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The Big Ten suffered its first losses over the past couple nights, and we learned just a little bit more about the shape of this conference. Let’s dive in. In a formula that might become common this season, Illinois struggled to score over Valparaiso’s length but did enough on defense to secure the victory. After facing two decidedly smaller teams to open the season, Illinois had trouble converting over Valpo’s big and experienced frontline. In fact, the Illini’s 35.6 effective field goal percentage is the lowest mark of the John Groce era, and last season’s team wasn’t exactly a collection of sharpshooters.
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Both Illinois and Purdue notched impressive early season wins Wednesday night. Purdue blew out Central Connecticut 109-73, while Illinois edged out Valparaiso, 64-52. In the third Big Ten game of the evening, Penn State fell to Bucknell, 80-90. Get game recaps, stats and video highlights from all three games in this post.
In the night’s top matchup, Michigan State ran out to an early 10-0 lead against a young Kentucky team and did just enough the rest of the way to pick up a very big win. It was a tale of two halves, as the Spartans made the Wildcats look slow and disorganized over the first 20 minutes.
Most of the Big Ten cruised to easy wins over cupcakes—with one notable exception—but the Wisconsin Badgers faced a formidable challenge against St. John’s. The Red Storm was mediocre last year, but the team returned everyone, including a healthy dose of rising sophomores. The team is expected to be much-improved, much like Wisconsin’s offense.
Nine Big Ten men’s basketball teams opened their 2013-14 seasons Friday night, including No. 2 Michigan State and No. 7 Michigan, and every team emerged victorious. Watch all of the top highlights and get scores, stats and recaps for all of the games in this post.
How close was Purdue to possibly dropping its season opener to Northern Kentucky on Friday? Answer: Really close. The Boilermakers denied Northern Kentucky on three potential game-winning buckets in the final seconds to hold on for the 77-76 win. Strong defense, indeed. But, make no mistake, it was closer than any Purdue fans had envisioned. Watch the wild finish in this post.