Big Ten Weekend in Review: The Plot ThickensPosted by Brendan Brody on February 17th, 2014
After Michigan got beaten pretty badly at home against Wisconsin early Sunday afternoon, Michigan State knew that all they had to do was beat Nebraska at home to take over sole possession of first place in the league. The broadcasters even said that the Spartans were watching the Michigan game in the locker room before their game. So of course Sparty got upset by the Cornhuskers because nothing is normal in the 2013-14 Big Ten season. With Wisconsin and Iowa winning over the weekend, there are now four teams within two games of the top spot. With all of these teams playing against each other next weekend (Michigan State at Michigan, Wisconsin at Iowa), absolutely nothing has been settled with three weekends left in the conference schedule. Minnesota got an important win at Northwestern to keep their tourney hopes alive, Purdue annihilated Indiana, and Ohio State and Illinois combined for a whopping 87 points. Here’s the rest of the weekend rundown.
Player of the Weekend: Frank Kaminsky: This was probably the closest contest so far in the seven weeks of doling out this prestigious award. Sterling Carter and Melsaan Basabe were also worthy candidates, but Kaminsky gets the nod. He destroyed the Wolverines all day, and surprisingly did the majority of his damage inside the paint. In his other games this season where he’s gone for over 20 points, he did so by taking a good number of threes. Specifically, in his 43-point monsoon against North Dakota, Kaminsky went 6-for-6 from three and 4-for-7 on two’s. Sunday afternoon, he only took 2 shots from behind the arc. He was 10-for 14 on two’s and did a good deal of damage on the boards (4 offensive rebounds, 11 total). Kaminsky was as aggressive as he’s been all season trying to corral rebounds, and he attacked the basket the whole game. If he and Nigel Hayes can provide consistent paint points for the Badgers to go along with the ever-present outside attack, then Wisconsin just got a lot more dangerous.
Super Sub of the Weekend:Maurice Walker: Walker once again came in and provided a much-needed spark for the Gophers in a weekend win. He didn’t nearly have as good of a game as he did against Indiana last weekend, but he put up 8 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks in 24 minutes. The biggest play he made wasn’t in the box score however, as he took a crucial charge on Drew Crawford with 0:33 left and the Gophers up 49-44. Walker and Deandre Mathieu were the main reasons why Minnesota took control of the game in the second half after being down 28-25 at the half.
Biggest Win: Nebraska played their way into being discussed somewhat seriously for NCAA Tournament consideration after going to East Lansing and beating Michigan State. They sit at 14-10 overall, but more importantly they are 6-6 in the conference. They’ve proven to be very difficult to beat in Lincoln, but now they have a quality road win to hang their hat on for when March 16 rolls around. The combination of a stingy defense that didn’t allow Adreian Payne to hurt them inside, coupled with some porous shooting from deep for the Spartans were the keys to getting the victory. Walter Pitchford and Terran Petteway hit some clutch shots, and Tim Miles’ program continued to show their progress that will be evident with wins like this, with or without an NCAA berth.
Worst Loss: Illinois and their offensive ineptitude were on full display Saturday night in their home loss to Ohio State. The Illini more than likely (I mean they could still run the table in the Big Ten tournament in theory) said goodbye to their chances of making the NCAA Tournament a while ago, but this game was a new low. They scored only 0.66 points per possession and had only 16 second-half points. They shot 27% from the field and got only 2 points from their bench. This wasn’t the worst loss of the weekend in terms of resumes, but simply because the performance was that bad.
Best Defensive Performance: Coincidentally, Ohio State gets the nod for the best defensive performance of the weekend. The Buckeyes are known for their defense, and if they play against an offense that is struggling to put points on the board, you get what occurred on Saturday night. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott combined for 10 steals, and Sam Thompson blocked 3 shots. Ohio State played aggressively, yet they only committed 12 fouls and only allowed Illinois to shoot 4 free throws. They held the Illini to 33.0% eFG for the game, and definitely didn’t hurt their numbers as the third-ranked defensive efficiency unit in the country.