It was a relatively light Wednesday in the Big Ten Conference. Northwestern had the highest-profile matchup, traveling to Indianapolis to take on Butler in the Gavitt Games. Indiana and Minnesota faced overmatched opponents, as the Hoosiers hosted UMass Lowell and the the Gophers welcomed Mount St. Mary’s to Minneapolis.
Big Ten Game of the Day:
-Butler 70, Northwestern 68
The first Bill Raftery “Onions!” call of the year came at the detriment of Northwestern.
6’0” Butler guard Kamar Baldwin stepped back and hit a long two-point jumper over 6’8” Gavin Skelly with 0.4 seconds left to hand Northwestern a 70-68 non-conference loss.
The game-winner was a fitting end to a game that was within one possession for the final 4-minutes, 18-seconds. After several lead changes, Butler’s Andrew Chrabascz split a pair of free throws to knot the game at 68-68 with 53 seconds to play.
On the ensuing possession, Northwestern put the ball in Bryant McIntosh’s hands and ran Vic Law of screens. But the Bulldogs didn’t let Law get a touch and McIntosh eventually turned it over after an ill-advised behind-the-back dribble in traffic. That defensive stand gave Butler the final look and set up Baldwin’s game-winner.
It was a relatively quiet game for McIntosh, who had 12 points, five assists and five turnovers on 4 of 9 shooting.
Law had the hot hand on Wednesday, making 5 of 6 3-pointers to collect 17 points and six rebounds. The redshirt sophomore, who missed the entire 2015-16 with injury, is averaging 20.3 points per game on the season.
Northwestern was a little top-heavy offensively, as just seven Wildcats scored. The starters combined to score 57 of the 68 points, led by Law and McIntosh. Sanjay Lumpkin and Scottie Lindsey each added 10 points, while Dererk Pardon chipped in 8 points.
Butler’s Kelan Martin had a game-high 22 points, while Chrabascz finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and two steals.
Northwestern had a nice night offensively, shooting 48 percent (24-50) from the floor, 45 percent (9-20) from the 3-point line and 78.6 percent (11-14) from the free-throw line. Butler shot just 38.3 percent (23-60) from the field, including 30.4 percent (7-23) from behind the arc. However, the Bulldogs made 17 of 22 free throws and forced 16 turnovers. Butler also grabbed 12 offensive rebounds, getting off 10 more field-goal attempts than Northwestern.
While it would have been a great road win for Northwestern, the Wildcats showed they have the ability to hit the road and go toe-to-toe with a solid, experienced team.
-Indiana 100, UMass Lowell 78
A lot will change in the next four months, but after a week Indiana has looked like the team to beat in the Big Ten Conference.
That showed through on Wednesday, as James Blackmon Jr. scored 20 first-half points and the sixth-ranked Hoosiers closed the first half on a 32-16 run to pull away from the visiting River Hawks.
Blackmon, the defending Big Ten Player of the Week, finished with a game-high 23 points on 8 of 12 shooting, including making 5 of 9 from behind the 3-point line. The 6’4” junior guard, who missed the entire Big Ten season last year after undergoing knee surgery, has reestablished himself as one of the most dangerous scorers in the conference. He showed the whole skill-set on Wednesday, adding seven rebounds and three assists.
OG Anunoby is an interesting watch. He doesn’t necessarily fit into Indiana’s run-and-shoot attack, but the 6’8” forward finds ways to make plays. Anunoby doesn’t necessarily look fluid on the offensive end, scoring his 15 points primarily off turnovers and effort plays. His in-traffic tip-dunk on the final possession of the first half sent the Hoosiers into the locker room with momentum. Anunoby’s long arms and athletic frame really stand out defensively, which is needed for an Indiana team that can sometimes struggle on that end of the floor.
Thomas Bryant looked dominant at times, finishing with 9 points, five rebounds, three blocks and three assists. The 6’10” center was a force during the first-half run, including a pair of monster blocks and a couple baskets at the rim.
Robert Johnson, who has started a team-high 57 games in his career, looks like he’s going to be crucial to Indiana’s success. The junior guard totaled 16 points, five rebounds and five assists on 7 of 11 shooting, while also coming up with a number of loose balls and offensive rebounds.
The Hoosiers held a huge advantage on the glass, outrebounding the River Hawks, 46-24, and grabbing 19 offensive boards.
There’s still plenty of room to grow, as the Hoosiers look to make their offensive attack more efficient. They shot 56.3 percent (40-71) from the field, including 40.7 percent (11-27) from behind the arc, but committed 16 turnovers and looked a little out of sync at times. That being said, they scored at least 100 points for the second consecutive game, something that is likely to happen several more times this season.
-Minnesota 80, Mount St. Mary’s 56
Five Gophers scored in double figures as Minnesota cruised to an 80-56 home win over Mount St. Mary’s.
Minnesota got it done inside, outrebounding the Mountaineers, 46-25, and attacking the paint to shoot 57.4 percent (31-54) from the field. Outside shooting will be a concern for Minnesota all year, and they shot just 26.7 percent (4-15) from behind the arc on Wednesday, but they found a way to get to the free-throw line 23 times, shooting 60.8 percent (14-23).
Jordan Murphy had a double-double for Minnesota, finishing with a game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds. The 6’6” sophomore forward also had two blocks, including one that led to a fast-break dunk that helped spark a 20-1 second-half run.
Guards Nate Mason and Dupree McBrayer each added 13 points. It was an efficient shooting night from the Minnesota backcourt, as Mason shot 6 of 11 from the field and McBrayer was a perfect 5-for-5. Mason also collected four rebounds, three assists and one steal while controlling the Minnesota attack.
The fourth starter in double figures was freshman Amir Coffey, who has been in double figures in all three of his collegiate games. Coffey finished the night with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Another freshman, Eric Curry, came off the bench to collect six points and eight rebounds. Senior Akeem Springs also provided a scoring punch off the bench, totaling 10 points and six rebounds on 4 of 7 shooting, including making two 3-pointers.
The Gophers improved to 3-0 for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
Wednesday was Minnesota’s final tune-up before a tough couple of weeks that begins on Friday against St. John’s. Arkansas, Southern Illinois, Florida State and Vanderbilt make up the rest of the difficult five-game stretch.