10 out of 12 teams in the Big Ten are going to bowl games. It’s looking like the college basketball season will be dominated by the Big Ten as well. Last week the Big Ten went 4-2 on the second day of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge to win the 13th annual Challenge 8-4, their third straight win. The ACC looked overmatched and out-hustled in the second day, which featured a number of close games. The night was highlighted by a battle of behemoths as #9 Wisconsin faced off against #5 UNC in a game that came down to the wire. The Big Ten wrapped up another year of bragging rights and proved it has teams that can make noise at the national level.
The night started with three competitive, scrappy basketball games. Indiana and North Carolina State traded blows the entire first half and much of the second until Indiana pulled away late. Both teams had runs of impressive play and poor play. There were a number of forced jump shots and bad transition defense that led didn’t allow either team to take advantage of the other’s mistakes. The Hoosiers finally put NC State away after the Wolfpack closed the deficit to 76-75 with 2:03 left in the game. Jordan Hulls, who led the team with 20 points, hit a three pointer at the end of the shot clock and the Hoosiers held the Wolfpack without a basket for the rest of the game for an 86-75 win. The Hoosiers got a strong performance from much heralded freshman Cody Zeller. The big man had 19 points and 7 rebounds to go along with 2 blocks. He helped key a 20-7 run that helped erase a late NC State lead. Victor Oladipo put the exclamation point on this impressive win with a steal and a magnificent dunk in the closing seconds.
Tim Frazier came up big for Penn State in their 62-54 win against Boston College in the next game of the night. He scored 20 points in the second half after going just 1-4 in the first half. Each team overcame deficits and failed to extend their leads throughout the game. Penn State went ahead for good on a Frazier three pointer with 6:59 left. The Eagles got within two points twice down the stretch, but could never jump ahead. BC was lead by 15 points from Matt Humphrey and 10 from Gabe Moton. Jermaine Marshall kicked in 22 points for the Nittany Lions, who bounced back from a rough loss to Saint Joseph’s.
Michigan State and Florida State teed off in another game that was close for most of the time. The first half featured sluggish and messy play by both teams. At one point there were three straight possessions that ended in violations. MSU opened up a 30-18 lead in the first half before going scoreless for the last four minutes of the half and giving up an 8-0 run. The second half was neck and neck until MSU went on a 10-2 run to lead 51-42. From there they coasted to a 65-49 win, helped along the way by Keith Appling’s 24 points. After facing UNC and Duke in their first two games of the season, this Spartans team looks focused and ready to play. Appling is doing a stellar job leading this team and is getting solid contributions from Draymond Green and Brandon Wood. Tom Izzo is working his magic again.
Minnesota 58 Virginia Tech 55. Pretty boring game for one that came down to a shot at the buzzer. I’ll let ESPN tell you about this one. In another uninteresting game that came down to the wire, Wake Forest beat Nebraska 55-53. With four seconds left Nebraska was so surprised to find themselves still in the game that they let C.J. Harris drive to the basket for an uncontested layup and the win.
The headliner of the night was a face off of Top Ten teams as #9 Wisconsin played at #5 UNC. UNC was coming off its first lost to a lowly UNLV team, while Wisconsin had been taking care of business, winning its first six games by an average of 34 points. These two behemoths put on a show as they traded baskets for the majority of the game. The Heels got a solid performance from Harrison Barnes, who scored 10 of his 20 points in a run during the second half that put UNC up for good. However, the real MVP of the game was Dexter Strickland. He hit a key bucket late, but more importantly his defense shut down Jordan Taylor for most of the game. For Wisconsin, Taylor had 18 points and 4 assists, but the real story was Jared Berggren with 14 points, 3 steals, and more hustle than anyone on the court. UNC put the game away late, barely, but Wisconsin made it an exciting one (especially with Ben Brust’s circus shots)to wrap up the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. For more information on the game check out my running diary here, or watch the whole thing as someone was kind enough to upload the entire game to YouTube.
If you missed it check out the Day 1 recap.