We’ve got our early leader in the clubhouse for the darlings of March. The Michigan Wolverines have been the story this week, coming back from a plane accident to beat Illinois in practice jerseys, then take down Big Ten regular-season champion Purdue.
While the Wolverines continue to draw most of the attention, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Northwestern also earned big wins and will join Michigan in Saturday’s semifinals.
Let’s recap the night’s action.
Big Ten Game of the Night:
-Michigan Wolverines 74, Purdue Boilermakers 70 (OT)
Thursday’s win over Illinois was a good story. Friday’s win over Purdue was a statement. It could have easily been a let-down game after a couple of emotional days, but eighth-seeded Michigan never appeared rattled on the way to beating top-seeded Purdue and advancing to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
Neither team could gain any separation on Friday. D.J. Wilson got the Wolverines (22-11) going early, helping Michigan get out to a 38-37 halftime lead. But Purdue (25-7) went into locker room with momentum after P.J. Thompson hit a half-court shot at the buzzer.
The teams went back and forth in the second half, with Purdue opening up a 66-63 lead on a Carsen Edwards layup with 35 seconds to play in regulation. Wilson drew a foul and went 1 of 2 at the line to cut the deficit to two, then Purdue’s P.J. Thompson missed the front end of a one-and-one to give Michigan the ball back with 18 seconds remaining.
Zak Irvin took control, getting to the rim and making a layup with 4.2 seconds left to tie the game at 66-66. After an interesting inbounds pass, Edwards’ 3-point attempt was blocked by Wilson as the buzzer sounded and the game went to overtime.
Defense was the story in overtime. After a scoreless start, Irvin hit back-to-back layups to give Michigan a 70-67 lead with 1:59 to play. From there, Michigan held on at the free throw line to move on, Purdue shot just 1 of 8 from the field in overtime.
Wilson led all scorers with 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting, to go along with leading the Wolverines with eight rebounds and three blocks. Irvin added 13 points and seven rebounds, while Derrick Walton Jr. chipped in 12 points, four assists and two steals, and Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. All of those scoring efforts were needed, as sophomore forward Moritz Wagner scored just five points in 17 minutes due to foul trouble.
With one of Michigan’s big men out, you’d think Big Ten Player of the Year Caleb Swanigan would have a field day inside. But the Wolverines did a good job throwing bodies at him. Swanigan filled out the stat sheet with 13 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, but the sophomore forward shot just 5-of-13 from the field, playing a team-leading 43 minutes before fouling out.
7-foot-2 junior center Isaac Haas did find success down low, shooting 8-of-10 from the field on the way to finishing with 17 points and five rebounds in just 15 minutes of action. Edwards added 17 points and four steals before fouling out.
Michigan shot just 41.7 percent (25-for-60) from the field, including 24.0 percent (6-for-25) from behind the arc. However, the Wolverines had a huge advantage at the free throw line, shooting 78.3 percent (18-for-23) from the line compared to 46.2 percent (6-for-13) for the Boilermakers.
Michigan swept Big Ten champion Purdue this season, also notching an 82-70 home win on Feb. 25. Purdue, ranked 13th by the Associated Press, will regroup and, depending on how the rest of the week shakes out, could enter the NCAA Tournament as the highest-seeded Big Ten team.
The win has Michigan sitting pretty in the NCAA Tournament, and the Wolverines will likely be a trendy pick to win a couple of games as they have all the momentum going in their direction.
But first, Michigan will take on fourth-seeded Minnesota in Saturday’s semifinals. The teams went to overtime in their only regular-season meeting, with Minnesota pulling out an 83-78 overtime win on Feb. 19. Michigan shot 50.0 percent (30-for-60) in that meeting, but the Wolverines were outrebounded 44-31 and shot just 50.0 percent (9-for-18) from the free throw line.
Fourth-seeded Minnesota (24-8) knocked off fifth-seeded Michigan State (19-14) in Friday’s quarterfinals. The game was tight throughout, but the Gophers came up with enough big plays to earn their first win of the season against the Spartans. Minnesota’s Akeem Springs made the first winning play of the night, hitting a 3-pointer on the final play of the first half to give the Gophers a 28-26 halftime lead.
Michigan State took a brief 52-50 lead on a Matt McQuaid 3-pointer with 5:40 to play in the second half, but Jordan Murphy tipped in his own miss on the following possession to tie the game at 52-52. On the ensuing possession, Murphy recorded a steal that eventually led to a Reggie Lunch dunk, and the Gophers led the rest of the way. Lynch controlled the paint for Minnesota, finishing with a game-high 16 points on 6 of 7 shooting. The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year added five blocks while making it difficult inside for the Spartans.
Minnesota sophomore forward Jordan Murphy also had a big day inside, collecting 10 points and 13 rebounds. Amir Coffey added 13 points, while Nate Mason finished with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists. Springs played 26 minutes before going out with what may be a season-ending Achilles injury.
Michigan State’s Miles Bridges had a game-high 20 points, but the Big Ten Freshman of the Year shot just 7 of 20 from the field, including 2 of 11 from behind the arc. Freshman Nick Ward added 15 points and 11 rebounds in 20 minutes.
The rest of the Spartans combined to shoot just 8 of 29 from the floor and score 23 points. Michigan State grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, but shot just 32.8 percent (19-for-58) from the field, including 20.0 percent (6-for-30) from the 3-point line.
The Spartans had won both regular-season matchups against the Gophers, earning a 75-74 overtime win on Dec. 27 and a 65-47 win on Jan. 11. The loss puts Michigan State in an unfamiliar position, waiting to hear if their name will be called on Selection Sunday.
The Spartans are expected to make the field, but it’s not a given after they closed the season losing three of their last four games. Minnesota is safely in, but will first face eighth-seeded Michigan in Saturday’s Big Ten semifinals. The Gophers notched an 83-78 overtime win over the Wolverines in their regular-season meeting.
-Wisconsin Badgers 70, Indiana Hoosiers 60
Second-seeded Wisconsin (24-8) played well for the second straight game, going on a 9-0 run early in the second half to take control and beat 10th-seeded Indiana (18-15). The Hoosiers were within 38-33 early in the second half, but Wisconsin freshman D’Mitrik Trice hit a 3-pointer with 15:42 remaining to give the 24th-ranked Badgers a 41-33 lead.
Nigel Hayes scored on the next Wisconsin possession and the Badgers eventually opened up a 47-33 lead with 13:54 to go. Indiana had several mini-runs over the final 13 minutes, but never really threatened as Wisconsin held on.
The Badgers were efficient on the offensive end, committing just seven turnovers while shooting 47.4 percent (27-for-57) from the field, including 45.5 percent (10-for-22) from behind the arc. Bronson Koenig ran the show, shooting 4 of 7 from behind the arc on the way to finishing with 16 points, five assists and three steals.
Ethan Happ did the bulk of the work inside, collecting 14 points and 12 rebounds on 7 of 9 shooting. Nigel Hayes added 10 points and nine rebounds despite first-half foul trouble, while Trice chipped in 13 point and three assists off the bench.
After shooting 60.3 percent from the field in Thursday’s win over Iowa, Indiana came back to earth, shooting 41.1 percent (23-for-56) from the field and 55.6 percent (5-for-9) from the free-throw line. The Hoosiers’ 60 points were their fewest since a 68-55 loss at Northwestern on Jan. 29.
Indiana’s James Blackmon Jr. scored a game-high 17 points while adding eight rebounds. Juwan Morgan added 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks for the Hoosiers, as Robert Johnson finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.
Wisconsin is giving up 56.0 points per game in its last three games after allowing 83 points and 84 points, respectively, in losses at Ohio State and Michigan State in late February.
The Badgers went 3-0 against the Hoosiers this season, also earning a 75-68 road win on Jan. 3 and a 65-60 home win on Feb. 5. Barring anything unforeseen, Indiana will miss the NCAA Tournament after going 18-15 and finishing 10th in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin will take on sixth-seeded Northwestern on Saturday. The Badgers will look to get revenge after Northwestern recorded a 66-59 win at Wisconsin on Feb. 12, a loss that sent the Badgers into a tailspin where they lost five of six games.
Sixth-seeded Northwestern (23-10) pulled off a mild upset on Friday night, rallying from a 10-point second-half deficit to beat third-seeded Maryland (24-8). Playing in Washington, D.C., the 25th-ranked Terrapins were the de facto home team, but the Wildcats were able to add another signature win to their breakthrough season. The win all but wraps up Northwestern’s first-ever NCAA Tournament berth, but the Wildcats kept fans on their toes.
Maryland took a 36-34 lead into halftime after a Kevin Huerter offensive rebound led to an L.G. Gill buzzer-beater. That momentum carried over into the second half, as Maryland opened the half on an 8-0 run to take a 44-34 lead with 16:24 remaining.
However, Northwestern countered with a 20-2 run to grab a 54-46 lead with 7:33 to go. The Wildcats had a fairly comfortable lead the rest of the way as they evened the season series with the Terrapins, who had recorded a 74-64 win over Maryland on Feb. 15.
Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey each scored 17 points to lead the Wildcats, while Bryant McIntosh added 16 points, six assists and two steals. Northwestern shot 55.3 percent (26-for-57) from the field and defended the 3-point line against a Maryland team that can beat you from deep. The Terrapins shot 37.5 percent (6-for-16) from behind the arc and were held below 65 points for the second straight game.
Maryland junior point guard Melo Trimble scored a game-high 20 points, while adding six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Freshman Kevin Huerter also had a nice night, collecting 19 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals and one block. Anthony Cowan was the third Terrapin in double figures, shooting 3 of 3 from behind the arc to finish with 13 points.
The Terrapins are safely in the NCAA Tournament, but their seeding could be all over the map after losing six of their last 10 games. Northwestern will meet second-seeded Wisconsin in Saturday’s semifinals. The Wildcats will look to cap off a season sweep of the Badgers, having notched a 66-59 win at Wisconsin on Feb. 12.