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No. 17 Purdue takes down Butler in Crossroads Classic

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The annual Crossroads Classic opened with No. 17 Purdue running past Butler for a solid 82-67 win on Saturday afternoon. The Boilermakers continued a recent strong stretch of play with another road or neutral win against a power-conference opponent.

Here are three takeaways from this one.

1. Purdue is the second best team in the Big Ten (and the gap might be growing).

The Big Ten is a mess so far. Only Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State are 2-0 in league play. The Buckeyes aren’t expected to maintain their surprising hot start. Obviously, others in the Big Ten like Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota and Northwestern could all be dangerous. But those four teams have also been underwhelming and have a lot of glaring holes.

For the current moment, Purdue (11-2) clearly looks like the second best team in the Big Ten. And the gap seems to be getting wider during a seven-game winning streak. Outside of a weird two-game stretch at the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Boilermakers have put together a solid stretch that now includes road or neutral wins over Arizona, Maryland and Butler in the last few weeks.

Purdue has experience, unique size with 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas and 7-foot-3 Matt Haarms, and capable perimeter shooters who can space the floor. The Boilermakers have good defenders at multiple positions. They outplayed Butler in nearly every facet of the game during a solid win on Saturday. Carsen Edwards (18 points) has matured as a solid leading scorer and plenty of players around him are double-figure scorers.

Butler isn’t likely to be a second-weekend NCAA tournament team, but they’re a solid postseason-caliber group that the Boilermakers made look silly for much of the game. Purdue knows itself. The Boilermakers know their personnel and they’re a veteran group. There’s a lot to like about Purdue at this point in the season.

2. Butler struggles mightily against length

Butler’s offense couldn’t get much of anything going on Saturday. The Bulldogs were ice-cold from the perimeter (7-for-22 from three-point range) and they didn’t fare much better when they tried to go inside (26-for-69).

The Bulldogs haven’t been a very good perimeter team in general this season — entering Saturday’s game with only 31 percent three-point shooting — and those problems were very apparent against Purdue. Without an ability to space the floor, attackers like Kelan Martin (15 points) and Kamar Baldwin (13 points) struggled to get anything going with the drive as the Boilermakers had a great defensive game plan to limit Butler’s looks. Senior big man Tyler Wideman (seven points) also had a hard time finishing over the length of players like Haas and Haarms at the rim.

Paul Jorgenson (15 points) had a big second half and he has been solid at times this season as a floor-spacing threat. The Bulldogs need more help for him on the outside. Sean McDermott has been labeled as a perimeter specialist, but he’s also returning from a recent injury and the Bulldogs are slowly bringing him back.

Butler’s offense is at its best when they can rely on Martin and Baldwin to attack. That wasn’t even close to the case on Saturday as both struggled to get going. It meant Butler didn’t stand much of a chance.

3. Purdue has some late-game turnover issues

Purdue has been generally solid with closing out games this season but they weren’t able to do so against Butler on Saturday.

It looked like the Boilermakers were going to cruise to an easy win before turnovers became an issue and Butler crept back in this one. While Purdue maintained most of its defensive intensity, its offense took a foot off the gas as Butler’s aggressiveness defending on the perimeter led to 18 Boilermaker turnovers.

Purdue is great at closing out games from the free-throw line if they need to. But their ball handlers need to limit turnovers and continue to run good offense if they build up a lead.

Purdue had trouble at times defending late leads last season. They’re now 10-0 this season when they have a halftime lead. Could this be an issue that comes back once again? It doesn’t seem likely but the second half on Saturday brought some ugly flashbacks.

POSTERIZED: Jericho Sims throws down dunk on Duncan Robinson

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Playing without leading scorer Andrew Jones, who’s out of the lineup after suffering a fractured wrist, Texas got off to a slow start in the first half of its game against Michigan Tuesday night.

Freshman forward Jericho Sims did his best to provide a spark, as the 6-foot-9 Minnesota native rose above Michigan’s Duncan Robinson to throw down a vicious alley-oop dunk.

Sims has a couple inches on Robinson in the height department, and the running start Sims managed to get rolling to the basket didn’t help Robinson’s chances of stopping the dunk either.

Watson lifts Nebraska over No. 14 Minnesota 78-64

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Glynn Watson Jr. was coming off a miserable game, with six points on 2-of-11 shooting in a loss to No. 3 Michigan State. He got back on track Tuesday night.

Watson scored 20 of his 29 points in the second half and Nebraska opened up a 16-point lead early in the second half en route to a 78-68 win over No. 14 Minnesota.

“This is all-conference Glynn, right?,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “He did a great job all night. … He was really determined the whole day and yesterday. I don’t think he felt good watching tape of Michigan State. It wasn’t anything new or different. It was just Glynn.”

Watson scored seven straight points to open the second half, and Duby Okeke’s dunk put Nebraska (7-3, 1-1 Big Ten) up 48-32 with 15:35 left.

Minnesota (8-2, 1-1) made two of its first 10 shots in the half and struggled against the Huskers’ switching man-to-man defense.

Minnesota cut the lead to 67-53 after two free throws by Nate Mason with 4:37 left, but James Palmer Jr.’s 3 put Nebraska up by 17.

The Gophers forced a pair of turnovers, hit three 3-pointers in the final three minutes, and Reggie Lynch’s dunk with 1:01 left cut the lead to 72-64. Watson and Isaac Copeland made 6 of 8 free throws in the final minute to seal it.

“They just played better than we did and when we need to get stops, we couldn’t,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “Offensively, obviously, we didn’t have it going. If you don’t have it going offensively, you’ve got to get stops and get out on the break. We did not do that. Credit to them.”

Watson downplayed his scoring, crediting the win to good team play, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

“It felt good,” Watson said. “We just executed our stuff and played good defense. That’s what we need to start doing. We got a good win.”

Using an aggressive, double-teaming defense, the Huskers held Big Ten scoring leader Jordan Murphy to 10 points, 11 below his season average, and held high-scoring Minnesota 21 points below its season average.

“I thought we played really hard tonight, too,” Miles said. “You cannot let them get going inside or they’ll brutalize you. I thought our guys did a really, really good job.”

Mason led Minnesota with 20 points, and Amir Coffey had 17 points.

Copeland finished with 12 points for Nebraska and Palmer had 11 points.

BIG PICTURE

Minnesota missed six shots to open both halves. The Gophers hit just 32 percent of their shots Tuesday. They entered averaging 49 percent shooting.

Nebraska, an up-and-down shooting team, hit 47 percent of its shots, 57 percent in the second half. The Huskers shot just 27 percent in their 86-57 loss at Michigan State on Sunday.

UP NEXT

Nebraska travels to Omaha on Saturday to meet intrastate rival Creighton, which dropped out of the AP Top 25 after being ranked for one week.

Minnesota is at Arkansas on Saturday to play its second road contest and third game of the week.

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More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

Bridges scores 21 as No. 3 Michigan State beats Rutgers

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — After blowing out its last six opponents, including highly regarded North Carolina and Notre Dame, No. 3 Michigan State was due for one of those off nights.

It almost cost them against Rutgers.

Miles Bridges scored 21 points and the Spartans (8-1, 2-0 Big Ten) overcame their worst offensive performance of the season with a 62-52 victory over the surprising Scarlet Knights (6-3, 0-2) on Tuesday night.

“I don’t know how to say this to anybody, but we’re not perfect,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “We’re not as good as you guys write. We’re a good basketball team that has a chance to be a great one.”

Against Rutgers, the Spartans had 15 turnovers, gave up 20 offensive rebounds and they played like a team that was starting four sophomores and a freshman, Jaren Jackson Jr. who scored all 11 of his points in the second half and had eight of the Spartans’ season-high 13 blocks. Joshua Langford added 15 points on 6-of-20 shooting from the field.

“Don’t let it eat you alive,” Izzo added. “Don’t let it frustrate you and don’t read into things. We have a long way to go.”

Rutgers made Michigan State work for this one, holding the Spartans to season lows in points and shooting percentage (38.6). The previous low was 63 points and 40 percent shooting against North Carolina.

What Michigan State did well was play defense. It came into the game with the nation’s best field goal defense (34.2) and it held the Scarlet Knights to 25.8 percent shooting from the field (17 of 66).

“They missed some shots, but boy you can build a lot on a good defense,” Izzo said. “You know it can rescue you a lot of times. Pick a pro sport. Pick a different sport, from good pitching to good goaltending to good defense like the Warriors. We textbook their offense. It doesn’t change. Championships are won by good defense 99 percent of the time.”

Deshawn Freeman had 13 points and Geo Baker and Eugene Omoruyi added 11 apiece for Rutgers, which lost its third straight.

“I hate to lose and I think everyone here came here to beat teams like that,” Baker said. “We were really close. Like Coach (Steve Pikiell) said, there’s a bunch of little things that if we can improve, we can win that game.”

Trailing 45-43 with roughly 8 minutes to play, Mike Williams missed a 3-point attempt that could have given the Scarlet Knights the lead.

Jackson then scored inside and added two free throws to ignite an 8-3 run. Bridges set up one of Cassius Winston’s two late 3-pointers and Jackson hit a free-throw to push the advantage to 53-45 with 3:03 to play.

“We found a way to get it done,” Jackson said. “It was plain and simple. We have to find a way when it’s close like that in a dogfight.”

The Spartans had taken the lead for good when Matt McQuaid hit a jumper for a 36-35 edge. Jackson followed with a layup and rebound dunk and Langford added a jumper for a 42-35 lead.

Playing a Michigan State team that had won its last six games by no fewer than 18 points, Rutgers stunned even its own home crowd by scoring the first eight points. A 19-4 spurt capped by eight straight points by Bridges allowed the Spartans to take a 21-14 lead with just over 7 minutes left in the half, but Rutgers responded with a 12-5 and went to the locker room tied at 26.

The 26 points were the fewest by the Spartans in an opening half this season, and half of them came from Bridges.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: Playing their third game in six days and their sixth in 13 may have caught up to the Spartans. They looked sluggish and they got very little from Winston, until his late 3-pointers and even less from power forward Nick Ward, who was 1 of 5 from the field. He played so bad, Izzo only played him 1 minute in the second half.

Rutgers: This is a step forward for the Scarlet Knights. They are relentless on the both ends of the court and this game would have been a lot closer had they not missed so many layups and open shots.

BRIDGES: The conference’s preseason player of the year is finally getting over his sprained ankle. He was 7 of 17 from the field, including 5 of 11 from long range. He added five rebounds. “He can play the 2, the 3, and the 4. He causes problems,” Pikiell said.

UP NEXT

Michigan State returns home to play Southern Utah on Saturday.

After losing to unbeaten Florida State, No. 14 Minnesota and the Spartans the past week, Rutgers takes a step down and plays host to NJIT on Thursday.

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More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

VIDEO: Tom Izzo appears on Judge Mathis

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When sports figures, be they athletes or coaches, make guest appearances on television shows they’re usually seen on sitcoms with the occasional drama mixed in. A show in which court cases are argued? That doesn’t happen all too often.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo did just that during the summer, as he was part of the courtroom audience on “Judge Mathis.” The episode was filmed in mid August.

Judge Mathis took time to acknowledge Izzo’s presence in the court room, as his daughter was a student-assistant to the head coach during her time as a Michigan State student. Seated next to Izzo was Michigan State assistant Mike Garland.

No. 1 Duke uses late run to pull away from Indiana 91-81

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Marvin Bagley III finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds and Grayson Allen added 21 points to help No. 1 Duke get past pesky Indiana 91-81 on Wednesday night in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

It sure wasn’t easy for the Blue Devils (9-0), who needed a late 17-4 spurt to finally pull away for their first true road win of the season. Wendell Carter Jr. had 18 points and 12 rebounds.

Indiana (4-3) was led by Robert Johnson with 17 points and De’Ron Davis with 16 as its three-game winning streak ended.

Duke turned what had been a back-and-forth game with a 10-4 spurt to close the first half, taking a 42-38 lead. When the Blue Devils jumped to a 52-42 lead just 94 seconds into the second half, it looked they would pull away.

Instead, the Hoosiers charged back with seven straight points, tied the score at 57 on Collin Hartman’s long 3-pointer and took the lead when Hartman made two free throws with 12:17 left to make it 61-59.

Neither team could take more than a two-possession lead until Gary Trent Jr.’s three-point play gave Duke an 86-77 lead with 2:24 left.

Indiana never seriously challenged again.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils might be even better than advertised. They’ve won nine games in 20 days, beaten two Top 10 teams and now have their first true road win. No, it wasn’t pretty, but they get the job done.

Indiana: The Hoosiers fought valiantly. They played defense, took care of the ball and hung around most of the game. It was an impressive performance, a better effort and the first big indication that new coach Archie Miller is getting things on track in Bloomington.

UP NEXT

Duke: Hosts South Dakota on Saturday, its first home game since Nov. 20.

Indiana: Opens Big Ten play Saturday at Michigan.

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More college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP