With three games on the Big Ten slate for Saturday, all three were big games for different reasons for the teams involved. Obviously, anytime that Indiana and Purdue get together, it's going to be a huge game regardless of what it actually means big picture wise for the conference. This one had huge conference implications, making it all the better for the rivalry.
Here's a look back at the huge day and night that the Big Ten hoops schedule presented us:
Game of the Night: Indiana Hoosiers: 77 -- Purdue Boilermakers: 73
Assembly Hall was certainly rocking on this Saturday night in Bloomington with the heated rivals getting together for 204th edition of a rivalry that dates back to 1901. Yogi Ferrell came out of the locker room on fire like he had no memory at all of the shooting slump he had been in over their last couple of games. Scoring 13 points in the first 7 minutes of the game, including 3-3 from the three point line set the tone early. All Big-Ten team candidate A.J. Hammons of Purdue started off hot, scoring the teams first six points including a tough fall-away jumper on the baseline going away from the double team. After picking up a second foul just after the midway point in the first half, it was clear that Purdue was in a tough situation.
Tom Crean has received enough criticism to last most coaches three or four years this season, but tonight he did a great job with Thomas Bryant and the scheme of their offense. He knows Thomas Bryant isn’t going to come down and post up Hammons and Isaac Haas on a consistent basis. If they were going to beat Purdue, it was with cutters, drives and three point shooting. To open those things up, he brought Bryant out on the perimeter where he showed his own ability even knocking in a three of his own. He served as an outlet if a teammate couldn’t handle the ball pressure of Purdue and served to completely open up the lane for cutters and drivers to get to the basket, especially after Hammons got into foul trouble.
For the first 35 minutes of this game, it was entirely obvious who wanted this game more. Indiana, far and away, played with infinitely more energy, heart, passion, whatever you want to call it. At one point in the second half, they extended their lead to 19 points over a Purdue team that quite simply, looked lost.
For the last segment of the game, however, something clicked with Purdue and was also helped by a bit of a let up by the Hoosiers. Naturally, up by a healthy margin, Indiana started to relax and get away from doing the things that built their lead. Credit to the Boilermakers, they took advantage of the situation and got it to a two point game with half a minute left in the game. Of course, the comeback was aided by Indiana missing a few shots that you’d expect them to make more often than not. These things happen, however, and you have to credit Purdue for the heart they showed at the end of this game. Maybe, at the same time, Purdue people would tell you they need to show that heart for 40 minutes in a game like this.
Indiana is a team that absolutely can beat any team in the country when they shoot the three point shot the way they shot it tonight. They took the Big Ten title race by the horns and hold their own destiny, though it’s far from an easy road for the Hoosiers. This was a huge step for them tonight, getting a win in what is as of now, the last time Yogi will meet the Boilers and Raphael Davis and A.J. Hammons will meet the Hoosiers. Shame on the schedule for only containing one meeting between these two teams. This may be the best rivalry in college basketball. Throw Duke and North Carolina out and I think it’s a no-brainer for best rivalry in college hoops. They need to play twice a year, every year, no exceptions.
Indiana continued their Assembly Hall dominance over ranked teams and just the visiting team in general, improving to 19-2 in their last 21 home games against Top 25 competition. Hats off to the Hoosiers tonight, they shot the lights out and Purdue couldn’t quite take full advantage of their size down low.
Well, Rutgers lost. They've dropped now to 6-21 on the season and 0-14 in the conference. This was their 29th consecutive conference loss and if they don't get the win against Minnesota next week, who knows when that win will come? (Watching Minnesota lately, doesn't seem likely they get that win either.)
Rutgers showed some fight at home against Penn State though, battling back from being down by as many as 15 in the first half and were only down 6 at halftime. With Corey Sanders serving his suspension, freshman forward Jonathan Laurent has stepped up for Rutgers. He ended up going for 19 points and 15 rebounds in this one following an 18 point, 11 rebound performance against Illinois earlier this week, a slight glimmer of hope along with Sanders in what has been a dismal year for Eddie Jordan and Rutgers.
Notably, Rutgers actually took the lead at one point in the second half on a pair of free throws from Laurent to go up 35-33. From that point on, however, Penn State was in total control. Brandon Taylor continued his great play of late, despite a bit of an off shooting night and put together a 17 point, 13 rebound performance to go with Shep Garner and his 19 points to lead Penn State to the win in this one. They kept their NIT hopes alive with the win in this one to go 5-9 in conference. At this point, they're battling to avoid having to play on Wednesday in the Big Ten tournament to earn the school's first ever first round bye in a conference tournament.
Pinnacle Bank Arena was far from the place to be if you were hoping to see an offensive showcase on Saturday night. Eight and a half minutes into the game, you knew we were going to be witnessing something truly special when the score was 6-2 Nebraska with 11:36 left in the first half. At half, Nebraska carried a one point lead into the locker room at 22-21. The second half was quite a bit better as far as viewing pleasure, with Ohio State winning that portion 35-34. At one point, Ohio State had an 11 point lead, but Nebraska kept scrapping and cut it to 50-49 with 3:11 left in the game. Andrew White III of Nebraska hit a clutch three with 54 seconds left in regulation to give Nebraska a 56-54 lead.
On the ensuing possession, JaQuan Lyle was fouled and made both free throws to tie it at 56 before Nebraska didn't get a shot off, sending the game to overtime. Ohio State won the overtime period 9-6 and managed to keep alive any hopes they have of making the NCAA tournament by pulling out the three point overtime road win, led by Lyle's 19 points and by holding Nebraska to 27.1% shooting for the game. It was far from visually pleasing, but I'm sure the Buckeyes are happy to leave Nebraska with a win before they play Michigan State on Tuesday.