Dienhart: Best of Week 5 in Big Ten conference play
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Another week, another chance for Wisconsin and Maryland to assert their dominance in the Big Ten. And it’s becoming more apparent that Northwestern is a legit NCAA team, as the Wildcats have ripped off six wins in a row. Can NU win the Big Ten?
Purdue is in no danger of missing the Big Dance, but its Big Ten title dreams probably are toast after losing at Nebraska. Michigan State may be back on track, too. But Michigan has work to do to enhance its NCAA resume.
Here is look at the week that was.
Biggest surprise: Nebraska. The Cornhuskers entered Sunday’s game vs. No. 20 Purdue riding a five-game losing streak. In other words, Nebraska hadn’t tasted victory since opening conference play 3-0. Few gave Tim Miles’ team much of a chance to beat the Boilermakers in what was essentially a must-win for their Big Ten title hopes. But, somehow, Nebraska survived a 3-point barrage (14-of-24; 58 percent) to stun Purdue at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Biggest disappointment: Minnesota. At one time, the Golden Gophers were 3-1 in the Big Ten with wins on the road at Purdue and at Northwestern. Minnesota crawled to No. 24 in the AP poll with a 15-3 overall record. But since then, the Gophers have lost five in a row, falling this week at Ohio State and at home to Maryland. Before the losing streak, Minnesota looked like it would cruise to an NCAA bid just a season after going 8-23 (2-16 Big Ten). But now, the Gophers are 15-6 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten. Will they make the Big Dance?
Best player: Miles Bridges, Michigan State. The freshman sensation averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals in a win (vs. Michigan) and a loss (vs. Purdue) this week. Want more? He shot an efficient 56 percent, and his double-double Sunday afternoon guided the Spartans’ to their fifth triumph in a row over the rival Wolverines and ended their three-game losing skid.
Best stat line: Ethan Happ vs. Rutgers. The likely All-Big Ten first-teamer was fantastic in Wisconsin’s comeback win Saturday at Madison Square Garden, going for 32 points (12-of-18; 67 percent), six rebounds, three assists, two blocks and four steals. The 32 points were more than the rest of the Badgers scored in the overtime victory.
Best stat: 22, rebounds for Northwestern’s Dererk Pardon in a 73-61 win vs. Nebraska on Thursday. He also added 19 points. In 1965-66, NU’s Jim Pitts had games of 26 and 22 rebounds against Indiana and Ohio State. No Wildcats player dominated on the glass like that until Pardon on Thursday. The sophomore turned in the first 20-rebound game for Northwestern since Evan Eschmeyer grabbed 21 against Penn State on Jan. 20, 1999.
Best moment: Iowa had to do without Peter Jok, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, on Saturday when Ohio State visited. No problem. Brady Ellingson came off the bench to score 17 points and Iowa pounded Ohio State 85-72, snapping a three-game losing streak. Reserve freshman Ryan Kriener had 14 for the Hawkeyes (12-10, 4-5 Big Ten), who won despite missing Jok – a senior who sat out to rest a nagging back injury. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Jok’s status is day to day.
Best shot: Big Ten fans are familiar with the surname Bohannon, and the latest in line, Jordan, has some serious range. How much? Check out the video below.
Best dunk: Wisconsin’s Khalil Iverson almost ripped the rim off making a crushing two-handed dunk off a perfect in-bounds pass from Bronson Koenig in the Badgers’ demolition of Penn State on Tuesday.
Best dunk, Part II: It came in a losing effort, but Michigan State’s Miles Bridges put on a personal dunk contest vs. Purdue on Tuesday night. The high-flying freshman hammered down three highlight-reel jams. Watch all of them here.
Best pass: Damonte Dodd is known for his defense, and for good reason. Turns out, the Maryland big man can distribute. This crosscourt dime was a thing of beauty.
Best picture: I mean, how do you top this one?
Best sign: Can’t say I’ve ever seen this before.
Did you see this? Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes had seven points, 11 rebounds and four assists on Saturday in an OT win vs. Rutgers in Madison Square Garden. Hayes is the only player in Division I to accumulate 1,600 points, 650 rebounds and 250 assists. He is third highest active scorer behind Bryce Alford of UCLA and Josh Hart of Villanova.
Did you see this, Part II? I can’t leave you without talking about all of the upsets around the nation this past week. In all, seven top 10 teams lost to unranked teams. Tuesday was absolute madness, featuring losses by No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4. Two of those upsets came via Tennessee and Marquette, which Wisconsin beat earlier this season, results that can only improve the Big Ten co-leaders resume.
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