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11/29 Recap: Big Ten splits the challenge

A ho-hum slate nevertheless produced a few surprises.

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Not quite the epic night predicted (by me). Only two of the six games finished with single digit margins (and the last one wasn’t really close). The ACC / Big Ten challenge was a bit mediocre tonight, but here’s hoping tomorrow produces fireworks.

Big Ten Game of the Day

-Wisconsin 77, Syracuse 60

Well, this one didn’t quite live up to the hype I bestowed upon it. Wisconsin came out with an incredibly effective game-plan, breaking down Syracuse’s potent zone from the beginning, doubling up the Orange early. To their credit, Syracuse did come back in the first half and make it close. But the Badgers were incredibly efficient, swarming the boards and dishing out an over 2-1 assist margin.

Nigel Hayes almost finished with a triple-double, 9 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists. Ethan Happ went 24 and 13. Bronson Koenig scored 20 on 6 of 9 from long range. Concerns about the Badgers depth linger (their bench only scored 6 points all game) but when the Big 3 are clicking, as they were tonight, Wisconsin remains difficult to beat.

The Rest:

-Illinois 88, NC State 74

Illinois put a clinic in the second half, scoring 56 points and blowing out the Wolf Pack. Malcolm Hill finished with 22 points, getting to the line an astonishing 15 times. Leron Black and Jalen Coleman-Lands contributed big off the bench, while Dennis Smith Jr. was kept to a modest 12 points.

-Notre Dame 92, Iowa 78

Iowa kept this one close for longer than I expected. Peter Jok played abysmally, shooting 4-20, but it was Jordan Bohannon who led the Hawkeyes with seven 3’s. Notre Dame is now 7-0 on the season and looks primed to give the ACC’s top teams all it can handle.

-Pittsburgh 73, Maryland 59

I was WAY off base about this game. Maryland looked completely out of sync in the first half, couching up the ball and bricking 3’s, while Pittsburgh built a 21-point halftime lead. The Terrapins tepid home crowd gave them absolutely no lift, even as they attempted to claw back in the second half, cutting the lead to single digits with under 4 minutes to play.

Maryland shot just 36% for the game, while Pittsburgh’s talented two-some, Young and Artis, combined for 47 points. This game won’t do much to dispel the questions we have about Maryland’s long-term efficacy as a contender.

-Duke 78, Michigan State 69

Turnovers doomed Michigan State tonight, as they have most of the season. 18 giveaways on the road won’t cut it against one of the nation’s best teams. Sparty actually played far better than most expected, asserting themselves in the paint and challenging the Blue Devils defensively.

They may not be ready yet, but Cassius Winston (7 assists), Nick Ward (11 points), and Joshua Langford (7 points) need to play more for Tom Izzo’s team. They’re simply better than the available options (McQuaid, “Tum Tum”, and Goins). Tough night for Miles Bridges, who never seemed to find a rhythm. Even still, a moral victory for the Spartans in Durham.

-Penn State 67, Georgia Tech 60

A sloppy game in which neither team played exceptionally well, the Nittany Lions survived thanks to 17 turnovers and dreadful 2-point shooting by the Yellow Jackets. Shep Garner led all scorers with 17 points.