Big Ten Weekend in Review: Injuries Catch Up with ContendersPosted by Brendan Brody on January 27th, 2014
It’s been enough of an ordeal for Michigan State to try to win B1G games and stay in the top five of the national polls without injured superstar Adreian Payne. The combination of Payne and Branden Dawson (broken hand) out of the lineup, coupled with a scorching hot Michigan team, led to the Spartans’ first conference loss on Saturday evening. Meanwhile Nebraska proved that it is going to be a tough out any time teams have to travel to Lincoln this season. The Cornhuskers moved to 9-1 at home with their Sunday night win over a Minnesota squad playing its first game without an injured Andre Hollins (ankle). Despite the loss, Malik Smith stepped in for Hollins and put up 29 points on 8-of-12 shooting from behind the arc. Here arethe rest of the peaks and valleys from weekend number four of Big Ten play.
Player of the Weekend: Terran Petteway: The season Petteway is getting greatly overlooked due to Nebraska’s mediocre record. The transfer from Texas Tech has been getting buckets in a variety of ways all season long, and this was fully evident over the weekend against the Gophers. He went for a career-high 35 points, shooting 10-of-15 from the field, including 4-of-6 from three, six boards, three assists, a steal and a block. Minnesota had no answer for him, as he continually burned the Gophers from deep and by getting into the lane whenever he wanted. Nebraska has a nice core to build around for future years, and Petteway has the chance to be at the forefront of this renaissance.
Super Sub of the Weekend: Gabriel Olaseni: It seems as though someone from Iowa could get this award every weekend. They’ve had numerous bench members step forward at various points this season already, and Olaseni was the latest to come off of the pine and contribute in a big way during an Iowa victory. He is normally known for his ability to block shots, but he tied Roy Devyn Marble for the team high in scoring with 14 in Saturday’s 76-50 win at Northwestern. He also notched 10 rebounds in that game, tallying his third double-double of the year. These would be pretty good numbers for a whole game, but he accomplished it in only 17 minutes of action. Michigan State would be wise to not forget about Olaseni when the Spartans game plan for Tuesday night’s showdown in Iowa City.
Best Freshman Performance: Derrick Walton Jr: If this was the instance where the light came on for Walton, then Michigan just got exponentially better. The biggest bugaboo for the freshman point guard has been turnovers, but he only coughed the ball up once in Saturday’s showdown for first place. Michigan won the back-and-forth affair, 80-75, with Walton contributing 19 points and four assists to key the victory. He fearlessly knocked down 7-of-8 at the line in the last two minutes, and he also hit some key three-pointers to keep Michigan trending forward. The biggest story for the Wolverines after the injury of Mitch McGary has been Nik Stauskas morphing into a Canadian JJ Redick, but the point guard play of Walton and Spike Albrecht has been really good during Michigan’s nine-game winning streak.
Most Important Win: Michigan took over sole possession of first place after its Saturday night win over its archrival. They’ve survived the gauntlet of playing three top 10 teams in three games, and have gone from a shaky bubble team to a potential top three seed come NCAA Tournament time. With Michigan State’s injury woes and the schedule backing off slightly over their next three games (home against Purdue, at Indiana, and home against Nebraska), John Beilein’s squad has put itself in a great position to make a run at winning the league.
Worst Loss: Illinois was already on life support after dropping five games in a row, but the Illini might be lucky to just get an NIT bid at this point. They dropped a rock fight to Indiana on Sunday afternoon, scoring a measly 0.72 points per possession in the contest. They weren’t lighting up scoreboards when things were going well, but now the offense is in a shambles. It’s turned into a situation where teams just have to take away or contain Rayvonte Rice and they’ll have a great chance to win the game. The upperclassmen have seemingly lost all of their collective confidence, and the freshman just aren’t ready yet.