Last weekend's Big Ten games did not bring any major surprises, as each game evolved according to our Full Court predictions.
Ohio State now stands alone in second place, at 6-1 in conference play, behind Purdue (7-0), the sole undefeated team in the league in conference action. How long those rankings will hold is up for grabs: Purdue has the toughest portion of its schedule ahead it, and among other formidable opponents remaining on the schedule, the Boilers play Ohio State in Columbus on February 12. Odds are that both teams will have at least one loss when that game rolls around.
Behind them, in third-place tie are a cluster of hot teams with five conference wins and two losses apiece. Penn State got off to a slow start in conference play but the Lady Lions have come on strong of late and now sit in the tie for third place with Nebraska and Michigan. Conversely, Nebraska seemed unstoppable in the early-going, but showed showed their Achilles' heel in blowout losses to Penn State and Ohio State. Huskers fans are hoping that last weekend's 64-49 home win over Minnesota has righted the ship. We'll all see if that's true on Thursday, when the Huskers meet a strong Hawkeyes team (3-4 in-conference, 11-9 overall) at home in Devaney Center.
Michigan has been a mixed bag, handing the Buckeyes their only loss of the season, then falling to Penn State and Michigan State on the road.
Speaking of Michigan State, the Spartans belong on the Not hot list, having lost their last three in a row. They cannot lose another game if they expect to get defend their regular-season conference crown from last season, and if they don't get things turned around pretty quickly, postseason hopes may be fading as well.
As far as the rest of the pack, Minnesota (3-4, 11-5) and Wisconsin (2-5, 6-13) are both well out of the title race, but both have shown recent signs of life in what has to be considered a building year. They could well prove to be spoilers for better situated Big Ten title hopefuls.
And Illinois? Anyone who watched their Cinderella run in last year's Big Ten tournament has got to be questioning whether the Illini will break out any time soon. They have yet to notch their first conference win, but their losses -- even in games against the league's elite teams -- have nearly all been close. Heading into last weekend, the Illini had lost their last five games (including one that went to overtime) by a combined total of just 18 points. Four of those Big Ten losses have come on the final possession or in overtime.
On Sunday, in front of a record crowd at Value City Arena, the Illini hung close for the better part of the first half, before falling behind by eight at the break. Though the Buckeyes extended their lead to as many as 12 points early in the second half, the Illini crawled their way back into it, tying the score at 76 apiece with a little over five minutes to go.
Sammy Prahalis took over, igniting a 20-8 Buckeyes run down the stretch to seal a 96-84 Ohio State victory. But the Illini have shown time and again that they are a team with pride, heart and talent who can stay on the floor with the best of the Big Ten. They are still missing the piece that will put them over the top and on the path to victory, but if they put the pieces together, they might surprise Michigan State on Thursday.
In fact, that is our Full Court call as the upset of the upcoming midweek Big Ten action.
Let's take a look at the rest of last week's action, the current standings, and our predictions for Thursday's midweek games.
Summing Up the Weekend's Results
Games of Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012
- Indiana 48 @ Michigan 66
- Illinois 84 @ No. 10/12 Ohio State 96
- Iowa 52 @ No. 22/21 Penn State 68
- Northwestern 55 @ Wisconsin 75
- Minnesota 49 @ No. 20/24 Nebraska 64
Games of Monday, Jan. 23, 2012
- Michigan State 49 @ No. 13/18 Purdue 67
A Look Back at the Weekend's Action: Results from January 22-23, 2012
- Indiana 48 @ Michigan 66 -- Indiana Still Winless in Conference Play as Poor Shooting Continues
In a highly predictable outcome, Michigan led much of the way en route to a 66-48 victory. The Wolverines had already established a 23-point lead (42-19) by halftime. By game's end, Michigan had forced 19 turnovers, from which they garnered 16 points, while committing only nine. The Wolverine defense held the Hoosiers to 29 percent from the field.
Center Rachel Sheffer, a junior, led the Wolverines with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor, including 2-of-2 from the line. Senior Courtney Boylan chipped in 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting while contributing five rebounds. Junior Jenny Ryan notched seven points, along with a team-high eight rebounds, to go with three assists and two steals.
Indiana, which fell to 0-7 in conference play with the loss, was led by 15 points from Jasmine McGee and 14 from Aulani Sinclair. The one area in which the Hoosiers showed competence -- let alone superiority -- was on the boards, where IU out-rebounded Michigan, 48-38, but their continued shooting woes cost the Hoosiers the chance to take advantage of that edge.
- Illinois 84 @ No. 10/12 Ohio State 96 Buckeyes Escape Upset
To no ones surprise, Illinois played well at Ohio State. Despite trailing by as many as 11 for much of the second half, Illinois battled to a 76-76 tie with five minutes to play. That's when Samantha Prahalis took over, scoring 14 of her game-high 28 points in the game's final eight minutes, including eight in a row to fuel a 20-8 Ohio State run down the stretch and seal the 96-84 victory.
Despite the loss, the Illini competed evenly with the Buckeyes in most statistical categories, and the 84 points Illinois laid on them were the most scored against the Buckeyes by any Big Ten team they have faced this season. Illinois shot 52.5 percent from the field (32-61) to the Buckeyes' 56.9 percent (33-58), and nailed a respectable 45.5 percent from the arc (5-11), though the Buckeyes' out-shot them from downtown, draining 8-12 (66.7 percent) of their attempts from long range. Illinois even modestly out-rebounded OSU, 42-39.
But the Illini came up short in two statistical categories, both of which proved to be keys to the outcome. The first was turnovers, where Illinois coughed the ball up 21 times to Ohio State's 14 turnovers, and the Buckeyes made them pay for those mistakes. In addition, Ohio State got to the foul line more often (26 visits to the stripe versus 23 for Illinois), and took better advantage of the opportunity when they got there -- 22 points from free-throws on 84.6-percent shooting from the line for the Buckeyes to 15 points on 65.2-percent free-throw shooting for the Illini.
Thus, to no ones surprise, the Illini lost again. They remain 0-7 in conference play, and Illinois head coach Jollete Law could not be blamed for feeling a bit like the Biblical Job, the ultimate paradigm of "why bad things happen to good people."
Tayler Hill added 26 points to Prahalis's 28 and Amber Stokes a career-high 16 for the Buckeyes, who have won four in a row since their lone loss of the season at Michigan.
Karisma Penn led the Illini with 23 points, despite spending eight minutes in the second half on the bench with her fourth foul. Adrienne GodBold added 18, Amber Moore 13 and Ivory Crawford 12 for the Illini. Illinois was without the services of starting forward Kersten Magrum, a sophomore averaging 12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game this season, who missed her third game in a row with symptoms from a concussion suffered in a game against Wisconsin.
- Iowa 52 @ No. 22/21 Penn State 68 -- Penn State Back in the Conference Title Mix
Penn State killed the Hawkeyes on the boards, 53-34, including 20 offensive rebounds that the Lady Lions converted into 15 second-chance points. With both teams shooting a modest but roughly equal 34 percent from the field the rebounding advantage was the determining factor in the game, fueling an 18-2 Penn State edge in fast-break points. The Lady Lions also scored 21 points in the paint to 14 for Iowa.
The final score fails to reflect how close the game was for much of the way with the score tied six times and 10 lead changes. Iowa led by one at the half, 32-31, and with the two sides alternating single-digit leads throughout both halves, Iowa still led by one, 49-50, with a little more than six minutes to go. But seconds later Alex Bentley knocked down a jumper to give the Lions the lead for good and Penn State splurged the rest of the way thanks to a 19-2 PSU run down the stretch.
Iowa concentrated its defensive effort on Maggie Lucas, holding the sophomore standout to only six points, but Alex Bentley stepped up with 21 and Ariel Edwards added 17 to go with 11 rebounds for the first double-double of her career. Nikki Greene had 13 rebounds.
Kamille Wahlin led Lisa Bluders team with 21 points, but Iowas Morgan Johnson could manage only six points and Jaime Printy was held to 13.
We self-destructed in the last six minutes, Bluder said. We had 55 shots to their 71. Kamille had a nice game for us, only one turnover was nice. Penn State paid more attention to her in the second half. We identified Maggie Lucas as a focus on defense (and did a good job on her).
- Northwestern 55 @ Wisconsin 75 -- Wisconsin Earns Some Confidence
Wisconsin picked up its second win of the conference season with a 75-55 victory over visiting Northwestern. Red-hot shooting by the Badgers in the game's first 12 minutes gave them a 23-7 lead from which the Wildcats could never recover despite a 13-point, 10-rebound effort from Northwestern junior Dannielle Diamant, who recorded her second double-double of the season.
Though the Wildcats managed to cut into the deficit, the Badgers still led, 41-24, at the half. Northwestern could get no closer than 12 points down in the second stanza, and Wisconsin responded with a 13-7 run midway through the period that served as the knock-out punch, to swelling the lead back to 62-39, with roughly seven minutes to go.
The Badgers scored 41 points in the first half, setting a new season-high for most points in the opening period. Their final output of 75 points was also a season high for Wisconsin, which was led by Anya Covingtons career-high 23 points, to which she added 12 rebounds for the double-double. Morgan Paige notched 20 points on a Kohl Centre-record six three-pointers.
Morgan Jones joined Diamant in double figures with 11 points and seven rebounds for Northwestern.
"It was a frustrating game for us," said Northwestern head coach Joe McKeown. "Wisconsin got hot and shot the ball really well in the first half, but I thought if we could cut it to 10 at the 10-minute mark of the second half, we'd have a shot. But, it just didn't happen."
With the loss, Northwestern falls to 12-8 on the year and 2-5 in Big Ten play. Meanwhile, the Badgers won at home for the first time this Big Ten season in front of a season-high crowd of 8,585.
- Minnesota 49 @ No. 20/24 Nebraska 64 Huskers Overpower Gophers with Speed
Jordan Hooper scored 15 of her 23 points in the first half as Nebraska broke a two-game losing streak with a 64-49 victory over Minnesota on Sunday. After a close battle for the first few minutes, Nebraska began to attack inside and pulled out to a 36-23 halftime edge.
While Minnesota at least managed to staunch the hemorrhaging in the second period, they were unable to fill the hole they had dug for themselves in the first half, as Nebraska controlled the backboards, 49-41.
Neither team shot the ball particularly well, with Minnesota hitting just 35.5 percent from the field and 25 percent from the arc, while Nebraska knocked down 35.3 percent of its shot attempts, including 28.6 percent from three-point range. But that's where percentages can be deceiving. Minnesota's 25-percent three-point shooting represented one made trey in four attempts, while Nebraska's 28.6-percent three-point tally was comprised of eight makes on 28 tries. While that kind of volume shooting can be a killer against a team capable of capitalizing on the opportunity, in this case it made for 24 points for which the Gophers had no answer.
Nebraska Freshman Emily Cady added 13 points, including a career-high three treys, to Hooper's game-high 23, then tacked on seven rebounds. Hailie Sample posted 10 points and seven rebounds for the Huskers.
With the win, the Cornhuskers pulled into a three-way tie for third place in the Big Ten, joined by Michigan and Penn State, all one-and-a-half games behind league-leading Purdue.
Minnesota, led by Rachel Banham with 13 points and Leah Cotton with 10, lost for the third time in four games, posting its lowest point total of the season.
- Michigan State 49 @ No. 13/18 Purdue 67 -- Purdue Makes a Statement in Sunday's Matinee
The Boilermakers proved Monday that their 7-0 conference record was not just a gift from the schedulers, as Alex Guyton and Chelsea Jones each scored 12 points to help No. 13/18 Purdue defeat Michigan State, 67-49.
Brittany Rayburn added 11 points and KK Houser finished with 10 in a balanced scoring effort for the Boilers. The victory extended Purdue's winning streak to 10 in a row and kept Purdue alone atop the Big Ten standings.
Meanwhile Lykendra Johnson posted a game-high 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Spartans, and Kiana Johnson added 14, as Michigan State dropped its third straight game after a 4-0 start in league play.
As in other games last weekend, the victory came thanks to a fast start as the Purdue defense, which has held every opponent in its last 10 games to under 38-percent from the field, limited the Spartans to a paltry 28.1-percent shooting and a season-low point total. But the early going was even rougher for MSU, which missed nine of its first 11 shots of the game, shot just 23 percent in the first half once they finally located the basket, and turned the ball over 11 times in the opening half, while the Boilers were busy building a 33-15 lead by the break.
Here again, while Michigan State's performance improved in the second period, the Spartans could never get the gap any narrower than a dozen, with five-and-a-half minutes remaining. Purdue coach Sharon Versyp called for time before the Spartans could cut the Boiler lead to single digits, and out of the time out, the Purdue defense buckled down, holding MSU scoreless for more than the next three minutes, while steadily adding to their own lead.
With only nine games remaining before the Big Ten tournament, Michigan State has only limited time remaining to right the ship if it hopes to defend its regular-season conference title.
|As of January 25, 2012|
Source: BigTen.org/Women's Basketball Standings
Coming Up Thursday, January 26
Editor's Note: Full Court's Big Ten correspondent Mark Bradford went six-for-six in his predictions for last weekend, improving his record to 33-9 (78.6 percent) for the Big Ten conference season.
Jolette Laws team deserves a little good luck, but East Lansing will be a tough place to get it. At the same time, the Spartans are vulnerable, currently struggling through a three-game losing streak in conference play, and Illinois is way past due, having dropped one close one after another.
Illinois has been able to spread the scoring around a little but can they score against the defense Michigan State puts up? The Spartan strength is in the paint but their guard play is average for this league. If the Illini can get giving Karisma Penn some help with the scoring, they have what it takes to beat Michigan State.
Prediction: Upset alert: Illinois wins by five. So far we're 2-1 on calling upsets and we're calling this one.
When: Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, 6:00 p.m. EST, Breslin Center, East Lansing, Mich. (BTN)
|No. 18/19 PENN STATE
This is a big one for both teams, who are currently enmeshed in a three-way tie (together with Nebraska) for third place in the conference standings. The loser gets pushed back to the bottom of the hill as far as real contention for the Big Ten regular-season crown goes.
In their latest outings, Penn State won a big one at home against Iowa while Michigan rolled over Indiana. Michigan is a tough foe to beat on its home floor, and proved it has the ability to take down any team in the league when the Wolverines handed Ohio State its only loss this season.
Penn State averages 12 more points a game than Michigan does, the Lady Lions' 16-point average scoring margin is second in the league only to Ohio State. But Michigan is second in the league in defense, holding opponents to just 56 points per game.
Both teams shoot about 43 percent from the field but Penn State is first in the league in field-goal percentage defense, allowing opponents only 32 percent from the floor.
The big difference will be on the boards where Penn State averages 10 more rebounds a game than Michigan.
Prediction: This is a tossup, but the game is in Crisler Arena. Let's call it Michigan by one, thanks to home-court advantage.
When:Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, 7:00 p.m. EST, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Mich.
|No. 9 OHIO STATE
Let me make this short and sweet. There is really no chance that Indiana can beat Ohio State, home court or not. Enough said.
Prediction: Ohio State by 20+
When: Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, 7:00 p.m. EST, Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind. (BTN)
Wisconsin coach Bobbie Kelsey was excited about her teams mental attitude in their home win over Northwestern.
If you want to win and youre competitive, you have to go out there and take the game, she said. You cant let people come in here and take it from you. I always say its like somebody coming into your house and they sit on your couch and they get your remote, and go into your refrigerator and dont ask you, and eat your things. Are you going to let them do that? No, youre not. So you think of them as uninvited guests, and youve got to send them home.
No doubt Pam Borton and the Golden Gophers feel the same way, and this time around it will be Wisconsin heading north and west for the game.
Borton thinks her team played okay against Nebraska but that they lost poise at key times. Loss of poise against good teams means loss of games.
Prediction: This game could be a turning point for Wisconsin, but they may not yet be ready for the turn. Home-court rules. Minnesota by five.
When: Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, 8:00 p.m. EST/7:00 p.m. CST, Williams Arena, Minneapolis, Minn. (Gopher All-Access)
|No. 19/21 NEBRASKA
The Hawkeyes have played just poorly enough to lose a couple of games they should have won. But Iowa has enough inside (Morgan Johnson 14.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and outside (Jaime Printy, 17.8 ppg) to contend with the Huskers. Kamille Wahlin (11.3) provides the third-person support for Iowa.
But this game is at Nebraska and Jordan Hooper (19.9 ppg) and Lindsey Moore (15.8 ppg) will be ready. And the Huskers, too, have a third option in Emily Cady, who has performed better in conference play for Nebraska (13.9 ppg in conference action).
Iowa will put up a good fight, but Hooper and company have better quickness and may be able to take Printy out of the game.
Prediction: If this game were at Iowa, we would pick Iowa. But it's not. Nebraska by five.
When: Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, 8:05 p.m. EST/7:05 p.m. CST, Devaney Center, Lincoln, Neb. (Husker Sports Network)
|No. 13/17 PURDUE
Purdue is on a roll, while Northwestern is still looking for an identity, as they are struggling mightily in league play.
The Boilers currently sit atop the Big Ten, but the tougher part of their conference schedule schedule begins in February.