Big Ten Weekend in Review

Posted by Brendan Brody on February 7th, 2017

Chaos has been a commonality throughout this Big Ten season and it was on full display Saturday afternoon when all four road teams won games in opposing venues. Purdue earned possibly its biggest win of the season by coming back from a double-figure deficit in the second half to knock off Maryland. Rutgers won its first conference road game of the year by besting Penn State in Happy Valley. Fading Minnesota picked up a much needed road win at Illinois. Finally, Ohio State won a battle of two teams that have become increasingly difficult to figure out by beating Michigan in Ann Arbor. Things normalized a bit on Sunday with Wisconsin taking sole possession of first place in defeating Indiana at home, while Iowa likewise held serve in its own gym against Nebraska. There are now only four weekends left in the regular season, so look for more surprises as the pressure intensifies and the calendar flips to March. Here’s the best and worst of the Big Ten from the first weekend of February.

Corey Sanders led Rutgers to its second conference win in scoring 25 points as they knocked off Penn State (USA Today Images)

  • Player of the Weekend: Corey Sanders started off the 2016-17 campaign by figuring out how to adequately co-exist with Kansas State transfer Nigel Johnson in the Rutgers backcourt. Things have improved for the sophomore in recent weeks, however, as the dynamic point guard has scored in double figures in nine of his last 10 games. He’s taken over primary ball-handling duties, which has led to a more effective Rutgers offense. Sanders was dominant on Saturday, scoring 25 points and making 4-of-5 threes in leading Rutgers to its first ever Big Ten road victory. He also notched six rebounds, four assists and three steals. The Scarlet Knights are hoping that they can ride his enhanced scoring to a handful more wins to close out the regular season.
  • Super Sub of the Weekend: Iowa’s Nicholas Baer has drawn comparisons to Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ during a couple of Big Ten telecasts this season because he call fill up the stat sheet without providing the most beautiful of performances. The sophomore wing contributed seven points, six rebounds and three blocks against Nebraska on Sunday, cementing his status as Iowa’s second best player, regardless of whether he he starts or comes off the Hawkeyes’ bench.

  • Best Win: Of the four road wins this weekend, Purdue coming back to win in College Park is the best of the bunch. Maryland for most of the game would not let the Boilermakers get anything in the paint, but the beauty of Purdue’s offense is that one working area opens things elsewhere on the floor. A flurry of second half threes cut into the 12-point deficit, which allowed Caleb Swanigan to finally make some headway in the paint. Swanigan finished the game with 26 points, 17 of which came after halftime. Purdue now sits at 8-3 in league play with a crucial head-to-head win against Wisconsin. There’s still a chance for the Boilermakers to win the regular season title, but only because of the Saturday afternoon comeback win at Maryland.
  • Worst Loss: Penn State is one of many up-and-down teams that populate the Big Ten this season. The Nittany Lions have beaten Michigan State and Minnesota, while losing twice to Indiana. Their effort against Rutgers on Saturday was one of its poorest outings of the season. Penn State made only 36 percent of its two-point shots, turned the ball over on 21 percent of its possessions, and allowed 15 offensive rebounds. They are now 12-12 on the season (4-7 Big Ten), and Pat Chambers may be staring at a make-or-break season in 2017-18.
  • Most Efficient Performance: Aside from some issues keeping Nebraska off of the offensive glass, Iowa put together one of its most well-played games of the season in Iowa City on Sunday. The Hawkeyes were the only team all weekend to top over 1.10 points per possession, ending up with 1.17 where they assisted on 81.5 percent of their 27 made field goals. They also had the best eFG percentage of any of the teams in the conference with a 54.3 percent mark, shooting 9-of-19 on the deep ball. After a shaky first half defensively, they ended up holding Nebraska to 1.01 points per possession.
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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