Monday's Big Ten conference women's basketball games went much as expected, with one glaring exception. The Fighting Illini more than lived up to their name, turning what had been expected to be a ho-hum outing and a predictable win for No. 18/22 Purdue into a real nail-biter and the highlight of Monday's action. Illinois pushed the Boilers to the brink, taking a two-point lead with just seven seconds left, only to leave Courtney Moses wide open for a three-pointer as time expired. Moses buried it, staving off the near upset, leaving Purdue undefeated at 2-0 in conference play, 12-3 overall, and clinging to a berth in the lower echelon of the national rankings in both major polls.
And also leaving Full Court's Big Ten correspondent Mark Bradford four-for-four in his predictions for Monday's games and nine-for-10 on the season to date. Let's take a closer look at the rest of Monday's results, the current Big Ten standings and Bradford's picks for the upcoming midweek games.
Summing Up Monday's Results
Iowa 71, No. 8/11 Ohio State 84
No. 22/19 Penn State 82, Wisconsin 49
No. 18/22 Purdue 64, Illinois 63
Indiana 43, Minnesota 84
A Look Back at Monday's Action
No. 18/22 Purdue 64 @ Illinois 63
Purdue started off fast, but Illinois began to value their possession more, reducing turnovers and being more patient. Illinois took its first lead with 8:45 remaining in the game and the two teams battled from there.
As noted above, Boilermaker guard Courtney Moses (11 points) nailed a three from the top of the key at the buzzer to crush Illinoiss hopes for its first Big Ten win. The good news for the Illini, apart from the proof of their ability to hang with nationally ranked Purdue, was that Karisma Penn finally got a bit of help from her friends. Illini sophomore Kersten Magrum led all scorers with 18 points, and Ivory Crawford, who gave Illinois a one-point edge with two made free throws and 25 ticks left on the clock, finished with 16, as Illinois spread out its scoring. In fact, Karisma Penn scored only nine in the outing. Still, Lydia McCully would no doubt like to have her final trip to the line to do over. McCully hit just one of two, with seven seconds remaining. Had she knocked down both, Moses's trey at the buzzer would have sent the game to overtime, instead of putting another "W" in Purdue's win column.
Purdue was led by Brittany Rayburns 17 points; KK Houser added 16.
Each team committed 25 turnovers. Illinois out-rebounded Purdue, 39-34, but the Boilers held the Illini to just 37 percent from the field (29.6 percent in the opening half), while shooting at a 44-percent clip themselves to overcome both the Illinois rebounding edge and an 11-point Illini advantage in free throws.
The Boilers improve to 12-3 overall, 2-0 in conference play with the win, while Illinois drops to 6-9 overall and 0-2 in Big Ten play.
Iowa 71 @ No. 8/11 Ohio State 84
Those hoping this would be the year that the Buckeyes would go through a rebuild, forget it. This team may be better than last years Big Ten Tournament championship squad and is one of only five undefeated teams still standing in the NCAA.
But to get there, Ohio State had to overcome a rocky start. Iowa's Jaime Printy (13 points) started out quick, and the Hawkeyes held a 15-point lead (37-22) with just over five minutes remaining in the opening half. Jim Foster called for time to talk it over, and while we don't know exactly what he had to say, we do know that out of the huddle, the Buckeyes finally kicked into gear.
Samantha Prahalis (30 points, 7 assists) took charge, launching a 23-3 run that bridged the halves while schooling her Iowa counterpart Samantha Logic (six points, on three-of-10 from the field; five assists; three turnovers). Ohio State closed the gap to one at halftime, and five minutes into the second half had established a comfortable (52-44) lead behind a three-point blitz. The Buckeyes finished 10-15 (66.7 percent) from the arc, with Prahalis knocking down four-of-her six longball attempts and Tayler Hill draining a career-high five-of-seven from downtown.
Hill added 28 points in total for the Buckeyes, but OSU's backcourt tandem could have used a bit more help from their supporting cast.
Prahalis said she liked this team because it passed so well, adding that although the Buckeyes were ready for the game, they were not playing with much energy at the start. Once the energy got going, Iowa looked like it lost its focus and was having trouble making the same passes that had worked earlier in the game.
Though Iowa faded quickly once Prahalis got the Buckeyes cooking, Iowa's Morgan Johnson ruled the inside impressive job inside, finishing with 25 points and six boards. Kamille Wahlin added 17 points and two assists (but four turnovers) for the losing side.
On a down note for the Hawkeyes, who are already struggling with depth problems thanks to an injury depleted roster, Iowa lost freshman guard Melissa Dixon less than eight minutes into the first half and after the reliever had seen just one minute of action.
"It hurt us losing Dixon," said Iowa coach Lisa Bluder. "She is one of our best defensive players, so it was a big loss. She gave us a big spark, so without her we didn't have anyone to go to."
Though Bluder, who was still awaiting the results of an MRI at Tuesday's press conference, said that she did not yet know the severity of Dixon's injury, she appeared confident that Dixon had not suffered a season-ending ACL or MCL tear.
Were probably talking meniscus more," said Bluder, who speculated that the freshman who averages 5.9 points per game off the bench could be out anywhere from one week, if the injury proves to be a simple knee sprain, to six weeks if surgical repair of the meniscus is required.
I dont feel real good about it, Bluder said. Well just have to wait and see when the doctor reads the MRI.
With the victory, Ohio State remained a perfect 15-0 overall and 2-0 in-conference for the program's best start of the NCAA era; Iowa fell to 9-6 overall and 1-1 in Big Ten games.
No. 22/19 Penn State 82 @ Wisconsin 49
No. 22/19 Penn State bounced back quickly from Friday's Big Ten season-opening loss in which the Lady Lions blew a nine-point second-half lead to fall to visiting Nebraska, 63-71. The Lions, who shot a paltry 29.4 percent from the field -- a season-low -- against the Huskers, apparently rediscovered their stroke over the weekend, shooting 52.3 percent (34-65) from the field on the way to an 82-49 win at Wisconsin.
Ball movement was a key to Monday's win, as 26 of Penn State's 34 baskets were facilitated by assists. The PSU defense held the Badgers to just 32 percent from the field, and out-rebounded the visitors, 45-28.
The Badgers led only once -- by just two points and for only 24 seconds -- in the entire game. Penn State had established a 15-point lead (40-25) by the half, and the game was never in doubt thereafter, as the Lions stretched their advantage to as many as 35 points.
Sophomore Maggie Lucas led the way for Penn State with a game-high 18 points, to which she added a career-high seven assists. Junior post player Mia Nickson added 10 points and a season-high 14 boards, for her first double-double of the season, while junior Nikki Greene chimed in with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Taylor Wurtz was the only double-digit scorer for Wisconsin, putting up 17 points to go with a team-high seven boards.
Penn State improves to 11-3 overall, 1-1 in conference with the win; Wisconsin falls to 4-10 overall, and 0-2 in Big Ten play
Minnesota 84 v. Indiana 43
Indiana had a very poor shooting night (23.8 percent from the field), and Minnesota took full advantage of that as well their superior inside game to send the Hoosiers packing.
Minnesota outshone the visitors in pretty much every department, shooting 43.9 percent from the field and a sizzling 63.6 percent (seven-of-11) from the arc (to Indiana's 14.3-percent -- two-of-14 -- three-point shooting), and out-rebounding the Hoosiers 59-39. The Gophers' performance, especially in the opening half, set multiple records: Their 31-point halftime lead was a program best; their 48 first-period points were a season-best; and the 17 first-half points to which they held the Hoosiers were among the three least allowed to an opponent this season.
Once again, freshman Rachel Banham led four Golden Gophers in double figures with a career-high 21 points on eight-of-18 from the field, including five-of-five from long distance. Banham then made it a double-double -- the first of her collegiate career, by adding 11 rebounds, plus two assists and a steal.
Kiara Buford added 19 points and five assists; Leah Cotton contributed 15 points and six rebounds; and Brianna Mastey chipped in 10 points off the bench for Minnesota.
Indiana center Sasha Chaplin led the Hoosiers with 14 points and eight rebounds (plus two assists, two steals and a swat), and was joined in double figures by Quaneisha McCurty, who pitched in 10 points and eight boards off the bench.
With the win, the Gophers improved to 9-7 overall and evened their record in Big Ten Play at 1-1; the Hoosier dropped to 5-10 on the season and 0-2 in conference play.
|As of January 3, 2012|
Source: BigTen.org/Women's Basketball Standings
Coming Up Wednesday, January 4
Two very evenly matched teams go at it Monday in East Lansing in one of the Big Ten's great collegiate rivalries. Both teams average a 10+-point differential in scoring margin, but State has a big advantage rebounding, averaging nearly nine more rebounds a game than they allow their opponents. Michigan, on the other hand, ranks near the bottom of the conference in rebounding margin, hovering just below the break-even mark with opponents pulling down 0.2 more boards per game than the Wolverines. Michigan makes up for that, at least in part, by forcing almost four more turnovers a game than Michigan State.
Michigan is off to its best start in history and senior wing Carmen Reynolds just surpassed the 1,000 career-point plateau last Friday against Illinois, so things are looking up in Ann Arbor. Still, Suzy Merchants team is playing at home and will be eager to establish early that they can defend last year's regular-season crown.
Prediction: Looks to me like the Spartans should be able to do just that. Michigan State, but by under eight points.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012, 7:00 p.m. EST, Breslin Center, East Lansing, Mich. (BTN.com)
Coming Up Thursday, January 5
You can't help but feel a bit badly for Indiana. First, they opened the season against defending champion Michigan State. Next, they had to travel to Minnesota where they got beat, 84-43. Now, they hop on a plane and travel to Nebraska, a team that has only lost once this season and has had almost a week to think about it.
Nebraska's Jordan Hooper went off for 31 points in 33 minutes of play against Penn State and will be a major point of concern for the Indiana defense. Hooper is averaging 21 points a game and Nebraska's Lindsey Moore is close behind at 16. The Huskers are out-rebounding opponents to the tune of a league-best 47-38, on average, and though rebounding is one of the few IU relative strong points, the Hoosiers give up more boards than they pull down and had trouble on the glass against Minnesota.
In fact, it's hard to find any statistical category in which the Hoosiers hold an advantage over Nebraska. They stand at or near the bottom of the Big Ten in scoring offense and virtually every other offensive measure, and are no better than the middle of the pack -- and well below Nebraska -- in field-goal and three-point defense
Prediction: Nebraska should win this in a blow out, most likely by 20+ points.
When: Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, 8:05 p.m. EST/7:05 p.m. CST, Devaney Center, Lincoln, Nebraska (BTN.com, Husker Sports Network)
This could be a very evenly matched game between two teams that are going to be fighting for the first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament in March. Four Wildcat players averaged double figures in scoring in the preseason (led by Kendall Hackneys 17 and Morgan Jones's 15.5 points per game), but Northwestern was shut down opening night by Iowa (86-55) and needs to restore its self-confidence and momentum.
Minnesotas freshman point guard Rachel Banham leads her team in scoring, but has 47 assists to 52 turnovers.
Prediction: Home court rules here along with balanced scoring. Wildcats by five.
When:Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, 8:00 p.m. EST/7:00 p.m. CST, Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanston, Ill. (BTDN on Wildcats All-Access)
Purdue should have a lot of momentum and confidence after their squeaker win over Illinois. Despite a bad day of turnovers, Purdue comes into this home game on the strength of winning two close games over second-tier Big Ten opponents.
If there is a third tier in the Big Ten, that is where Wisconsin is right now while they reorganize under new coach Bobbie Kelsey.
Prediction: Purdues guards should harass Wisconsin into enough turnovers that Sharon Versyps team will win by 15 or so.
When: Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, 6:00 p.m. EST, Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Indiana (BTN)
This game features two almost teams, both of which need a win to move toward their individual team goals. Iowa played possibly their best basketball of the season against Ohio State for 15 minutes but crumbled under the Buckeyes' quickness and shooting accuracy the rest of the game. Their win over Northwestern was convincing enough to make coach Lisa Bluder almost smile.
Illinois needed only to guard the three-line for seven more seconds to notch a significant upset against nationally ranked Purdue. But that did not materialize.The good news was that Karisma Penn scored only nine points and the bulk of the scoring was picked up by other players. If they can continue the point-sharing and take pressure off Penn, this Illini team could surprise people.
Prediction: However, this game belongs to Iowa by five.
When: Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, 8:00 p.m. EST/7:00 p.m. CST, Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, Iowa (Mediacom, BTN.com)