Big Ten Weekend in Review: Illinois and Indiana Mount Late ChargesPosted by Brendan Brody on March 3rd, 2014
With the drama pretty much settled at the top of the Big Ten standings, the biggest storyline to emerge from the weekend was the fact that Illinois and Indiana have rallied back to the point of respectability. Illinois shocked Michigan State 53-46 in East Lansing and has now won four of their last six games. Indiana was missing its Freshman of the Year candidate Noah Vonleh, yet still won over Ohio State 72-64 in a game that wasn’t really as close as the final score indicated. The Hoosiers have now won three of their last four contests and sit at 17-12 (7-9 in the Big Ten) on the season. Illinois is also 17-12 overall, with a 6-10 league mark. It’s still unlikely that either team will make its way to the right side of the bubble, but they’re inching closer and have meaningful games left this week that could help their respective causes. Iowa got back on track with a win over Purdue; Michigan continued to roll; and Wisconsin won its seventh game in a row. Here’s some of the rest from the weekend that was.
Player of the Weekend: Roy Devyn Marble: Marble continues to be slightly overlooked as a defensive player, as his length and wingspan are vital in Iowa’s 1-2-2 trapping half-court zone. Marble reached four or more steals for the fourth time this season, as Iowa forced 16 Purdue turnovers in its win on Sunday. He also did his normal damage on the offensive end as well, scoring 13 of his 21 points in the first half. He needed 18 shots from the field to get there, but this was more a function of Purdue’s defense as opposed to Marble forcing anything. He ended the game with team highs in points (21), assists (five), and steals (four).
Super Sub of the Weekend: Evan Gordon: Gordon and fellow senior Will Sheehey have really played well in the past week as Indiana won two out of three games. Gordon did nothing spectacular on Sunday, but he was really steady as a secondary ball-handler along with Yogi Ferrell. He knocked down pressure free throws in the late stages of the game once again, scoring nine points on the afternoon. He also got three steals as the Hoosiers were able to frustrate Aaron Craft into another horrible offensive game where the senior went 2-of-11 from the field with three turnovers. It looks as though Tom Crean is starting to lean on his seniors in the closing stages of games, as Gordon, Sheehey, and Jeff Howard saw time down the stretch in the win.
Biggest Win: Illinois knocked off a reeling Michigan State outfit in its own gym Saturday afternoon to move to 6-10 in league play. With Branden Dawson finally giving Sparty a healthy lineup, the hype going into the game was about how this would be when the Spartans turned back into a Final Four contender. The Illini did not let this happen, however, as they continued with their run of stout defensive performances. They held Michigan State to a pedestrian 0.82 points per possession, and didn’t allow anyone other than Gary Harris to score more than seven points for the game. Offensively, they showed great balance, as no one took more than nine attempts from the field. It was too much of the Rayvonte Rice Show at times, but adding Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn to the starting unit has helped balance things out in that regard. With games left against two Tournament teams in Michigan and Iowa, things could get interesting with the Illini’s overall profile if they were to win both of those games.
Worst Loss: While the above loss that Michigan State took at the hands of Illinois was bad, Ohio State losing to Indiana was worse. With Noah Vonleh not playing, the Buckeyes were still outrebounded by two. They also managed to go 0-of-11 from distance, turned the ball over on 19 percent of their possessions, and allowed Indiana to shoot 7-of-18 from three. When Ohio State can’t score, their defense has to be elite. And on Sunday, no one could score except LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr., and their defense wasn’t at its best. They now are 9-8 in Big Ten play after starting the season 15-0, and there has to be many doubts in Columbus about whether this team is capable of making a March run.
Best Team Offensive Performance: Wisconsin scored 1.13 points per possession in its 71-66 win over Penn State. They went 19-of-24 from the charity stripe and enjoyed a 1.88 assist-to-turnover ratio. They got assists on 68.2 percent of their field goals, and although they only knocked down a third of their three-pointers, they had a 52.0 percent eFG for the day. Ben Brust and Josh Gasser led the way, as both players had offensive ratings over 140.0 and combined to make seven of their 13 three-point attempts between them. Nigel Hayes also did a tremendous job in passing out of the post, as he notched a career-high four assists.