The weekend card was highlighted by two games that were both a matchup of one team looking to put a further stranglehold on an NCAA bid and another looking desperately to strengthen its position. In both cases the desperate team playing at home won, and there is still very little separation as the league hurtles toward Selection Sunday.
Penn State came up big against Minnnesota. The Lion defense must have taken its cue from Tom Bradley's outfit and they shut down Lawrence Westbrook, whose February slide continues. The entire Gopher starting lineup was mostly unproductive, but Tubby Smith's team was again kept in the game by big help off the bench. This time it was from Devoe Joseph who rang up 23 points. But Talor Battle got back on track for PSU, with 21 and the Lions attempted 28 free throws to Minny's 14, enabling them to escape with the win.
Wisconsin hosted Ohio State. And even though the Buckeyes shot 55 percent, the UW defense was able to turn it into a low-scoring affair by forcing turnovers. OSU had 19 miscues, while Wisconsin took very good care of the basketball for the second straight game. Evan Turner came up with 23 points, as he asserts control of the MVP race, but Marcus Landry played a complete game with 17 points and 7 boards to lead Bo Ryan's squad to its fourth straight win.
In other action...
Purdue 49 Iowa 45
Amazingly, the Hawkeyes held JaJuan Johnson without a single rebound and still managed to lose at home. E'Twaun Moore was the hero for the Boilermakers, scoring 16 points and getting an unexpected ten boards from the point guard spot. It was enough to overcome Jake Kelly's 19 and help Purdue avoid a loss that might have pushed them back to the tournament bubble.
Michigan 70 Northwestern 67 (OT)
Manny Harris is either all in or he's not there at all, and fortunately for John Beilein, Manny was all in at Welsh-Ryan Arena. He led the Wolverines with 26 points in a game where both teams spent an inordinate amount of time on the foul line (27 attempts for Michigan, 23 for Northwestern). Kevin Coble scored 23 and John Shurma had a very strong outing with 17 points/8 rebounds. But just as NU starts getting contributions from beyond its Big Three, two of that trio starts to dry up. Craig Moore and Michael Thompson combined for only 15 points. With an RPI rating of 73 coming into the game, a win here would have made the Wildcats a longshot hope for an NCAA bid. As it is, the tough overtime loss eliminates any miracle hope they might have had.
Illinois 65 Indiana 52
It was all about rebounding in Bloomington, as the Illini sported a 35-23 advantage. Mike Davis posted a double-double, with 16 points and 10 off the glass. Mike Tisdale got 16 of his own inside, and Illinois guard Chester Frazier crashed the boards for seven rebounds. The Illini were sitting on a #13 RPI rating entering the weekend and the road back to the Big Dance looks like a nice easy one for Bruce Weber.
Player Of The Sequence: E'Twaun Moore. A double-double is always impressive, but 10 rebounds from your point guard is even more so. And when he's the one key contributor in an otherwise ugly win, that all adds up to being the weekend's most valuable player.