Sunday's games weren't exactly marquee match-ups, but offered some interesting storylines. Indiana University head coach Tom Crean and company entered Sunday's game against the Buckeyes with continued questions of how the team will respond to sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr.'s season ending knee injury.
Michigan State welcomed star guard Denzel Valentine back into the fold and received a overall team performance.
Let's see how the action played out.
Game of the Night: Illinois Fighting Illini 84, Purdue Boilermakers 70
The Fighting Illini entered Sunday's contest against the Boilermakers looking for the coveted first win of the Big Ten season. Coming off the 79-54 loss to Michigan State, Illinois looked very crisp to start the game. Led by junior guard/forward Malcolm Hill, the Illini generated an 8-0 run after falling behind 5-0 in the opening minutes.
Purdue started the contest with AJ Hammons inserted in the starting lineup for the second game in a row. Hammons' front court running mate freshman Caleb Swanigan exhibited a solid three point shot. Swanigan hit two wide open threes at the top of the key to help keep the Boilermakers within single digits. Illinois and Purdue's defense had its work cut out for them, as the Illini shot 50 percent from the perimeter in the first half which caused a 37-37 halftime score.
The second half began as the Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill show, as the Illini point guard scored the first nine points of the second half - his last four points came off a four point play. Hill then got into the action by being aggressive off the dribble drive attack and defensively as he helped protect the rim. Hill's aggressiveness caused Vince Edwards to pick up his fourth foul six minutes into the second half. With 11:14 left in the contest, Nunn and Hill scored all 20 of Illinois's points.
Illinois used a well-coached defensive scheme to stifle the massive front line of Purdue. Isaac Haas and Hammons were double teamed immediately once the ball was entered into the post. Nunn and the rest of the Illini guards picked Purdue's ball handlers up full court, which cut down the shot clock by roughly 10 seconds.
Purdue never found an answer for Illinois's high energy, pressure defense and were left scratching their heads and trying to figure out how to cut the lead to single digits for most of the second half. The Illini continued their hot shooting streak in the second half by ending the game shooting 52.9 percent from three point range. Illinois was led by Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn who combined for 52 of Illinois's 84 points. Jalen Coleman-Lands was the third player in double figures for the Illini with 10. Illinois will look to obtain their second conference win against Nebraska Saturday, January 16 at 2:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.
The Boilermakers were led by Caleb Swanigan, who tallied 12 points, six rebounds and two assists. Senior A.J. Hammons almost notched a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore guard P.J. Thompson chipped in with 12 points, four assists and two steals in a reserve role. Purdue will look to get back in the win column with a tilt against Penn State on Wednesday, January 13 at 8:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.
With the cold, blustery conditions outside of Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers took it upon themselves to heat up the prestigious venue with an impressive array of offense.
Indiana exploded out to a 10-0 lead by the under-16 media timeout thanks to excellent ball movement and offensive rebounding that created second chance opportunities. The much maligned Hoosier defense stepped up tremendously forcing early Buckeye turnovers and limiting clean looks for freshman point guard JaQuan Lyle to generate offense.
The Buckeyes scored 12 points by the under-12 timeout and didn't muster anymore points by the under-8 stoppage. Junior Troy Williams scored 16 of his team-high 23 points in the first half -- Ohio State scored 18 by halftime.
The second half was never a contest as the lead hovered around 20-30 points. JaQuan Lyle scored 24 of his 29 points in the second half, but didn't receive much help in the scoring column. Marc Loving was the only other Buckeye in double figures with 12. The Buckeyes' next game is Wednesday, January 13 at 6:30 p.m. against Rutgers on the Big Ten Network.
Indiana used a balanced scoring attack to help put away Ohio State by halftime. Troy Williams tallied 23 points and six rebounds, senior Yogi Ferrell notched an impressive 16 points, five rebounds and six assists. Robert Johnson and Thomas Bryant were the other Hoosiers in double figures with 11 and 18 respectively. Johnson corralled six rebounds and produced six assists as well, and Bryant notched 13 rebounds. Indiana has six days off until going on the road to face Minnesota Saturday, January 16 at 12:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.
The return of Player of the Year candidate Denzel Valentine was in question leading up to the game, but ended up playing a reserve roll as the Spartans steamrolled Penn State. The game was never in doubt, as the Nittany Lions never held a lead and trailed by 31 at one point. The Spartans used 20 points from guard Bryn Forbes, 13 from Eron Harris and Gavin Schilling and 10 from Valentine. Michigan State shot 50 percent from three -- 10-for-20 and out rebounded the Nittany Lions 40-32. The Spartans hope to have the rust completely off of Valentine as they host No. 19 Iowa Thursday, January 14 on ESPN at 7 p.m..
Shep Garner led the way for Penn State with 19 points, while Brandon Taylor chipped in with 10, Devin Foster and Julian Moore came off the bench to produce 12 and 13 respectively. The Nittany Lions are back in action. The Nittany Lions look to get back on the winning trail by traveling to No. 20 Purdue Wednesday, January 13 at 8:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.