It was a relatively light Thursday, with only three games today. While only three Big Ten teams played earlier today, two of the top teams in the conference were in action tonight against power conference opponents.
Here’s a look at what happened on Thursday.
Game of the Night
#11 Michigan State Spartans 87, UCLA Bruins 67
UCLA wasn’t as good last year as they were in 2016-17, but the Bruins have still made it to the NCAA Tournament in five of the past six seasons. So while the Bruins weren’t ranked, they did provide the Spartans with another quality non-conference win to add to their early season resume. And while Tom Izzo’s squad will miss out on seventh ranked North Carolina, they will face a quality opponent in Texas in the the final game of the Las Vegas Invitational.
The Spartans got off to a quick start, scoring 51 points in the first half on their way to a decisive 25 point lead heading into the half. While UCLA played better in the second half, Michigan State built a large enough lead early on that they were able to keep the Bruins at bay throughout the second half on their way to an 87-67 win.
Michigan State shot 51.6% from the field and 54.2% from three, while somehow only hitting 55.6% from the free throw line. Cassius Winston led the Spartans with 19 points on 8 of 15 shooting while three other Spartans reached double figures. Kenny Goins, the only starting Spartan to not reach double figures, added 13 rebounds and two blocks.
UCLA had a rough day from the field, being held to 35.6% on 59 shots and 29.4% from beyond the arc.
Chris Collins took the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament in 2017 and things seemed to be rolling as Northwestern was expected to build off of their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. However, the Wildcats had a rough season last year and were never in contention for a return to the postseason.
So far things aren’t off to a great start in 2018-19 after the Wildcats were demolished in the opening round of the Wooden Legacy by Fresno State. The Bulldogs aren’t a horrible team, coming off of a 21 win season in the Mountain West Conference, but they’re currently ranked 86th in the KenPom rankings and had absolutely no issue dismantling the Wildcats. It also keeps Northwestern from a quality opponent tomorrow as they will now face LaSalle (205th) instead of Miami (20th).
Northwestern never got the offense up and running today, shooting 35.3% from the field and 27.3% on 22 three pointers. They were also sloppy with the ball, committing 15 turnovers, while being out rebounded by Fresno State. Vic Law led the team in scoring with 13 points, while Dererk Pardon was the only player to reach double figures with 11. In comparison, all five starters for Fresno reached double figures while the team shot 50% from the field and 47.8% from beyond the arc.
Even with Fresno State only scoring five points over the last six minutes in the first half the Wildcats still entered the break down by 14. The last lead Northwestern held was before the first media time out, with Fresno taking the lead with 16:26 in the first half and never looking back. Fresno eventually opened up a 24 point lead in the second half before cruising the rest of the way.
#25 Wisconsin Badgers 78, Oklahoma Sooners 58
So tomorrow’s Battle 4 Atlantis Championship Game is going to be...Wisconsin and Virginia. While there’s plenty of jokes to be made (and can currently be found on Twitter) about how entertaining that game will be, the 25th ranked Badgers will have the chance to knock off the 4th ranked Virginia in tomorrow’s final. The Badgers already added two wins over power conference opponents, knocking off Stanford by 16 and the Sooners today by 20, so the Virginia game would help the Badgers quickly build a strong resume this November. Either way they look considerably better than they did throughout most of last year.
The first half today went relatively back and forth, with the Badgers retaking the lead in the final minute to take a 31-28 lead into the break. A quick 16-8 start in the second half pushed the lead into double digits and a four plus minute field goal drought by the Sooners allowed Wisconsin to open up a 60-41 lead and take control of the game.
D’Mitrik Trice led Wisconsin in scoring with 25 points while Ethan Happ recorded 14 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists. The Badgers shot lights out from deep, hitting 63.6% of their 22 three pointers. Oklahoma didn’t play that much worse on offense, hitting 47.1% of their field goals (Wisconsin shot 47.5%). They couldn’t keep up with Wisconsin from deep, though, only hitting 5 of their 13 three pointers. Mix that with a poor day from the free throw line and almost twice as many turnovers than Wisconsin and it’s easy to see why Wisconsin won easily this Thursday.