The Big Ten Week in Review

Two weeks are now complete in Big Ten play, and the Fighting Illini sit atop the conference at 4-0 while Penn State and Purdue sit at the bottom of the conference with 0-4 records. There were many good games in the Big Ten this week, specifically Michigan State @ Wisconsin and Indiana @ Purdue. Get caught up on a week's action in the Big Ten in this edition of the <i>Big Ten Week in Review</i>.

First things first, let's take a look at the adjusted Big Ten standings which have five teams winning at least one road game and four teams having already dropped one home game (or in Purdue's case three). There have not really been any shocking road victories this season outside of Michigan's win in the Big Ten opener at Iowa City, but that happened last week.

INDIANA HOOSIERS (7-7, 2-1, +1)
The Hoosiers only game this week was the classic game against Purdue on Saturday afternoon. The Hoosiers won the game in double over time despite almost giving the game to the Boilermakers at the end of the first overtime period. At the end of that period, there were two mistakes made by the Hoosiers that almost cost them the game. The first was Marshall Strickland making his second free throw with 0.9 seconds left because if he would have purposely missed that free throw, the Boilermakers would not have had enough time to get a shot off. By making the free throw, Strickland gave Purdue a chance to tie or win the game, which is exactly what happened. Purdue threw the ball the length of the court to Chris Landry who was fouled as he made the game tying basket. He missed the free throw sending the game into double over time where DJ White scored six points in leading the Hoosiers to a victory over Purdue.

Star Watch: Bracey Wright. Despite being one of the more maligned players across the Big Ten, Wright is Indiana's best player, but the best thing he did this week was restrain Mike Davis from getting a technical at the end of the first overtime. Davis was livid, and Wright was restraining his coach from doing something that could have possibly cost his team a game against their heated in-state rivals. Oh, he also scored 23 points, pulled down 7 rebounds, and handed out 4 assists.

Keep Your Eye On: DJ White. White scored six of his sixteen in overtime, and he is continuing to put up big numbers for the Hoosiers on the inside, but he still needs to work on keeping himself in the game by not fouling so much (he had four fouls in Saturday's game).
IOWA (13-3, 1-2, -1)
The Hawkeyes had a tough first week in conference play, so they were probably thankful to have their bye game be this week so they could sit down and regroup. Saturday afternoon the Hawkeyes welcomed the surprising Minnesota Golden Gophers into Iowa City. The Hawkeye guards still could not find the basket as Jeff Horner, Pierre Pierce, and Adam Haluska shot a combined 11-36 from the floor on Saturday in the Iowa 66-60 victory.

Turnover Watch: Pierre Pierce. The Iowa guard is still turning the ball over at an alarming pace this season. He is averaging 3.9 turnovers per game, and only has one more assist than turnovers on the season. Combine his insane amount of turnovers for a guard with the fact that he has never seen a shot that he does not like (as is evident by his PPSA of 1.05) and you have a player that scores a lot but frustrates Iowa coaches and fans to no end.

Shooting Slump Watch: Jeff Horner. Starting in Iowa's game against Texas Tech in the United Center, Jeff Horner has been in a major shooting slump. Outside of the Air Force game on December 28 where he was 1-1 from the floor, Horner has not shot above fifty percent from the floor in Iowa's last 6 games. In these games he is a combined 17-for-54 for a horrific 31.5% from the floor. If Iowa is going to make noise in the Big Ten, Horner is going to have to start making shots.
MICHIGAN (12-5, 3-0, +2)
This week saw the Wolverines welcome Northwestern into Ann Arbor on Wednesday night and then a trip to Happy Valley for a game at Penn State. On Wednesday night in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines ended up beating the Wildcats by ten thanks to great scoring nights from Daniel Horton, Dion Harris, and Courtney Sims. Saturday's jaunt to College Station, PA was a much more difficult game for the Wolverines than it should have been. They only beat Penn State by four points, and the Nittany Lions were within two with less than two minutes left in the game. The Wolverines can thank the hot shooting of freshman Ron Coleman for pushing them through in a tough game with all twelve of his points in the second half.

Clank Watch: Dion Harris. The sophomore guard from Detroit is riding beneath the radar this season thanks to the presence of Daniel Horton on the Michigan roster, but despite leading the Wolverines in scoring, I am going to say he needs to shoot the ball less. He is only shooting 35.4% from the floor, and he has a PPSA of 0.96, which is terrible for a guard that has attempted 111 threes (6.5 per game) this season.

Return from Injury Watch: Daniel Horton. The Michigan junior guard looks to be back to getting his normal playing time after two quiet games against Fairfield and Iowa last week after returning from injury. Against Northwestern, Horton scored 24 on 8-13 shooting while playing 39 minutes. Against Penn State on Saturday his offense struggled as he only scored 6 points on 2-11 shooting, but he played 38 minutes for the Wolverines.
MICHIGAN STATE (10-3, 2-1, +1)
The only game for the Spartans this week was the Big Ten's Game of the Week. The Spartans traveled to Madison to take on the Badgers on Sunday afternoon in front of a national television audience that was waiting to see whether or not Peyton Manning could beat the Patriots for the first time in his career. Like Peyton Manning failed once again to beat the Patriots, Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans once again failed to defeat a Wisconsin team coached by Bo Ryan (Izzo is now 0-6 against the Badger head coach).

The worst part of Sunday afternoon's loss for the Spartans was not losing to Wisconsin itself, but the way in which they lost the game. The Spartans had an eight point lead with 1:55 left in the game, and it looked like the Spartans and Izzo were on the way towards breaking the "Curse of Bo Ryan" and ending Wisconsin's home winning streak. Something altered the road the Spartans were on though. From the CBS Sportsline Play by Play, here is how the Spartans ended the game against the Badgers on the offensive end of the court:

1:50 - Chris Hill missed 1st of 2 free throws
1:34 - Traveling turnover on Shannon Brown
1:34 - Paul Davis missed free throw
0:43 - Paul Davis missed jump shot
0:11 - Alan Anderson missed lay up
0:00 - Shannon Brown missed three point shot

The Spartans put on a clinic on how to lose a game that you should have had in the bank by missing free throws, turning the ball over, and committing fouls on the defensive side of the ball allowing Wisconsin to score without the clock moving. Let's just say this will not be a tape that Tom Izzo will be fond of in the future.

Charmin Extra Soft Watch: Paul Davis. The Spartan center played a pretty tough game on Saturday against the Badgers as he scored 20 points on 9-15 shooting. The only problem is that he only pulled down five rebounds.

The Gambler Watch: Matt Trannon. Trannon, a wide receiver for the John L. Smith's Spartan football team, played 19 minutes of energy driven basketball for the Spartans on Sunday afternoon. He led the team in rebounding as he pulled down 8 rebounds. He may not score, but he hustles and is a remembrance of better times for Michigan State big men, a time when they were not softer than Snuggles the bear.
MINNESOTA (12-4, 2-1, -)
The Gophers split their Big Ten contest this week with a win over Purdue in Minneapolis and a loss to Iowa in Iowa City. Against Purdue, the Gophers lead for most of the game and used 20 Purdue turnovers to help them towards their 11 point victory. At Iowa, Minnesota had a chance to steal one, but they could not get it done. The Hawkeyes had too much down the stretch and did a great job of shutting down the Gophers' Vincent Grier and forcing 20 Gopher turnovers during Saturday afternoon's contest.
NORTHWESTERN (8-8, 1-3, -1)
The second week of the Big Ten season was not as kind to the Wildcats as week one. The Wildcats traveled to Michigan where they picked up a 71-61 loss, and then they hosted Illinois on Saturday afternoon. The Illini came into Saturday afternoon's contest looking for revenge for what happened last season in Evanston, and that is what they got with a 78-66 win over the Wildcats. The last three games have not been good for the Wildcats defense as they have allowed all three teams (Michigan State, Michigan, and Illinois) to score more than 70 points, something that is normally unthought-of against a team that slows down the pace as much as the Wildcats attempt to do.

Star Watch: Vedran Vukusic. Vukusic had two games this week of scoring 20-plus points. Against Michigan he scored 22 points, pulled down 5 rebounds, and handed out 3 assists. In the first against Illinois, the Illini held Vukusic to 2 points by focusing their defense on him. In the second half he got more space and scored 18 points. On the game he had 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists.
OHIO STATE (12-5, 1-2, -)
The Buckeyes suffered their first two game losing streak of the season as they lost in Madison on Tuesday night and then lost a double overtime game to Louisiana State n Saturday evening in a rare jaunt out of the Big Ten Conference during the conference season.

Surprise 20-Point Scorer: Je'Kel Foster. The junior guard scored 20 points on Saturday evening against LSU for a career high. Foster's previous high game was 12 points, and he has only scored in double figures four other times this season. On Saturday evening, thanks to the double overtime game he saw 36 minutes of action, and took advantage of it by shooting 7-for-9 from the floor en route to his 20 points.
PENN STATE (6-11, 0-4, -2)
The next Penn State beat down comes at the hands of the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday afternoon.
PURDUE (4-10, 0-4, -3)
This is not the way Gene Keady wanted to go out, but it is the way it is happening. The elder statesman of Big Ten coaching is retiring after this season, and he just does not have the horses to win games to send him out on a high note. This week the Boilermakers fell victim to Minnesota and Indiana, and the road does not get any easier for them as their next two games are at Michigan State and at Iowa.
WISCONSIN (12-3, 3-1, +1)
The Badgers barely escaped Michigan State on Sunday afternoon, but in doing so they kept their home court winning streak alive and at 38 games. The next time someone has a chance to end that streak will be when the Badgers welcome Illinois to the Kohl Center on January 25.

Point Guard?: Sharif Chambliss. Has Penn State transfer Sharif Chambliss found his spot at the point guard position for the Badgers? In the last two games he has scored 11 and 14, respectively. But do these games make up for the stinker he laid against the Hoosiers last weekend? Only time will tell.

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