The NBA is back and you aren’t going to find someone more excited than me. However, after waiting 149 days for a season, I’m going to make the NBA wait a little longer before I write about it. Take that!
Yesterday was Day 1 of the 13th annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The ACC won the first ten meetings between these conferences, but the Big Ten has roared back to take the last two. This year poses a bit of a problem because with the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten there are now twelve games in the Challenge. With the Big Ten going 4-2 yesterday though, I think it’s safe to say we wont be having a tie.
The Challenge got under way in style with a very competitive first half of basketball from #15 Michigan and Virginia. The Wolverines had strong first half performances from Zack Novak and Trey Burke to only trail Virginia 24-23 at halftime. Both teams came out firing in the second half and neither one could get an edge. Eventually it was Virginia’s all around play that tripped up the Wolverines. The Cavaliers defense held Michigan scoreless for six and a half minutes while their offense scored 15 unanswered points. An overall 19-2 Virginia run had them up by double digits for almost the last seven minutes of the game, which ended with a score of 70-58. Mike Scott and Joe Harris each had 18 points for Virginia and Harris, Sammy Zeglinski, and Malcolm Brogdon all hit 3 three pointers. This was an unexpected speed bump for a Michigan team that was playing excellent basketball. They beat a good Memphis team in the Maui Invitational before losing to Duke, who has never lost in the competition. Look for Michigan to bounce back in its next few games against poor non conference opponents. Virginia faces minimal competition until squaring off against Duke later in the year. The Big Ten should have gone 5-1 yesterday, but a resilient effort by the Cavaliers earned them the first win of the Challenge.
In a particularly uninteresting game, Northwestern beat Georgia Tech 76-60 to tie the Challenge at 1-1. John Shurna went off for 25 points on 10-18 shooting including 3-6 from down town. The leading scorer in the Big Ten also added 8 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. The only bright spot for Georgia Tech was Jason Morris coming off the bench to score 21 points. This game wasn’t very competitive and any time you watch a Northwestern game you know it’s going to be a John Shurna Show. So let’s move on to bigger and better things.
Many people watched the Illinois-Maryland game on ESPN in preparation for the Ohio State-Duke game that was right after. Lucky for them, they got to see the most exciting game of the night. Illinois and Maryland went at each other from the tip in a fast paced game that many would assume should have favored Maryland. As I debated with fellow Agron Street author Joey, the ACC may be faster and more versatile than the Big Ten, but white boy three pointers are worth more than black man dunks. That happend to be the case in this game. Senior transfer Sam Maniscalco filled it up with 24 points on 5-8 three point shooting and 7-7 free throws. Maryland controlled the first half but the Illini were able to catch and surpass them in the second half in a game much closer than the final score 0f 71-62 would suggest. Illinois made six free throws in the final minute while Maryland fouled them and missed three pointers. Terrell Stoglin led the Terps with 25 points, hitting 4 three pointers of his own. Brandon Paul added 17 points for the Illini who complimented their outside scoring with a solid offense in the post. They moved to 7-0 and gave the Big Ten a 2-1 lead in the Challenge.
The final three games of the Challenge were fairly lackluster and disappointing. Purdue led Miami by as many as 17 as they cruised to an easy 76-65 win. Robbie Hummel continued his strong play since being injured last year with 17 points and 5 rebounds. Miami went with a small lineup and Purdue responded by making 22-31 two point field goals. Put another one on the board for the Big Ten. In a likewise no contest game, Clemson blew out Iowa 71-55. Iowa is now 4-3 after starting the year 3-0 and it looks like I should have ranked them lower in my Big Ten preview. Clemson got strong play from a number of players, especially their two starting guards. Andre Young led all scorers with 19 points and Tanner Smith neared a triple double with 7 points, 14 rebounds, and 8 assists.
The last game of the evening was highly anticipated, even bringing out the stars to watch. These two received voracious boos when they walked to their seats before the game. When the #2 team in the nation squares off against the #4 team you know you’re in for a special treat. Well, not last night. Ohio State scored early and often and absolutely throttled a previously undefeated Duke team for an 85-63 win. Four of Ohio State’s starters scored in double figures with Jared Sullinger and William Buford each topping 20 points. Austin Rivers, son of Celtics’ coach Doc Rivers (who was in attendance), scored 22 points for a Duke team that looked overmatched all night. Sullinger owned the paint and opened up looks for Buford, Aaron Craft, and Deshaun Thomas who were all deadly from three point land. Ohio State looked ready from the get go, jumping out to an 11-0 lead against a young Duke team Coach Krzyzewski said “appeared tired.” Craft led the defensive charge that held Duke to 20% shooting from three and seven points below their season average. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes shot 59% from the field and were up by 20 most of the second half as they led from start to finish. These are unmistakably two of the best teams in the country, and they could very well meet up again in the late rounds of the Tournament. For now though, chalk another one up to the Big Ten.
Here is the recap for Day 2.