EAST LANSING, Mich. — Xavier Tillman got off to a shaky start, filling in for Nick Ward in the starting lineup for No. 10 Michigan State.
Tillman finished strong, scoring a career-high 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, and Cassius Winston had 28 points help the short-handed Spartans come back to beat Rutgers 71-60 Wednesday night.
“It’s going to bring our team closer together,” coach Tom Izzo said. “Whether we’ll have enough, I don’t know. We’ll find out, but I’m not counting us out.”
Michigan State missed Ward and Joshua Langford on offense against defensive-minded Rutgers. Ward had hand surgery Sunday and Langford had season-ending foot surgery earlier this month, taking more than 30 points out of Izzo’s lineup.
Tillman, in particular, made the most of his opportunity.
“It builds tremendous confidence,” he said. “But Sunday, we have to get off to a much better start. This was a big win for us.”
The Spartans (22-5, 13-3 Big Ten) moved a half-game ahead of No. 7 Michigan and No. 15 Purdue in the Big Ten standings. They will play against the Wolverines on the road Sunday.
Michigan State started 0 of 6 and trailed 32-35 at halftime after making just 30 percent of its shots. The Scarlet Knights led by 11 points early in the second half before Tillman had six straight points and Michigan State’s best chance to score was off offensive rebounds.
“I thought we were getting in a little bit of a groove,” Rutgers guard Geo Baker said after scoring 17 points. “It felt good, but we were playing on the road and that team can explode at any time.”
Matt McQuaid made a game-tying 3-pointer with 12:39 left after Michigan State’s fourth offensive rebound of the possession. Winston made a go-ahead layup the next time the Spartans had the ball and they ended up coasting to a double-digit victory.
“The game was won because we rebounded,” said Izzo, referring to his team’s 45-31 edge on the boards.
McQuaid, the only player on the team who shot well early in the game, scored 11 points and Kenny Goins had five points and 12 rebounds. Kyle Ahrens, who has been in and out of the lineup with injuries, limped off the court after aggravating his back injury in the second half.
Ron Harper had 11 points for the Scarlet Knights (12-14, 5-11) as they lost for the fifth time in six games.
“We just have to stay positive,” Baker said. “We’re a really young team and we have to learn how to win.”
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights compete hard in the Big Ten, but they don’t have enough scorers to win consistently in the highly competitive conference. They connected on fewer than 40 percent of their shots against the Spartans.
“Our numbers offensively are up over last year,” said coach Steve Pikiell, adding he’s counting on four freshmen to play regularly.
Michigan State: Tillman didn’t score until 5:39 left in the first half, but the sophomore forward scored the last basket of the first half and had six straight points early in the second half to cut the Spartans’ deficit to five.
“Xavier had some problems in the first half,” Izzo said. “I thought he did a helluva job in the second half.”
Winston complemented his scoring by finishing with eight assists.
“Cassius is the best point guard in the league and he played like it,” Pikiell said.
Joe Wieskamp finished with just nine points, but he somehow managed to hit the biggest shot of the game, banking in a three from the deep corner with 0.2 seconds left on the clock as No. 21 Iowa beat Rutgers, 71-69, in Piscataway.
The shot that Rutgers hit to take the lead on the Hawkeyes was equally as impressive, as Geo Baker found a way to roll home a three with just 3.3 seconds left on the clock, which put the Scarlet Knights up 69-68.
Jordan Bohannon led the way with 18 points and five assists for the Hawkeyes, who improved to 20-5 on the season and 9-5 in the Big Ten. They are still two games out of first.
Brazdeikis scores 23 to lead No. 17 Michigan over Rutgers
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Coming off their worst game of the season, No. 7 Michigan did almost everything right to give coach John Beilein a school record-setting win on his 66th birthday.
Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis scored 23 points, Zavier Simpson came close to the triple-double and the Wolverines (21-2, 10-2 Big Ten) hit nine of their first 11 shots in opening a big lead and beating Rutgers 77-65 on Tuesday night.
“We were really good today,” Beilein said. “I really loved just about everything about our game except that 14-second span where we lost our minds and they scored eight points.”
The eight-point run allowed Rutgers (11-11, 4-8) to cut into an early 17-point lead but it never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Beilein referred to the win on his birthday as boring, and added he would cherish it for 10 minutes before looking at statistics for this weekend’s game against No. 19 Wisconsin.
“It’s a sickness that I can’t get away from, but that’s what it is,” he said. “I am trying to realize that I am not going to coach forever and these are great wins, these road wins. For us to have four road wins already in this conference is a great accomplishment.”
There were a lot of contributors.
Zavier Simpson added 14 points, seven assists and seven rebounds as the Wolverines bounced back from a dreadful performance in a 74-59 loss to Iowa. Jordan Poole added 15 points and Charles Matthews had 11 in giving Beilein his 121st win in the conference for Michigan, a school record. He share the old record with Johnny Orr.
Eugene Omoruyi, who spent a year in high school with Brazdekis in Ontario, Canada, had 21 to lead Rutgers. Montez Mathis added 12 points.
“When you are playing an elite team you can’t have a bad start, you can’t have a bad middle and you can’t have a bad ending,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “You have to play well all the time. You can’t have any bad against an elite team and we happened to not start off the right way.”
Brazdeikis scored Michigan’s first eight points and Matthews chipped in with nine in helping Michigan open its 27-10 lead.
Brazdeikis finished 8 of 14 from the field, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range. His point total was one off his career-high of 24 against North Carolina.
For much of the night he was paired head to head with Omoruyi, who was his roommate in his first year at prep school.
“He literally taught me a lot that I know today about mental toughness,” Brazdeikis said. “It was a lot of fun going against him. It doesn’t matter who I am playing against. The other team is the enemy. It’s a blank face every time I play an opponent, whoever is guarding me, it doesn’t matter. It was a lot of fun playing against him.”
GOOD DEFENSE: Michigan held Rutgers guard Gio Baker to eight points on 1 of 9 shooting. He was averaging 13.2 points. Beilein said he mentioned Baker’s name about 100 times in the two practices leading up to the game.
Michigan: The Wolverines did not get caught looking past Rutgers to Wisconsin this weekend. The Badgers beat the Wolverines 64-54 on Jan. 19 to hand them their first loss after a 17-0 start.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights are relentless. Despite being down early, they kept coming back and forced Beilein to play his starters until the final minute. Their four conference wins are two less than Pikiell had combined in his first two seasons here.
Michigan: Return home to face No. 19 Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon.
Rutgers: At Illinois on Saturday afternoon in their only meeting this season.
Chaos dictated the early portion of college basketball’s schedule on Wednesday night. With five ranked teams playing on the road in conference games, strange things were bound to happen. We ended up with a 50-point outing, two road upsets to unranked teams and an undefeated season ending all within the first few hours of the night.
Here are the things to know about Wednesday night in college hoops.
Markus Howard drops 53, Sam Hauser’s heroic regulation buzzer-beater lift No. 21 Marquette over Creighton
At the end of regulation, with Marquette down by three, Creighton turned the ball over on an inbounds pass with 0.8 seconds left. Sam Hauser and the Golden Eagles took advantage by nailing the controversial game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer to send it to overtime.
Junior guard Markus Howard took over from there as he finished with 53 points — with 14 points coming in overtime. It marked Howard’s third time with 45 or more points in his career — the first college player to do that since Jodie Meeks. For the first time in 20 years, college hoops also has a player with two career 50-point games. And Howard’s only a 19-year-old junior.
No. 17 Houston’s unbeaten season ends in controversial fashion at Temple
College hoops is only down to Michigan and Virginia among college basketball’s undefeated teams after Temple knocked off No. 17 Houston in AAC play on Wednesday night.
The game ended on a controversial charge call on a potential game-tying lay-up by the Cougars’ Corey Davis Jr. as Houston lost its undefeated season in dramatic fashion. Over the past two seasons, Houston has some of the most dramatic losses in college basketball as they’ll look to bounce back and stay atop a crowded field in the American.
Temple also joins the AAC conference race with a more intriguing case as they’ve now taken down the league’s best team early in conference play. In Fran Dunphy’s final season, the Owls now have a much better postseason case after a win like this.
Ole Miss enhances its profile with big win SEC win over No. 11 Auburn
Things got more interesting in the SEC on Wednesday night as Ole Miss held off No. 11 Auburn, 82-67, for a quality upset win. Finding themselves in bubble range after a surprising start to the season, the Rebels might have just given themselves the kind of signature win they were looking for by knocking off last season’s co-SEC champion.
Terence Davis came through with a monster game of 27 points and 12 rebounds as he put Ole Miss on his back during stretches of this game. Previously with only wins over Baylor and on the road at Vanderbilt to open SEC play, now the Rebels have the type of win they can build around.
Auburn’s loss means they’ll need to do more to keep up with Tennessee in the SEC. And they’re 0-2 in true road games on the season.
Also, who saw Ole Miss and South Carolina as being 2-0 in the SEC while teams like the Tigers and Kentucky would be 1-1? The SEC has already been wild to start this conference season.
Rutgers knocks off No. 16 Ohio State for biggest win of Steve Pikiell’s career
The Scarlet Knights really don’t have much of a shot at the NCAA tournament with an 8-6 record at this point, but it shows the progress the program has made. Big Ten basketball is also as brutal as ever as the league, top-to-bottom, is incredibly tough. The young backcourt of Montez Mathis (16 points) and Geo Baker (15 points) came through while Ron Harper Jr. chipped in 12 points.
Ohio State could fall out of the top 25 with its latest loss as they fell behind in the first half of a back-and-forth game. With a late lead, the Buckeyes dropped control, and eventually the game, as a young team looked inconsistent down the stretch. Big man Kaleb Wesson scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, but it wasn’t enough for the Buckeyes.
Rutgers stuns No. 16 Ohio State, first major win for Pikiell
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers may not be the doormat of the Big Ten Conference anymore.
Montez Mathis hit two contested layups and Geo Baker nailed a jumper with 10.3 seconds to play as the scrappy Scarlet Knights posted their biggest conference win under coach Steve Pikiell, a 64-61 decision over No. 16 Ohio State on Wednesday.
“This is a big win for us, a building block win for us,” freshman guard Ron Harper Jr. said. “Until today we hadn’t beaten a Big Ten team and today we beat a ranked Big Ten team. So this is a building win for us and expect the Scarlet Knights to be taking steps forward from now on. We don’t look to turn back from this.”
The win was the Scarlet Knights’ first against a ranked Big Ten team since an upset of No. 4 Wisconsin in January 2015 under then-coach Eddie Jordan. Their last win against any ranked team was last year when they beat No. 15 Seton Hall at home.
This was a gutsy win, too. Rutgers (8-6, 1-3) blew a 10-point second-half lead, fell behind by three and scored the final six points to hand the Buckeyes (12-3, 2-2) their second straight loss. They also did it with leading scorer Eugene Omoruyi sidelined for most of the game after hurting his left leg after seven minutes.
“We got through a ton of obstacles today,” said Pikiell, whose team won six conference games in his first two seasons in posting two last-place finishes. “To get that win is a huge confidence booster going forward.”
Ohio State had a chance to force overtime, but C.J. Jackson’s open 3-pointer hit the rim.
“Did love our last look,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “I did love that one. That was about the only good look.”
Mathis finished with 16 points and Baker had 15, with his last shot being his only second-half basket. Harper added 12 points and Shaq Carter, who got more time with Omoruyi out, had 11.
Kaleb Wesson scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half for Ohio State, which had used a 16-3 run to take a 61-58 lead. Luther Muhammad gave Ohio State a 59-58 advantage with a driving basket, and then Jackson hit a layup with 2:37 to go.
Muhammad added 13 points for Ohio State and Jackson had 10.
Mathis snapped an almost seven-minute field goal drought with his drive that got Rutgers within 61-60 with 1:47 remaining. Forty seconds later, he gave the Scarlet Knights the lead with a runner in the lane. Baker made his jumper after a turnover by Ohio State.
Ohio State trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half, but it used a 13-3 run to close to within 31-30.
Wesson was a one-man show to start the second half. He scored the Buckeyes’ first 10 points after intermission to give Ohio State a 40-38 lead. He missed the free throw after scoring inside and Rutgers suddenly rediscovered its game.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes could easily fall out of the AP Top 25 after this latest setback.
“I want to begin by giving Rutgers credit,” Holtmann said. “I thought they played aggressive, physical and beat us to more loose balls. We’ve got to find a way to coach better and play better.”
Rutgers: Omoruyi hurt his left leg with 12:58 left in the first half and was ruled out a short time later. Medical personnel seemed to be looking at his kneecap. If he is out any length of time, it will hurt. There was no update on his condition after the game. Sophomore guard Peter Kiss, who has struggled lately, did not play.
College basketball’s non-conference season is finally coming to a close.
To help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason recaps to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.
Who has been the best player in the biggest leagues?
Who is on track to get an NCAA tournament bid?
What have we learned about the conference hierarchy?
What is still left for us to figure out?
We break it all down here.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Big Ten.
MIDSEASON BIG TEN PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
It’s not hard to draw a parallel to Happ’s success this season and Wisconsin’s return to form after the program’s first season without an NCAA tournament in two decades. Happ put up numbers last year – 17.9 points, 8 rebounds and 3.7 assists – but it was a grind and things never seem to come as easily to him as they appeared two in his first seasons in Madison. He and the Badgers didn’t seem to adapt well to a more usage-heavy role with a supporting cast that was unable to do much supporting.
Now, though, Happ is beasting and the Badgers are rolling. The 6-foot-10 throwback pivot has the look of a National Player of the year, averaging 19.2 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 56.9 percent from the floor. He’s dominating the game by being excellent in nearly every one of its phases. It’s no accident Wisconsin is now 10-3 with a 2-0 headstart to B1G play. Happ’s game may not endear him to NBA scouts – he’s shot just three 3s this year – but he’s unquestionably one of the best players in college basketball right now.
THE ALL BIG TEN FIRST TEAM
ETHAN HAPP, WISCONSIN
CARSEN EDWARDS, PURDUE: The Boilermaker point guard has a decent argument for the top spot here given the season he’s having. Edwards leads the Big Ten in scoring with 25.8 points per game as he’s moved into a bigger role in West Lafayette and thrived. He’s shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point range and is dishing out 3.5 assists per game.
JAMES PALMER, NEBRASKA: Palmer’s efforts are a big reason the Cornhuskers look poised to snap a four-year NCAA tournament drought. The 6-foot-6 senior is picking up where he left off following his breakthrough season last year after transferring from Miami, averaging 19.6 points along with 3.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 2.8 assists per game.
CASSIUS WINSTON, MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans’ floor general is having a superb season to help power Michigan State to an 11-2 record with a 2-0 B1G mark. He’s doing it all, averaging 17.5 points and 7.5 assists per game.
BRUNO FERNANDO, MARYLAND: The sophomore has shown a lot of growth this season, and his game is starting to match his for foreboding 6-foot-10, 240-pound frame. He’s averaging 14.5 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game while shooting 70.2 percent from the floor.
We anticipated the Wolverines would be pretty good this season coming off last year’s surprise NCAA tournament title game appearance. It’s never wise to bet against John Beilein, and Michigan, despite losses of Mo Wagner, Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, still had talent on the roster. What Michigan is doing now, though, well, that’s been a big of a surprise.
The Wolverines are absolutely red-hot, roasting opponents and establishing themselves as a no-doubt, no-argument national title contender. They more than hinted at that fact when they thrashed Villanova in November and then followed it up with wins against Providence, Northwestern, Purdue and North Carolina to head into 2019 with a perfect 13-0 record.
Michigan’s defense is about as good as it gets, with opponents shooting just 41.4 percent on 2-point shots with an effective field goal percentage of 43, good for 11th in the country. The Wolverines also keep opponents off the offensive glass and the free-throw line, a time-tested formula for defensive excellence. Offensively, they’re playing Beilein’s offense methodically, taking care of the ball and making shots. They may not be overloaded with talent ala Duke, but the Wolverines are stacked with the likes of Charles Matthews, Jordan Poole, Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske and freshman sensation Ignas Brazdeikis.
The Wolverines look to be very much in line for a third title game under Beilein, and this could be the time they’re the last team standing, atop a ladder with cut nets in hand.
2. IT DIDN’T TAKE ARCHIE MILLER LONG TO TURN INDIANA AROUND
It’s not hard to imagine that last year wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of fun for Archie Miller. In his first year as Indiana’s coach, the Hoosiers went 16-15 overall and 9-9 in the Big Ten after Miller spent the previous four years in the NCAA tournament at Dayton. There weren’t a long list of doubters about Miller’s long-term viability in Bloomington, but a difficult year that included Big Ten losing streaks of four and three games maybe made the timeline look a little extended.
Or the Hoosiers would figure it out immediately, like it appears they have.
Landing five-star homegrown talent Romeo Langford was obviously the key as the freshman is averaging 17.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 50.3 percent from the floor (though a ghastly 21.3 percent on more than three attempts from 3-point range per game). He hasn’t been alone, though, as Juwan Morgan has been spectacular while the Hoosiers sport a top-20 defense.
3. THE B1G IS BACK
It’s been a couple of years in the wilderness for the Big Ten. The expansion to 14 teams may have been a boon to the league’s coffers, it hasn’t exactly been a success on the hardwood. Since the move in 2014-15, the Big Ten hasn’t ranked in the top-three in KenPom, and they’ve been fifth twice. They’ve averaged six NCAA tournament teams per year and haven’t had a one-seed since Wisconsin’s national runner-up season of 2015. They’ve only had five teams with a three-seed or better in that time frame, too. They’ve also played their conference tournament in Washington, D.C. and reworked the conference schedule into December to play in New York. So it’s been pretty nasty for a league that’s long prided itself on its basketball prowess.
This season looks to be a return to form.
The league currently has a pair of top-five KenPom teams (Michigan and Michigan State) while a whopping 11 programs are ranked in the top-50. Rutgers and Illinois look the only teams that are truly going to struggle while Minnesota is the third team outside the top-50 at 62 with wins against Washington and Nebraska on the resume.
The Big Ten is back in a big way.
THREE STORYLINES TO FOLLOW
1. ONE-SEED PURSUIT
The Big Ten hasn’t had a No. 1 seed in three seasons, but the conference now has a pair of teams that look squarely in the mix to secure one in Michigan and Michigan State. Can the Big Ten go from drought to deluge this season with a pair of top seeds?
It could be tough for the league to get two top seeds with Duke, Virginia, Gonzaga, Kansas, North Carolina and Nevada all building No. 1 seed resumes through two months, but it’s definitely not out of the realm of possibility. The Wolverines and Spartans will be bolstered by the fact the Big Ten is going to provide a plethora of quadrant-one wins this season, and the conference’s reputation appears to be on the upswing, which can sometimes matter as much as the numbers. If both teams can compile huge win totals – and perhaps split their season series with each other – it’s not hard to envision scenarios with them both on the one-line.
2. COACHING SITUATIONS
There didn’t appear to be any coaches whose seats were absolutely red-hot entering the season, but there were a few situations worth monitoring.
The first is Richard Pitino at Minnesota, where the son of the Hall of Famer has gone to just one NCAA tournament (featuring a first-round loss) in five seasons with an athletic director that didn’t hire him and a new university president on the way in. Pitino seems to have quieted much discussion about his job with a nice 11-2 start to the season, but it remains to be seen if a November loss to Boston College will be viewed as a hiccup or warning light.
Pat Chambers has gone 0-for-7 in his tenure in getting to the NCAA tournament during his tenure in University Park, though the Nittany Lions did take home the NIT title last season. Still, not many coaches can have that be the high-water mark over seven seasons and come to work for an eighth. Chambers has a win over Virginia Tech this season, but losses to DePaul and Bradley along with Ls courtesy of Maryland, Indiana, N.C. State and Alabama suggest trouble remains ahead.
Fran McCaffery has missed back-to-back NCAA tournaments in Iowa City, and the Hawkeyes’ best season during his tenure was a seven-seed and a first-weekend exit after being ranked in the top five at one point in 2015-16, but a new contract and huge buyout kept any questions about his job security to a whisper. Their 11-2 start to this season with wins against Oregon and Iowa State are having the same affect.
There’s been just one NCAA tournament in six seasons for Tim Miles at Nebraska, and that came in 2014. With a brand-new arena, the expectations in Lincoln are for more. But after narrowly missing the tournament last year thanks largely to the B1G being down across the board and this year’s strong start, things look to be pointed in the right direction.
3. HOW GOOD IS OHIO STATE
The Buckeyes have just one loss on the season, a home setback to Syracuse, and a bunch of nice-but-not-great wins on their resume with Ws against the likes of Cincinnati, Creighton, Minnesota and UCLA (whose blahness just got their coach canned).
Chris Holtmann’s team’s statistical profile is strong with KenPom rankings in the top-40 in both offense (35) and defense (22) while sophomore Kaleb Wesson is budding into one of the conference’s hardest-to-guard players.
How it all comes together when the schedule ramps up – starting with Michigan State on Saturday – will be one of the more interesting things to watch unfold in the Big Ten.The five game stretch of at Iowa, vs. Maryland, vs. Purdue, at Nebraska and at Mcihigan to finish January is going to tell a lot.
1. ETHAN HAPP IS A FIRST-TEAM ALL-AMERICAN
The Badgers big man will have stiff competition around the country, but if he keeps putting up numbers like he is now – and his entire career suggests he will – while Wisconsin continues its resurgence, it’s going to be impossible to keep him off a list of the country’s five best players.
2. AT LEAST EIGHT GO DANCING
Just a year removed from having four teams in the NCAA tournament – a 10-year low – the Big Ten is going to get at least eight teams into the Big Dance. Even with the expanded membership, that would be a historic achievement for one of the country’s most storied conferences.
3. THERE WILL BE A SURPRISE TOURNEY CHAMPION
We’re going to spend a ton of the next two-plus months talking about Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin as the premier Big Ten teams, but it’ll be another team from the deep league – here’s looking at Ohio State, Indiana or Nebraska – that will cut down the nets at the United Center in the conference tournament.