Big Ten Tournament: Friday Recap/Saturday PreviewPosted by Walker Carey on March 15th, 2014
With the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament in the books, we take a look at a few of the big takeaways from Friday, as well as storylines to keep in mind on Friday.
What went down on Friday:
- Top-seeded Michigan survived a scare from a tenacious Illinois squad. The Wolverines saw a 13-point lead completely disappear before senior forward Jordan Morgan converted a layup with seven seconds left to give Michigan the 64-63 victory. The Wolverines were able to build their 13-point lead thanks to great assertiveness from sophomore Glenn Robinson III and the play-making ability of Big Ten Player of the Year, Nik Stauskas. The team’s fortunes, however, changed in the second half when Illinois dropped into a 2-3 zone that utterly frustrated Michigan throughout a majority of the second half.
- Ohio State advanced to the semifinals with an epic 71-67 comeback victory over Nebraska. The Buckeyes trailed by 18 points with just over 13 minutes to play, but junior forward LaQuinton Ross and their suffocating defense took over and allowed Thad Matta’s squad to come all the way back to earn the victory. Senior guard Aaron Craft did not have the best game statistically, but he once again showed how valuable it is to have a confident, heady leader at the controls.
- Wisconsin was very impressive in its 26-point mauling of a Minnesota team that could not find its way off the bubble. Senior guard Ben Brust turned in a career-best performance for the Badgers, finishing with a game-high 29 points. Bo Ryan’s squad also received a significant contribution from its bench, as guard Bronson Koenig and forward Nigel Hayes combined for 29 points. There have been questions all season about Wisconsin’s defense, but the Badgers were outstanding on that end of the court, limiting Minnesota to just 32.8 percent shooting for the game.
- Michigan State earned a decisive 67-51 victory over Northwestern. The Spartans were led by junior forward Branden Dawson, who turned in his best performance since returning from a broken hand at the beginning of March. Dawson poured in 16 points and collected nine rebounds in the winning effort. The Spartans also received a solid performance from senior point guard Keith Appling, who appeared to show zero ill effects from a wrist injury that had plagued him for the past several weeks.
What’s on tap for Saturday:
- Michigan and Ohio State will battle in the day’s first semifinal match-up. This will be the second game of the season between the two teams, as the Wolverines were a 10-point winner over the Buckeyes in Columbus back in February. Something to watch in Saturday’s contest will be Ohio State’s suffocating defense going up against Michigan’s explosive offense. The Wolverines have a high-scoring perimeter group led by Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert, while the Buckeyes possess a tenacious perimeter defense manned by guards Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott. Whichever team is able to control the perimeter will likely have the upper hand in this game between archrivals.
- Wisconsin and Michigan State will play in the second semifinal. The Badgers were victorious over the Spartans in their lone regular season match-up in Madison last month. Michigan State was fortunate to only lose by two in that game, as they were without the services of Keith Appling and Branden Dawson, and leading scorer Gary Harris was held to just six points on a miserable 3-of-20 shooting performance. While the perimeter will likely be the story of the first semifinal, the interior play will likely be the focus of the second semifinal. Spartans bigs Adreian Payne and Matt Costello will have their hands full with Badgers bigs Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes. What team can get the most production out of its post players will likely have the upper hand at the end of the day.