Big Ten Geeks: Crafting a Road Win
Ohio State picked up a big road win at Iowa thanks to surprisingly hot shooting. The Buckeyes shot 44 percent on threes, a number that stood in stark contrast to the Hawkeyes’ unusually cold outside shooting (3-for-20, 15 percent). Iowa dominated the glass and shot 60 percent on twos, but the three-point shot is the great equalizer, and it carried Ohio State to a huge win.
Leading this attack was Aaron Craft, who went 2-for-2 from three to bolster his line of 17 points, six assists, and six steals. It was nearly a perfect game from Craft, save for four turnovers, but even those miscues couldn’t prevent it from being the senior’s best effort of the season to date.
This Ohio State team can still defend like crazy, so it’s a very dangerous squad when its shots are falling. This win, when paired with the road win at Wisconsin, probably eliminates any worry that the Buckeyes could free-fall out of the NCAA tournament field. In fact, a run for third place in the conference, just ahead of Iowa, is now possible. KenPom has Ohio State favored in every single remaining game, though several are close to being toss-ups.
For Iowa, this loss probably ends any hope of sharing the Big Ten title, as the Hawkeyes now sit three losses behind the co-leaders, with a road game at Michigan State still on the docket. Crazier things have happened, but it’s looking like Iowa might have to settle for third or fourth.
Wisconsin got its offense back on track in a road victory over free-falling Illinois. The Badgers shot like it was 2013, nailing 44 percent of their many threes. It was too much for the sluggish Illini offense to overcome, though they did manage to score over a point per trip thanks to a monster effort from Rayvonte Rice. The junior scored 24 points on 16 shots and pulled down nine rebounds. Rice really likes playing Wisconsin – he put up 19 and nine in Madison but has struggled in most other Big Ten games.
The Badgers can now feel good about themselves heading into Sunday’s hosting of Michigan State, which should be a fantastic game.
Tonight, it’s a doubleheader on BTN, starting with suddenly-dangerous Nebraska visiting a Michigan team coming off its first conference loss. In the nightcap, it will be Minnesota visiting Purdue in a very important game for the Gophers’ tournament hopes. KenPom sees this as a toss-up, and a loss could very well push Minnesota to the wrong side of the bubble.