficit back to 2, forcing an Ohio State timeout. Ohio State was able to weather the storm and held off Minnesota for the last 5 minutes of the game as they were able to push their lead to 4 and never let Minnesota get back to within 1 possession.
Minnesota had a balanced scoring attack with 6 players scoring between 9 and 16 points. DeAndre Mathieu led the team with 16 points, Andre Hollins had 13, Carlos Morris had 12, Joey King had 10, and Nate Mason and Maurice Walker each had 9.
The difference for Ohio State was their +7 differential on the glass and their +12 differential from the free throw line. Shannon Scott had a career high 21 points and 6 assists to go along with Russell's 23. Marc Loving added 12 and Sam Thompson had 9 points.
Ohio State will take on Michigan State at approximately 9:00 PM EST / 8:00 CT on BTN