The Big Ten Conference went undefeated on Wednesday, including three teams pulling out wins over in-state rivals. However, it wasn’t a perfect night as all four teams took longer than expected to pull away from overmatched opponents.
Big Ten Game of the Day:
-Northwestern 68, Chicago State 64
Northwestern nearly gave it away in the second half, but the Wildcats were able to regain control and hold off the visiting Cougars.
The Wildcats held a 29-21 lead after a low-scoring first half and built up a comfortable 44-32 lead with 13:30 to play in the second half.
But it might have been too comfortable, as Chicago State went on an 11-0 run over the next three minutes to pull within 44-43.
The Cougars took their first lead of the second half when Fred Sims Jr. made a free throw to give them a 47-46 lead with 9:34 to go. Northwestern, who never trailed by more than two points, quickly regained the lead but Chicago State was still within 59-58 with less than two minutes to play.
Bryant McIntosh stepped up and hit a huge 3-pointer to give Northwestern a 62-58 lead with 1:47 remaining. Gavin Skelly and Sanjay Lumpkin added big buckets down the stretch as the Wildcats held on to win their fifth straight and improve to 7-0 at home.
McIntosh had two of the biggest baskets of the night, but shot just 4-of-14 on his way to 14 points and seven assists. Vic Law paced the Wildcats with 18 points, while adding four rebounds and four assists. Scottie Lindsey added 13 points, six rebounds and four assists, and Lumpkin put up 9 points and 11 rebounds in his 100th career start at Northwestern.
Chicago State made it a game by shooting 50.0 percent (13-26) from the 3-point line. However, the Cougars struggled from everywhere else, making 10-of-31 from inside the arc and 5-of-8 from the free-throw line. Northwestern also held a 16-8 turnover advantage.
It was just the second time this season that Northwestern, who has averaged 67 points per game in its two losses, has scored fewer than 70 points and won.
-Wisconsin 73, Green Bay 59
Wisconsin didn’t blow anyone away on Wednesday night, but the Badgers pulled away to win their second straight game against an in-state opponent.
It was one of those Wisconsin games where it feels like it should be relatively close and then you look at the scoreboard and realize that the Badgers have a 31-16 lead. It’s easy to build a lead when the other team can’t score, and that’s when the Badgers are at their best.
Green Bay went on a mini-run to pull within 31 -21 at halftime. The teams went back and forth over the opening five minutes of the second half, with the Phoenix pulling within seven at one point.
But Wisconsin responded by getting the ball in the paint, spreading it around as Charles Thomas, Vitto Brown, Ethan Happ, Nigel Hayes and Zak Showalter all got to the basket to help the Badgers open up a 63-39 lead with 6:39 to play.
The defense also played a big role in the 16-3 run, as the Badgers held the Phoenix to just three points during the six-minute stretch.
Hayes and Happ were a problem for the Phoenix big men.
Hayes attacked the basket on his way to a game-high 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting. The aggressiveness helped Nigel live at the free-throw line, although he shot just 7-of-13 from the stripe.
Like usual, Happ did the bulk of his work from five feet in. The sophomore big man finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals on 7-of-11 shooting, showcasing his unique ability to use his body and the rim to prevent the defender from contesting shots.
Happ also showcased some parts of his game that are a work in progress. At 6-foot-10, he led the break on three occasions in the first half, getting to the free-throw line and finding teammates running the wing for layups.
Happ also stepped out and hit a jumper from the left elbow. That doesn’t sound like anything to write home about, but it got the biggest cheer of the night from the Kohl Center crowd. After starting 47 games and making 228 field goals, that free-throw line jumper was the first basket of Happ’s collegiate career to come from outside the lane.
The Badgers also got a big night from Zak Showalter, who had 16 points, six steals and five rebounds while shooting 4-of-7 from behind the arc.
Having struggled to take care of the ball at times this season, Wisconsin’s nine turnovers on Wednesday night were a good sign. The Badgers were also able to force 19 turnovers and hold the Phoenix well below their scoring average of 78.2 points per game.
-Minnesota 76, LIU Brooklyn 66
The Gophers pulled away in the second half to win their fifth straight game and improve to 10-0 at home on the season.
After trailing 38-24 at halftime, LIU Brooklyn caught fire early in the second half. The Blackbirds made four 3-pointers, including three by Iverson Fleming, to go on a 12-0 run to pull within 38-36 with 17:51 to play. The Gophers were able to settle in on the defensive end and slowly rebuild the double-digit lead over the course of the second half.
Minnesota’s Dupree McBrayer scored a team-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Nate Mason went 4-of-6 from the 3-point line to finish with 19 points, seven assists and two steals.
Jordan Murphy added 13 points, while Eric Curry chipped in 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench. The two forwards helped the Gophers hold a 38-20 advantage in points in the paint.
Fleming made 6-of-8 3-pointers and scored a game-high 24 points for a LIU Brooklyn team that had a decent night offensive. The Blackbirds shot 45.6 percent (26-57) from the field, including 42.9 percent (9-21) on 3-pointers, but they committed 19 turnovers and were just 5-of-7 from the free-throw line.
The Gophers played without freshman Amir Coffey, who sat out the game with turf toe.
Minnesota has been one of the biggest surprises in the Big Ten thus far. After going just 6-6 in non-conference play last season, the Gophers have the opportunity to enter the Big Ten season with a 12-1 record if they can beat Arkansas State on Friday.
-Rutgers 82, Fairleigh Dickinson 69
The other early-season Big Ten surprise held up their end of the bargain on Wednesday, as Rutgers held off Fairleigh Dickinson to earn their fourth straight win.
The first half was even until Rutgers closed it with an 8-0 run to take a 38-32 lead into halftime.
Fairleigh Dickinson kept it interesting in the second half, pulling within 59-55 before Rutgers’ Deshawn Freeman grabbed an offensive rebound and threw down a dunk to give the Scarlet Knights a 61-55 advantage with 9:20 to play.
The Knights stayed within single digits for the next several minutes, but Rutgers did enough down the stretch to hold on for the win.
Corey Sanders and Mike Williams each scored 15 points to lead a Rutgers team that shot 51.7 percent (31-60) from the field. The Scarlet Knights helped Fairleigh Dickinson stay alive by shooting just 14-of-29 from the free-throw line.
Rutgers committed just eight turnovers and grabbed 16 offensive rebounds on their way to a 43-31 rebounding advantage.
Deshawn Freeman finished with 6 points and 13 rebounds for the Scarlet Knights, while C.J. Getty added 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Like Minnesota, Rutgers will enter conference play with much more momentum this season. The Scarlet Knights, who won just seven games all of last season, stand at 10-1 overall with two games to play prior to opening up the Big Ten schedule at Wisconsin on Dec. 27.