Both games in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament were relatively entertaining, even if each game was on the ugly side from a statistic perspective.
Minnesota Gophers 51 Northwestern Wildcats 46
It took almost seven minutes for Northwestern to finally make a field goal and the Gophers took advantage of that icy cold start to build a 16-2 lead with 8:49 remaining in the first half. The Wildcats found some offense later on, narrowing the deficit to seven by halftime.
Northwestern eventually stormed back, going on a 16-3 run to take a 46-39 lead with 4:20 remaining. A Minnesota team that couldn’t do much offensively then found a way to close the same out on a 12-0 run, including a pair of costly turnovers by Northwestern in the closing seconds.
When everything was said and done Minnesota shot 36.7% from the field, 25% from three and 10 of 24 from the free throw line while committing 17 turnovers. Northwestern was even worse, shooting 31% from the field, 27.8% from three and 41.7% from the line with no players reaching double figures. Miller Kopp has a particularly rough night going 4 of 18 from the field.
The short handed Gophers, playing without Liam Robbins and Gabe Kalscheur, will move on to face Ohio State in the second round tomorrow.
Penn State Nittany Lions 72 Nebraska Cornhuskers 66
Penn State made the first shot of the night and then didn’t have another lead until the second half. Just like the opening game, one team (Nebraska this time) opened up a sizable first half lead going up 35-20 after a Lat Mayen layup with 2:17 remaining. A pair of free throws by Trey McGowens gave Nebraska a 14 point lead at the break.
Then Penn State woke up. The Nittany Lions came out of the locker and went on a 10-0 run to cut the deficit down to four. Nebraska managed to keep the lead until a pair of Izaiah Brockington free throws gave Penn State their first lead since the opening minutes. Dalano Banton made a pair of layups for the Cornhuskers, the second coming at 6:26, then Nebraska went until 1:09 before making another basket. Over that five minute stretch the game went from a tie to a seven point deficit for the Cornhuskers.
Unlike Northwestern, Penn State managed to keep the lead after making a big comeback from an early deficit. While Northwestern couldn’t make anything in the closing minutes, Penn State made several key shots and then sealed the deal at the free throw line. Nebraska actually shot a touch better, going 40% from the field and 27.3% from three (compared to Penn State’s 35.6% and 25.9% numbers). Penn State took advantage at the line, though, making 23 of their 29 free throws. Mix that with Nebraska only shooting 11 free throws and Penn State picking up 14 offensive boards and that was the difference.
Penn State got a big night from the backcourt, with Brockington, Myreon Jones and Jamari Wheeler all scoring at least 14 points. Even reserve Sam Sessoms added 11 points from the bench.
The Nittany Lions will move on to face Wisconsin tomorrow. Nebraska finishes Fred Hoiberg’s second season the same way his first season ended, with a last place conference finish and first round exit from the Big Ten Tournament.