College basketball is back once again, this time with the season tipping off on a Tuesday instead of Friday like it has most years as of late. Like most opening nights, tonight’s matchups mainly involved teams from the conference hosting cupcakes from the smaller conferences. Well, besides for Michigan State, who participated in the Champions Classic on ESPN.
Let’s take a look at at how the Big Ten fared in tonight’s opening games.
Game of the Night
#1 Kansas Jayhawks 92, #10 Michigan State Spartans 87
Opening the season against the top ranked team on a neutral court is never going to be an easy task for any team, even if it’s a top ten Michigan State team that many believe will win the conference. And heading down the stretch it looked like the Jayhawks were going to run away with the game without much of a challenge. While Kansas held a larger lead throughout most of the night, the Jayhawks still held an 89-77 lead with 3:52 to go.
The Spartans kept fighting, though, and went on a 10-1 run to close the deficit to three points with 34 seconds to go after a Kyle Ahrens three. After looking like they were going to play defense for a full 30, the Spartans ending up fouling with 15 seconds to go and Devon Dotson hit on one of his two free throws. Michigan State had a chance to cut the lead down to two with around ten seconds to go but Cassius Winston couldn’t finish and the Jayhawks held on to win 92-87.
The night showed how resilient Tom Izzo’s Spartans can be as the team could have easily folded down the stretch. Instead they did what they could to hang around and managed a late run to almost make the surprising comeback. It wasn’t enough, though, and looking at how Michigan State played at times it wasn’t a huge surprise.
The reality is Michigan State dug themselves into too big of a hole in the first half as they only made 9 of their 26 field goal attempts. They had a decisively better second half, hitting 51.5% of their field goals and 8 of 14 from three, but couldn’t overcome the early deficit. It also didn’t help that the Spartans blew a huge opportunity in the first half, only making 14 of their 25 (!) first half free throw attempts. Mix that with 18 turnovers and it was simply to many mistakes to take down the nation’s top team.
Indiana manhandled Chicago State in front of 17,222 fans on their way to an easy 104-55 victory. In the first Big Ten game of the season the Hoosiers never gave Chicago State a chance, holding the Cougars to 31.7% shooting and forcing 20 turnovers.
Freshman Romeo Langford led the Hoosiers with 19 points while three other players reached double figures. Indiana shot effectively from inside, hitting 56.5% of their field goals. They did struggle from three (7 of 21) and the free throw line (19 of 33), but it meant very little in tonight’s outing.
Indiana dominated inside, out rebounding Chicago State 52-33 and scoring 54 points in the paint. They also had 30 fast break points and 25 points off turnovers.
Maryland Terrapins 73, Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens 67
In what was the worst performance from a Big Ten team tonight, Maryland just managed to hold on to Delaware in what could have been a disastrous opener. With a 17 point lead at half and a 22 point lead in the second half, things seemingly were going according to plan before Delaware made a late run to cut the lead down to 67-70 with 1:27 remaining. Delaware was able to make that run because Maryland could only score 12 points over a 12:59 run that saw them get outscored 31-12. Maryland was able to close the game out with three Anthony Cowan free throws down the stretch.
Maryland didn’t have much of an answer for Eric Carter, who hit on 12 of 14 field goals and led the Fightin’ Blue Hens with 29 points. Luckily for Maryland, no one else was able to get it going for Delaware as the rest of the team shot 23.5% from the field.
Jalen Smith led Maryland with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while both Anthony Cowan and Bruno Fernando added 15 points. It was a rough night from the perimeter for the Terps, only hitting on 2 of their 19 three pointers. Maryland shot a dreadful 29% from the field in the second half, missed all eight three pointers and only hit 11 of their 19 free throws, but luckily built a big enough lead to hold for the victory.
#19 Michigan Wolverines 63, Norfolk State Spartans 44
The #19 ranked Michigan Wolverines won their opener against Norfolk State even though they could never get the offense up and running. It wasn’t a pretty sight, with Michigan shooting 36.7% from the field, 23.1% from three and only hitting on 13 of their 29 free throws. Of course their opponent didn’t look much better, with Norfolk State only making 30.5% of their field goals, 25% from three and 45.5% from the line. Michigan’s ability to clean up on the glass, out rebounding Norfolk State 53-40, was huge for the Wolverines. That, a 29-11 free throw attempt advantage and a dominating 32-13 first half performance helped seal the deal.
Leading the Wolverines in scoring was Jon Teske with 13 points, followed by Ignas Brazdeikis (12) and Charles Matthews (10). Isaiah Livers added 8 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists in a solid performance off of the bench. As for Norfolk State, Nic Thomas led the team with 9 points as no one reached double figures.
Minnesota Golden Gophers 104, Omaha Mavericks 76
It’s going to be easy to win when you shoot 62.9% from the field and hit on almost 50% of your three pointers. So it was no major surprise that the Gophers cruised in a 104-76 victory over Omaha.
It wasn’t a perfect night for Minnesota, though, as the Gophers committed 18 turnovers on their way to the easy win. They can get away with it versus teams like Omaha, but later on in the season it won’t fly. Leading the Gophers in scoring was Amir Coffey with 18 points, while Jordan Murphy added 12 points and 10 rebounds for a double double. Sophomore Isaiah Washington looked good tonight, recording 11 assists while committing only two turnovers.
#24 Purdue Boilermakers 90, Fairfield Stags 57
The Boilermakers took care of business in their season opener, knocking off Fairfield 90-57. While the game took awhile to turn into a rout, Purdue held a sizable double figure lead before ending the game on an 18-2 run.
Carsen Edwards was Carsen Edwards, scoring 30 points and hitting on 7 of his 11 three pointers. Purdue, who set a then team record for made threes the last time they played Fairfield, hit 14 of their 30 three pointers. Purdue was sloppy at times and point guard Nojel Eastern didn’t do much during his 23 minutes, but the Boilers won easily while holding Fairfield to 36.7% from the field.
Nebraska Cornhuskers 106, Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils 37
Nebraska didn’t face much of a challenge in their opener against Mississippi Valley State, beating the Delta Devils by a small margin of 69 points. Mississippi Valley State never exactly figured out the concept of scoring tonight, being held to 13 points in the first half while shooting 19% on 68 field goal attempts. On the other side Nebraska hit 55% of their field goals and forced 19 turnovers in the lopsided affair.
Leading the Cornhuskers in scoring was Glynn Watson Jr. with 19 points in 19 minutes, while three other Huskers reached double figures.
Wisconsin missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998 last year and look to be considerably improved this season. So far so good for the Badgers after an easy win over MEAC opponent Coppin State.
Of course beating down a team that ranks #349 in the KenPom rankings isn’t much of a feat, but it was only three years ago that Wisconsin lost their opener to Western Illinois. Wisconsin pulled away about half way through the first half and kept the lead around 20 points the rest of the way, ultimately winning 86-63.
Leading Wisconsin in scoring was D’Mitrik Trice, who scored 21 points and hit five of his nine three point attempts. Ethan Happ recorded a triple double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists while Brevin Pritzl was the only other Badger to reach double figures, scoring 16 points. Wisconsin took care of the ball, committing only five turnovers, and shot 88.5% from the line on 26 attempts.