It was showdown week in the Big Ten and Purdue once again stood the test. The Boilermakers jumped out to a big lead against Michigan State and then held off the surging Spartans down the stretch for a 60-54 triumph in front of a delighted Mackey crowd.
Purdue did an outstanding job taking away Tom Izzo's key scorers. While Kalin Lucas had a big night off the Spartan bench, Drew Neitzel was nowhere to be found. Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton were barely more noticeable. Meanwhile, Robbie Hummell was continuing his stretch drive hot streak, pouring in 24 points. And just like at Wisconsin, the Boilers won the turnover battle, forcing 17 MSU miscues. Jeff Washburn of Boiler Station proclaims that the Boiler Express rolls on.
Overall, it was a strange week in the Big Ten. While Purdue defended their home floor, the home teams generally had about as good a midweek as Kelvin Sampson, losing the other four games. And no home loss was more consequential then the one suffered by Sampson's team against Wisconsin. The Badgers got a banked-in trey from Brian Butch to steal a 68-66 win in Assembly Hall.
While Butch's shot got the headlines, the UW big man did not have a good night, getting only four rebounds. Trevon Hughes had his second straight poor game. The lynchpin of the Badger offense has scored just 12 points total in two games against Purdue & Indiana, something that has to give Bo Ryan serious cause for concern as his team tries to make a championship push. On Wednesday they were bailed out by Jason Bohannon who knocked in 18 off the bench.
Indiana got its usual good games from Eric Gordon and D.J. White, though with "only" eight rebounds, White was kept reasonably in check on the glass. Armon Bassett got 12, but beyond that no one contributed. With the loss, IU now trails Purdue by a game in the loss column.
Minnesota's hopes for an NCAA bid took a devastating hit with an 84-60 home loss to previously reeling Illinois. The Illini shot 59 percent from the floor and put four players in double figures. While the inconsistency of Brian Randle and Shawn Pruitt has been the primary cause of the disappointing season, it's worth noting that neither player had much of a resurgence in Wililams Arena. Certainly not Randle, who was as irrelevant in this game as he has been much of the conference schedule. The hero was Trent Meacham, who led the way with 19 points.
As for the Gophers, while they are still 15-8, this is the type of game that knocks a team off the bubble. Minnesota's RPI is very weak as it is (103) and a 24-point loss at home to a bad team in mid-February is going to stick out like a sore thumb. Myron Medcalf of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes that freshman guards have played a big role in Tubby's developing turnaround. But this week, they and the rest of the team were all too green.
Rounding out the midweek games, Ohio State rolled past Northwestern in Evanston, overcoming eighteen turnovers. And Michigan surprised Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye behind 15 points from Manny Harris.