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Saturday, July 20, 2019

This Week in the Big Ten: Weekend’s Upsets Make for Interesting Conference Race

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Photo Caption: Led by senior guard Courtney Boylan’s game-high 19 points on a six-of-10 from the field, plus six rebounds, Michigan handed Ohio State its first loss of the season Saturday, upsetting the balance of power in the Big Ten conference. This week, the Wolverines will attempt to carry that momentum with them to Penn State while the Buckeyes look to bounce back against visiting Northwestern.

Photo Credit: Courtesy University of Michigan/Martin Violet

By Mark Bradford

Now that is what I call a Big Ten weekend!

Of course, the multiple upsets cost us on on our Full Court prediction ratings, but they made the conference race really fun to watch. 

Saturday began the toppling of the dominoes, as Michigan State upset Penn State, 75-65, on the Lady Lions’ own home floor despite a valiant second-half comeback effort spearheaded by Maggie Lucas.

Then Kevin Borseth proved he’s still got Ohio State’s number, as his Michigan Wolverines handed the Buckeyes their first loss of the season, 73-62. Suddenly, Purdue, Michigan State, and Nebraska are all 3-0 at the top of the conference, while Ohio State and Michigan are tied in the second tier at 2-1.

The excitement continued on Sunday. Though you can’t really call them upsets, Nebraska pulled out a squeaker against Iowa, 77-72 (exactly the outcome—and margin—we predicted).

Then Wisconsin pulled out its first conference win of the season, handing Illinois its third straight conference loss, 70-67. That was not what we had predicted for the home-standing Illini.

Rounding out the weekend’s action, Northwestern took a 69-61 “W” at Indiana.

For the record, I was 2-3 in my predictions for the weekend, taking my record down a few notches to 15-5 for 75 percent for the conference season. My ego is battered and bruised, but in my heart of hearts, a wide-open conference battle is way more fun than worrying about my prediction rating.

Summing Up the Weekend’s Results

Saturday, January 7, 2012

  • Michigan State 75 @ Penn State 65
  • Ohio State 62 @ Michigan 73

Sunday, January 8, 2012

  • Northwestern 69 @ Indiana 61
  • Wisconsin 70 @ Illinois 67
  • Nebraska 77 @ Iowa 72

A Look Back at Last Weekend’s Action

Michigan State 75, Penn State 65

Michigan State (11-5, 3-0) came out fast and never let up in the first half, vaulting to a 46-24 first half-lead on the strength of an 8-11 effort from the three-point arc. The Spartan sharpshooting was all the more remarkable, given that Michigan State averaged only 31 percent from long range coming into the game.

Spartan senior Taylor Alton went four-for-four from downtown during the opening half in which MSU also outrebounded No. 19 Penn State, 24-15 and forced 14 turnovers. Meanwhile, the Lady Lions shot an embarrassing one-for-nine (11.1 percent) from three-point range and 11-32 (34.4 percent) overall for the period.

The second half belonged to Maggie Lucas (game-high 33 points, five boards, three assists) as the Nittany Lions tried to crawl back into contention. Lucas was nothing short spectacular, with a 28-point second half, pulling her team to within four with 3:15 to go.

In the end, however, Lucas, the only Lady Lions’ player to post double figures, did not get enough help from her friends. Alex Bentley was held to just four points and two rebounds.

Penn State head coach Coquese Washington acknowledged, “I will say we didn’t get enough offense out of our post game. ... There is no need to lay the blame at any one or two people. We had open shots. They just didn’t fall. That is going to happen.”

As the game wound down, Penn State was unable to get over the hump as freshman Kiara Johnson rescued the Spartans, scoring eight of her team’s last 10 points to finish with a career-high 18, plus a team-high five assists, for the outing.

Alton too had an outstanding outing, finishing with a career-high 20 points, including six-of-nine from beyond the arc, despite being ill.

“It’s funny because I didn’t have a good morning. I caught a touch of the bug I think,” Alton said. “I really wasn’t feeling my best physically, but I was able to focus. I was just able to stay mentally sharp and help the team as much as possible.”

Alton got plenty of help from her teammates, including not only Johnson, but also seniors Porsche Poole, who chipped in 12 points, and Lykendra Johnson, who logged a double-double of 10 points and 15 boards.

Michigan State coach Suzi Merchant said her game plan was to control tempo.

“We didn’t want them to get going in transition (on offense),” she said. “We were making shots and that makes it much easier to get back on defense.”

For her part, Penn State’s Washington blamed the first-half collapse on poor defense.

“The biggest thing defensively was we weren’t communicating,” she said.  “We were very silent on the defensive end. With team defense, you have to talk about what’s happening on the floor. We were playing very individual defense. We weren’t talking about what was going on in the zone. We weren’t rotating enough.”

Washington must have gotten her point across in the locker room, as Penn State held the high-flying Spartans to just eight-of-28 (28.6 percent) from the field and three-of-12 (25 percent) from the arc in the second half.

The loss cost Penn State (11-4, 1-2) its national ranking in the AP media poll; the Lady Lions cling to the No. 25 spot in this week’s coaches’ poll.

Michigan 73, Ohio State 62

In Saturday’s second upset, Michigan (13-3, 2-1) continued its hex over head coach Jim Foster’s Buckeyes through a combination of solid defense and a series of runs. The first half saw 12 lead changes, but Michigan carried a 32-27 lead into halftime.

Once the Wolverines got their foot on the throttle, they used a quick 11-3 run early in the second half to lengthen the lead, taking a 43-30 advantage with 13:43 on the clock, and allowing Ohio State to get back into it.

Led by senior guard Courtney Boylan’s game-high 19 points on a six-of-10 from the field, Michigan shot 54.3 percent (25-of-46) from the field and 45.5 percent (five-of-11) from the three-point arc.

Meanwhile, Michigan’s defense held the Buckeyes to 29.6 percent (eight-of-27) from the field and 22.2 percent (two-of-nine) in the opening 20 minutes. While Ohio State substantially improved its field-goal percentage in the second-half (43.3 percent, on 13-of-30 shooting from the floor), they continued to flounder at the arc (three-for-12 or 25 percent) in the second period.

Each team maximized its offense production by taking advantage of turnovers, with the Wolverines tallying 21 points off Ohio State’s 15 turnovers, and the Buckeyes garnering 24 points from Michigan’s 17 miscues.

For the Buckeyes (15-1, 2-1 Big Ten), who came into the game undefeated and were looking to extend their longest winning streak since 2007 to 16 games, the combination of Michigan’s energy and a slow start from their two leading scorers was too much.

“It’s inevitable it’s going to happen,” Jim Foster said. “You can’t act like it’s going to happen. Maybe what’s taken place is that our post players have gotten very comfortable letting our guards dictate the tempo of the game not thinking they’re responsible. But they’re responsible.”

OSU guard Samantha Prahalis was more than a little miffed at her performance. “For me to play that bad is embarrassing,” she said.

To some extent, Prahalis’s remarks provide insight into the high standards to which she holds herself. She led Ohio State with 17 points, plus four boards, three assists (but three turnovers), two steals and a block. Back-court mate Tayler Hill added 15 points, plus six assists and four steals.

However, Prahalis and Hill were a combined two-of-15 (13.3 percent) from beyond the arc, and no other Buckeye player broke the double-digit scoring barrier.

As for Michigan, in addition to Boylan’s game-high 19 points and six boards, center Rachel Scheffer added 11 points and four rebounds, and Sam Arnold came off the bench to contribute 13 points.

Meanwhile, Wolverines junior Nya Jordan made her first start since last season when an ACL tear suffered in Michigan’s December 30, 2010 victory over Ohio State ended her season prematurely. Jordan may have a way to go before she is back to full strength; she logged eight points and two assists, but five turnovers, in 33 minutes on the floor.

Northwestern 69, Indiana 61

The Wildcats had not won in Bloomington since 1998 and had lost 12 of their last 13 contests against Indiana. But on Sunday, Northwestern bid adieu to that losing streak, taking a 69-61 win over their hosts for their first win in Big Ten Conference play this season.

Aulani Sinclair played well for Indiana in the first half on her way to a team-high 17 points and Jasmine McGhee added 14 points and eight boards.

But in the end, Northwestern (11-5, 1-2) had too many horses, and the Hoosiers (5-12, 0-4) could not keep up. 

It was not for want of trying, however. Each time the Wildcats threatened to pull away, Indiana would battle back. Down six (11-19) in the opening half, the Hoosier spun off a 13-5 run to tie the game at 24. Northwestern replied with a 14-2 of its own, to take a 12-point lead (38-26) with two minutes and change remaining in the period, but Indiana again buckled down to cut the gap to 32-38 by the break.

The ‘Cats opened the second half on an 8-0 run, later stretching that lead to as many as 17 points, only to see the Hoosiers claw their way back into it, whittling the lead down to three (64-61) with just 32 ticks left on the clock.

But by then, the Hoosiers were forced to foul, and Northwestern did their job at the line, knocking down five-of-six free throws in the waning seconds to set the final margin.

In the end, turnovers determined the outcome. Northwestern did a good job of maintaining their grip on the basketball, giving up only 12 turnovers from which Indiana gleaned nine points.

Meanwhile, the Hoosiers coughed the ball up 20 times (to just eight assists)—many of them unforced (each team had just six steals for the game). The Wildcats turned those errors into 25 points.

Northwestern’s Dannielle Diamant led all scorers with 20 points and nine rebounds while Morgan Jones and Kendall Hackney each had 15 points and eight rebounds.

Wisconsin 70, Illinois 67

In Sunday’s second game between teams that until then were winless in conference play, coach Jolette Law’s Fighting Illini (6-11, 1-3) lost their third straight heartbreaker and now have a week off to prepare for Northwestern.

At home against Wisconsin (5-11, 1-3), the Illini hit nine of their first 12 shots, including 4-4 from beyond the arc and zoomed out to a 22-10 lead with 11:35 to go in the first half. 

But for a team still trying to gel, Wisconsin did a good job of holding it together, slowly climbing back into it. By halftime, the Badgers trailed by just two, 37-39, as both teams shot the lights out in the opening period.

The Illini launched the second period with a 7-0 run, but the Badgers still refused to be shaken. Wisconsin’s Taylor Wurtz drained a jumper at the 17:14 mark that not only staunched the bleeding for the Badgers but also ignited an 8-1 Wisconsin run that tied the game at 47-all with just under 14 minutes remaining.

From there the two teams traded blows and short runs until with just seven seconds remaining in regulation, Wisconsin’s Morgan Paige knocked down two pressure-packed free throws given the Badgers a 70-67 lead and hand first-year coach Bobbie Kelsey her first Big Ten victory.

The Illini still had a prayer, but their hopes ended when Amber Moore’s game-tying three-pointer missed as time expired.

The loss spoiled another great game by Illinois’s Kersten Magrum (game-high 20 points) and a double-double by (18 points, 12 rebounds) for Karisma Penn.

Wisconsin was led by 19 points from Taylor Wurtz, 18 by Anya Covington, and 13 by Paige.

Nebraska 77, Iowa 72

In Sunday’s most exciting Big Ten game, these two teams fought tooth-and-nail until Iowa (10-7, 2-2) appeared to tire with about eight minutes to play and Nebraska (14-1, 3-0) took advantage.

The Hawkeyes led it 56-51, with just under 10 minutes to play, but Meghin Williams reversed the momentum, draining a three-pointer (her first of the season) and following it up with a bucket seconds later to tie the score at 56.

The junior forward, who has struggled with injuries throughout her career, took only two shots from the field in her 17 minutes off the bench, but made them both, then added two (of two) from the penalty stripe to finish with a career-high seven points and six rebounds, and prove that a role player who is ready to do her job when called upon can indeed by the hero of the game.

For the most part, however, it was the Lindsay Moore show, as the junior point guard netted 22 points on six-of-eight (75 percent) from the field, pulled down seven boards, dished out nine assists (to just three turnovers) and snatched two steals for a near-perfect all-around game.

Sophomore center Jordan Hooper added 17 points and four boards, and freshman forward Emily Cady contributed 14 points and three rebounds (all of which point toward good times ahead for the Huskers).

“That was a fun game to be a part of,” said Nebraska head coach Connie Yori. “Obviously, it is more fun when you win the game, but that was a fun game to watch. Lindsey made so many plays for us in the second half, but it was also great to have some other players step up to help us win. We needed all of them today.”

Jaime Printy had a game-high 27 points, while Morgan Johnson posted a double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds, for Iowa which now gets a week off.

Perhaps Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said it best: “[Nebraska star] Jordan Hooper and Lindsey Moore were too much for us. I thought they made some big‑time shots when they had to, when the game was on the line, and those two players stepped up and made huge shots for Nebraska.  And I thought Hooper made some really tough shots, contested shots, people in her face and she was still able to put them down.

“Second half, we got out‑rebounded so badly,” Bluder continued of her Hawkeyes, who were out-boarded 28-34 for the game as a whole. “We gave up a lot of possessions, got out‑rebounded by nine in the second half and that’s not good.  But basically, they hit threes; we didn’t.  We had more shoots on baskets than they did.”
Iowa was able to score 36 points in the paint, but lost the game outside the arc where they were 2-16 (12.5 percent) while Nebraska was 10-19 (52.6 percent).


Current Standings

As of January 9, 2012
Standing Team Conference Pct.   Overall Pct.
1. Nebraska 3-0 1.000   14-1 .933
2. Purdue 3-0 1.000   13-3 .812
3. Michigan State 3-0 1.000   11-5 .688
4. OhioState 2-1 .667   15-1 .938
5. Michigan 2-1 .667   13-3 .812
6. Minnesota 2-1 .667   10-7 .588
7. Iowa 2-2 .500   10-7 .588
8. Penn State 1-2 .333   11-4 .733
9. Northwestern 1-2 .333   11-5 .688
10. Wisconsin 1-3 .250   5-11 .312
11. Illinois 0-3 .000   6-11 .353
12. Indiana 0-3 .000   5-12 .294


Source: BigTen.org/Women’s Basketball Standings


Coming Up Thursday, January 12

Editor’s Note: Full Court’s Big Ten correspondent Mark Bradford went 4-1 in his predictions for this round of midweek, improving his prediction record to 13-2 after three rounds of games.



Though he’d done it twice before, last season, Coach Kevin Borseth’s team surprised many with the Wolverines’ win over Ohio State on Sunday. He attributed it to his players’ unselfish attitude toward scoring.

“We have an equal-opportunity offense,” he said. “I think we try to share the ball, and we try to take advantage of situations. Sometimes it is a mismatch on the perimeter, and sometimes it’s a mismatch inside. We just try to take care of the ball. Sometimes, it looks like organized chaos to me, but if you go back and look at the film you can see that our goal is to take care of the ball and not turn it over.”

The Wolverines cough the ball up just 14 times per game, which doesn’t sound bad until you consider that despite Borseth’s claims, his team averages only 13.75 assists per outing. What they do accomplish is to force more turnovers per game by opponents (17.6) and to allow fewer dishes (11.4).

Moreover, they are not a dominating rebounding team, pulling down 34.4 boards per game but allowing 35.8 per game by opponents, for a negative margin of -1.4 rebounds per game. That may bring them difficulty in Happy Valley where the Lady Lions outboard their opponents 43.8-to-41.4 rebounds per game (a +3.4 rebound-per-game margin).

With the OSU win under their belts, and the Nittany Lions coming off a humbling defeat by Michigan State, Michigan carries the momentum. Still, Penn State head coach Coquese Washington is arguing against early-season panic despite her team’s current 1-2 record in conference play.

“There are 13 games left, which isn’t a big hole,“ said Washington. “ We don’t worry about that. Last year the media tried to write Ohio State off halfway through the season. The coaches told everyone that Ohio State would turn it around. There is so much basketball left. It’s not even funny.”

Prediction: Penn State will have trouble against Michigan, a team on a roll. This is a tossup. Thanks to home-court advantage, we’ll call it, Penn State by two.

When: Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012, 6:00 p.m. EST, Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, Penn. (BTN)



Nothing looks good for the Hoosiers in this one. Michigan State has won 26 of their last 30 Big Ten games and it is doubtful that coach Suzi Merchant will allow her team to take this contest for granted as they look forward to hosting Ohio State on Sunday.

Indiana is developing a trend of playing well in short spurts and then turning the ball over at key moments. That is never a good thing. The Spartans are tough defensively and the Hoosiers have problems shooting.

Prediction: This should be a 20-point blowout in favor of Michigan State and could be even more if Merchant decides to press the issue.

When: Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012, 7:00 p.m. EST, Breslin Center, East Lansing, Mich (BTN.com)


No. 11/13 OHIO STATE


Just a guess, but Samantha Prahalis is very likely to go big in this game. Northwestern is an improving team but they are headed into an angry beehive after Jim Foster’s team suffered their first loss of the season at Michigan last weekend.

Foster chided his bigs for letting Tayler Hill and Prahalis do all the work and that needs to be corrected. The Buckeyes are the most athletic team in the conference but are not the deepest. Unfortunately, for the Wildcats, this is a game in which the Buckeyes are on the rebound. The loss to Michigan either served as a wakeup call, or it destroyed their confidence. My guess is that it is a wakeup call.

Prediction: Buckeyes by 15.

When: Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012, 7:00 p.m. EST, Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio

No. 15/23 NEBRASKA


Wisconsin is improving but Nebraska should have no problem in this game, despite the Huskers’ prolonged road trip. The combination of Jordan Hooper and Lindsey Moore are tough to contain. The Badgers’ first conference win over Illinois should give them a boost but was attributable only in part to Wisconsin’s growing proficiency. The rest of the equation was a lack of confidence on the part of the Illini. Nebraska has no lack of confidence.

Prediction: Look for Nebraska by 15.

When: Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012, 8:00 p.m. EST/7:00 p.m. CST, Kohl Center, Madison, Wisc. (BTN.com, Husker Sports Network)



Purdue coach Sharon Versyp has nine players who average 15 minutes or more per game but there is no question that Brittany Raynburn (13.7 ppg) runs the show for the Boilers. Sam Osterello averages 7.7 rebounds. 

Opponents are averaging only 52 points per game against Purdue, while the Boilers’ control offense averages 60. Rayburn, KK Houser, and Courtney Moses have adjusted and embraced the four-guard offense. Purdue has won six in a row.

Minnesota is coming off a road win at Northwestern. The key to this game will be whether Purdue can shut down freshman sensation Rachel Banham. Banham already leads Minnesota at 15 points per game,  And minutes per game at 34. On Monday, the Big Ten announced that Banham had swept its weekly honors, capturing both its Player of the Week and its Freshman of the Week selections, after averaging 23.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists, and shooting 87.5 percent (seven-for-eight) from three-point range, in last week’s two Minnesota victories.

But has Minnesota adjusted enough to this new star to overcome an experienced team like Purdue? 

Prediction: My guess is no, even on their home floor. Purdue wins by five.

When: Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012, 8:00 p.m. EST/7:00 p.m. CST, Williams Arena, Minneapolis, Minn.

Originally published Mon, January 09, 2012

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