Every year, the Big Ten - ACC Challenge presents some of the best non-conference games that you will see all year long. Playing these games on a home court rather than a neutral floor adds a chance for a quality road win for many of these teams early in the season.
While neither of the games last night were the marquee match-ups of the challenge, they still had pretty big implications for each team and the conferences. Northwestern absolutely had to hold up on their home floor against a Wake Forest team that had started 5-1, while Minnesota had a big chance to get an early true road win against a Florida State team with real tournament aspirations.
Here’s a quick recap of each of the two games that kicked off the Big Ten - ACC Challenge.
Game of the Night:
-Northwestern Wildcats 65, Wake Forest Demon Deacons 58
In a home game that the Northwestern Wildcats had to have early in the season, their star Bryant McIntosh stepped up to deliver the big win for the Wildcats and the Big Ten. He led both teams with 23 points on 10-16 shooting and a dagger three with 1:06 remaining to extend the Wildcats lead to 6, putting the game away.
Neither team was shooting the ball very well, but the Northwestern defense held Wake Forest to a frighteningly low 31.1% from the field. Northwestern, meanwhile, shot a modest 40.9%. The Demon Deacons managed to stay in the game by getting to the free throw line at a much higher rate than the Wildcats. Wake Forest shot 15-17 from the line while the Wildcats only managed to go 5-9 from the line. The free throw shooting, along with the rebounding, could be points of concern for Chris Collins and his staff as they were outrebounded 48-37.
For now, however, a win will cover that up.
-Florida State Seminoles 75, Minnesota Golden Gophers 67
In their first road game of the year, the Minnesota Golden Gophers were fairly impressive in the first half. The young team took a two point 33-31 lead into the locker room at half against a big, athletic and long Florida State Seminoles team with aspirations of an NCAA Tournament appearance. In the second half, however, as things intensified, some of the struggles of a young team reared their ugly head.
The Golden Gophers turned the ball over 17 times, missed 14 free throws and the size, strength and athleticism of Florida State showed as they held an absurd 40-18 scoring advantage in the paint. The star freshman for Minnesota, Amir Coffey, struggled with foul trouble early in the game and managed to salvage only seven points on 3-10 shooting. Nate Mason and Akeem Springs led the Gophers with 11 points each, while Dwayne Bacon carried the scoring load for the Seminoles with his game high 18 points.
With all that went on last night for the Gophers, there is still plenty for Richard Pitino and his staff and the Gophers fans to be encouraged by. While shooting a season low 32.8% from the field, they managed to keep the game within striking distance for much of the evening. This Golden Gophers team showed that they might be able to make some noise later on this season in the Big Ten, and will certainly be a much tougher test for teams than they were a season ago.