Big Ten Weekend in Review

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 31st, 2017

We’re now halfway through the conference slate and things still haven’t gotten much clearer in the Big Ten standings. There is a notable top four in Wisconsin, Maryland, Northwestern and Purdue, but nine of the remaining 10 teams reside in the middle of the pack with between three and five conference wins. This has led to quite a few unexpected results, including the weekend haul of Nebraska beating Purdue, Maryland staying undefeated on the road by outlasting a slipping Minnesota squad, and Rutgers very nearly pulling off the biggest upset of the Big Ten season against Wisconsin. Here’s the rest of the weekend’s highlights.

Ethan Happ (right) scored more than half of Wisconsin’s points as it defeated Rutgers on Saturday. (Getty Images).

  • Player of the Weekend: There’s no easier way to show it than to let the numbers tell the story. Ethan Happ scored 32 of Wisconsin’s 61 points in an overtime victory at Madison Square Garden. While most of the Badgers were busily clanking away from the outside (Wisconsin shot an ice-cold 12 percent from three-point range), Happ utilized his quickness advantage over CJ Gettys to cause all kinds of damage around the rim. His defensive efforts also led to four steals (the sixth time the sophomore has had more than three steals in one game this season), as the center appears well on his way to a spot on the Big Ten All-Defensive team for the second year in a row.
  • Super Sub of the Weekend: With apologies to Jack McVeigh and the 21 points he notched in leading Nebraska to an important win over Purdue, Iowa’s Brady Ellingson picked up the scoring load for the Hawkeyes in the absence of leading scorer Peter Jok. The injured senior has been a do-everything wing for a struggling team, so expectations were low heading into Saturday’s match-up with Ohio State. Instead, Ellingson scored 17 points on 5-for-7 shooting from three-point range, part of a big surge in Iowa’s bench production (44 points). In easily his most productive game in conference play, the sophomore also added four rebounds and three assists with zero turnovers. Ellingson could become a viable threat off the bench for the Hawkeyes the rest of the season.

  • Best Win: It’s too difficult to pick just one this week, so Maryland, Iowa and Nebraska all get the nod in a three-way tie. Maryland has now won six games in a row, with four of those victories coming in hostile territory. The Terrapins made 11 three-pointers against a top-20 defense, and showed that freshmen like Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter are already playing with poise and contributing. Iowa had no business winning its game against Ohio State, but the Hawkeyes shared the ball tremendously in picking up 21 assists on its 32 made field goals. Nebraska continues to simply win games no one expects, as the Cornhuskers battled for 15 offensive rebounds and held on at the end to beat Purdue.
  • Worst Loss: Ohio State looked disinterested and disjointed through most of its game against the Hawkeyes. The Buckeyes have very little depth, so a game where Trevor Thompson goes scoreless in only 13 minutes of action just doesn’t work. They didn’t play horribly but they also definitely didn’t play like a team with an outside shot at making the NCAA Tournament. This was a golden opportunity to pick up a top 100 KenPom road win, but instead Thad Matta’s squad probably now needs to win at least six of its final nine Big Ten games to feel decent about its status on the bubble.
  • Most Efficient Performance: Northwestern has improved in a number of different areas over the course of its 18-4 start. At the forefront of these improvements is how well it defends the lane. The Wildcats didn’t block many shots in their impressive Sunday night win over Indiana, but they did hold the Hoosiers to 9-of-32 shooting inside the arc. Indiana scored only 0.87 points per possession, and it goes to show that Northwestern can now depend on a defense that will keep it in most games.
Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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