Six Big Ten teams were in action on Tuesday night as the season kicked off in earnest. Michigan State flew to NYC for the Champions Classic against Kentucky. Wisconsin traveled to Omaha for a match-up against Creighton in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Maryland traveled to Georgetown. And Nebraska, Penn State, and Illinois all hosted lower tier competition.
Here’s how it went down.
Big Ten Game of the Day:
-Kentucky 69, Michigan State 48
What an embarrassment for Michigan State. I know they played Friday in Hawaii. I know they’re still working out the kinks of the rotation, that they’re missing some key big men, that Kentucky is really, really good. But they were dominated in every phase of the game, a loss that should leave Tom Izzo doing a little soul-searching.
Not one single Spartan finished in double figures. They shot 32% from the field, 19% from three, 33% on only 9 free throws, 8 assists the whole night compared to 20 turnovers. Malik Monk was brilliant for UK, going 7-13 from 3 on his way to 23 points. The Wildcats didn’t shoot for well, something they’ll need to correct as the season continues, but it hardly mattered. This one was barely in doubt.
-Illinois 112, McKendree 65
Highly balanced attacked from the Illini in a rout. 6 players in double figures, and 2 more with 9 points each.
-Maryland 76, Georgetown 75
Thank goodness for Gus Johnson. A shocking, startling, scintillating late comeback by the Terrapins gave us occasion to listen to some characteristic “Gus-gasms” by the Fox Sports 1 announcer. I love the way his voice rises in anticipation of something amazing; it almost sounds his vocal chords get shot into the air with a rocket-launcher.
As for the game, a mostly foul-plagued contest finished real strong. Mark Turgeon has to be thrilled with his team’s effort in their late push. A tight game throughout, the Hoyas boasted a 7-point lead with less than a minute to play. But then Maryland hit a three, fouled correctly, extended the game, pressured the basketball, got to the hoop, and hit free throws.
A pair of ill-timed Georgetown turnovers ensued: a Rodney Pryor slide on the slick parquet floor and a Tre Campbell foot out-of-bounds helped turn the tide. Melo Trimble scored the last 4 points of the game to put Maryland up and then freshman Kevin Huerter sealed it with a last second block.
Trimble led all scorers with 22 points, while freshman Justin Jackson put in 17 off the bench. Great win for the Terps.
-Nebraska 70, University of Mary 38
Technically, the University of Mary showed up the play at Nebraska tonight. Hey, they almost scored as many points as Michigan State. No one for the Huskers scored more than 10 points tonight.
-Penn State 85, Grand Canyon 76
The Nittany Lions kept up their offensive output, putting up 80 points for the third straight game. Giving up 76 up at home to Grand Canyon is troubling, and the game was close for the entire contest. But 19 points from Lamar Stevens, and 10 points/6 assists from Tony Carr helped Penn State.
-Creighton 79, Wisconsin 67
Tonight’s final game was another disappointing conclusion for the Big Ten’s ranked teams (that’s 0-3 the last two nights if you’re keeping score). A rocking CenturyLink Center helped boost the Bluejays to victory, behind 17 points and 10 assists from Maurice Watson Jr. Guard play was the key for Creighton, as Watson Jr., Marcus Foster, and Khyri Thomas finished with a combined 50 points.
For Wisconsin, their 16 offensive rebounds kept them in the game despite an abysmal 28% from 3. Hayes and Koenig, normally such smart basketball players, did not play very well. Despite anchoring the Badgers’ scoring effort (16 and 21 points respectively), both made some really poor decisions offensively, taking wild, largely contested shots that clanked off the rim.
If Wisconsin is going to blossom into the promising team that everyone expects from the Big Ten’s most experienced bunch, they’re going to have to prove it. Matching turnovers with assists is not the characteristically efficient offense we’ve come to expect from the Badgers.