Purdue lost control of its destiny in the Big Ten race, while Michigan scored a huge victory in its push for the NCAA Tournament last night in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines scorched the nets, hitting 63 percent from the floor and getting dynamic performances from the duo of DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris. Sims led all conference scorers this week with 29 points, while Harris poured in 27. We've said it here before and we'll say it again--when Manny is on, no one in the Big Ten lights up the board the way he does.
Purdue was inefficient from the three-point stripe, taking 25 shots to hit only 7, in a game that saw both teams launching from downtown. Robbie Hummel had perhaps his best game of the season, with 24 points. But it was not enough to prevent the Boilermakers from falling two games back. All is not lost yet for Matt Painter's team. If Michigan State loses at Illinois on Sunday, Purdue can then make up the remaining game head-to-head with the Spartans. But whatever hopes Painter had of an outright conference title is now gone.
In other games...
Illinois 52 Minnesota 41
Purdue's loss was Illinois' gain. As we discussed in the post below, the Illini still have hopes of angling their way into a co-championship and they got a must-win game in Champaign on Thursday. Neither team shot well and neither took care of the ball particularly well, but Minnesota's 19 turnovers were too much to overcome. Mike Davis was the only player for the Illini who bothered to rebound, collecting 11 boards on a night his team was beaten decisively (37-25) on the glass. Damian Johnson had a big night for the Gophs, scoring 18 and picking up five steals.
Michigan State 62 Iowa 54
The Spartans took care of business at home, with a workmanlike win over Iowa. Another double-digit edge in rebounding, along with 16 from Delvon Roe, was enough to overcome Jake Kelly, who continued his huge late-season run with 20 points.
Ohio State 73 Penn State 59
In the game with the most implications for the NCAA Tournament, the Buckeyes got what they desperately needed. Having lost three in a row, OSU would have been in a major danger area if they'd have dropped another one on their home floor. Evan Turner was MIA in this one though, being held to six points. It was the Buckeye bench that delivered for Thad Matta, as reserve guard Jeremie Simmons nailed 14 points, while backup center B.J. Mullins came through with 13 and five rebounds. Penn State had four players sitting on 10 and 11 points, and it's been a while since either Jamelle Cornley or Talor Battle had a truly big game. Because PSU already got a big road win at Illinois, this one wasn't a must, but the Lions absolutely have to take care of business this weekend against Indiana.
Northwestern 75 Indiana 53
Speaking of Indiana, Northwestern continued to solidfy an NIT invitation and keep hope alive for one big run at the NCAA, as they feasted on the Hoosiers in Bloomington. The NU backcourt of Craig Moore and Michael Thompson finally functioned in tandem, combining for 33 points. It was a welcome performance for Thompson, whose scoring has been down this year. Devan Dumes was held to three points for IU on 0-of-6 shooting from treyland. Tom Crean knew it was going to be a rough year this season, but you wonder if he has any regrets as he languishes in the Big Ten basement, while the Marquette team he built is near the top of the Big East.
Player Of The Sequence: Robbie Hummel, Purdue. I'm giving Hummel the edge based on the fact that Harris and Sims had each other to split defensive attention, while Hummel had to carry Purdue.