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Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week

Darius Morris

Darius MorrisDarius MorrisFor the second time in two weeks, a Big Ten player recorded a triple-double. Josh Gasser finished with 10 point, 10 assists, and 12 rebounds against Northwestern. Darius Morris had a similar 12 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebound stat line on Sunday against Iowa. As impressive as that game is for Morris, it might not have been his best game of the week. Michigan went into East Lansing having not beaten Michigan State there since 1997, and Darius Morris led the Wolverines to victory over the Spartans. He finished with 17 points on 7-10 shooting, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. While the stat line itself might not appear to be greater than his game against Iowa, his points and assists Morris directly contributed to 39 of the team’s 61 points on the night. The one assist he recorded per create does not do his performance justice when so many of his assists went from three points. Morris has had a number of big games this year, but none were bigger than his game on Thursday night.

The week started for Morris with a team meeting where the players acknowledged that they had not been playing as hard as they could have been. The team had lost six games in a row, and the team appeared to be regressing. Those two games showed how good Michigan can play. Next week’s road games at Ohio State and Penn State take the challenge of the team to the next level.

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Talor Battle’s big second half

Ed DeChellis was 0-12 against Wisconsin since taking the Penn State job, and when down 29-20 to the Badgers appeared headed towards 0-13. Then, Talor Battle dropped in 20 of his 22 points in the second half while also adding 4 rebounds and an assist to lift the Nittany Lions to 5-4 in conference play. After struggling to a 1-5 shooting half, he finished 7-16 shooting. The win over Wisconsin capped off a big week for Penn State and Battle. Earlier in the week, Battle put in 23 points on 8-13 shooting in a 65-51 win over Iowa. At 4-1 at home in league play, Penn State is keeping itself in the mix for an NCAA bid. They have put together three good wins against Michigan State, Illinois, and Wisconsin to go with a solid non-conference win over now 15-5 Duquesne. They are probably still a long shot to make the real run for a tournament bid with the schedule they have remaining, but with 68 teams they have a better chance than two years ago.

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The Disappearing Offense of Illinois

The Big Ten season began with Illinois looking like a potential offensive juggernaut. They opened the conference season shooting 86-133 from the field and averaged 81 points per game over their first three games. Since then, they have lost four out of five games, and on Tuesday night lost a game in which they looked lifeless. Their wins over Maryland, North Carolina, Gonzaga, and Wisconsin have given them a good amount of tournament equity, but this was a team with the potential to be more than just a team that makes the tournament. When Demetri McCamey was getting into the middle and creating and the skilled wings and big men of the Illini were hitting their shots, they looked like a team that could get to the second weekend in the tournament. As of right now, it is hard to see that happening when they have struggled to score and lost five of their last six games outside Champaign.

Top 5: Big Ten Upsets of the Week

1. Michigan at Michigan State, 61-57. Only a couple days after dismissing Korie Lucious, the Spartan bench combined for 1-4 shooting and 22 points over a collective 39 minutes. The Wolverines entered the week as the worst rebounding team in the league, and for only the second time in conference play outrebounded their opponent. In a season with high expectations and middling results, this loss is the one that raises the real possibility of Michigan State being a bubble team in March. The close call that followed up against Indiana did not ease concerns.

2. Penn State vs. Wisconsin, 56-52. As mentioned earlier, Battle’s big second half led Penn State to the come from behind win. Also key to the upset for the Nittany Lions was holding Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer to 2 points after the break.

3. Indiana vs. Illinois, 52-49. Make no mistake, this was a sloppy and poorly played game by both teams. Neither team was able to do much of anything offensively, and it was not really the result of good defense. Illinois was getting the same kind of shots that they were making with regularity earlier in the year. They were also missing a ton of shots in the paint. Even in the waning seconds, Illinois was able to get two good looks to tie the game. The difference in the game was that while the Illini were repeatedly missing, Indiana was able to get enough shots from Jordan Hulls to drop to pull it out.

4. Tom Crean’s Reaction to Beating Illinois. Who would have guessed it? Tom Crean had assembled an extremely impressive resume prior to taking the Indiana job. He transitioned Marquette from being a competitive Conference USA program to a competitive Big East program, and his time there included a Final Four appearance. After winning a mid-week home game against a conference opponent they had been competitive with in the two years prior celebrated in the lobby of Assembly Hall like he had just beaten Illinois with Cal Tech’s players. While the rebuilding of Indiana post-Kelvin Sampson has been more difficult than he had probably envisioned, he is still coaching Indiana. They have five national championships. The players he has are not markedly worse than that of Illinois, the Hoosier have brought in recruits over the past three years too. Far too often his team does not guard anyone, but they are not the same talent-depleted team they were two years ago. It is surprising to say the least that a coach who has accomplished all that he has would react to a win in the way he did. Steve Lavin had a pretty big win on Sunday too, and he didn’t take a victory lap in the MSG lobby.

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5. A John Shurna-less Northwestern team nearly knocked off Ohio State. Once it was announced that Shurna was to miss Saturday’s game against Ohio State, it stood to reason that the game would end up resembling the Wildcat disasters against Illinois and Wisconsin. To their credit, and in particular the credit of Juice Thompson, the Wildcats were tied one minute to go in the game and had a shot – albeit not a good one- to pull off the biggest upset of the season.

Notes

[Player: E’Twaun Moore], Jon Leuer, and David Lighty were among the ten finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. The award is given to the student-athlete who best excels both on and off the court and is measured in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition.

At 21-0, Ohio State is now the lone undefeated team left in Division I men’s basketball.

Draymond Green is now among the conference’s top ten in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocked shots, and assist-turnover ratio for league games.

Michigan State guard Korie Lucious was suspended by Tom Izzo for conduct detrimental to the program late Tuesday night for the rest of this season.

Talor Battle and Jimmer Fredette were AAU teammates Albany City Rocks. Not a bad scoring backcourt. They only combined to score 120 points this week with each player leading their team to a win over a top fifteen opponent.

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