Michigan State celebrated the 30th anniversary of Magic Johnson's national championship team back in 1979 when they hosted Wisconsin on Sunday. And with a furious second-half flurry, the '09 edition of the Spartans kept alive their hopes for an outright conference championship and showed why, in spite of Tuesday's bad showing at Purdue, they remain a threat to reach the Final Four and perhaps even cut down the nets this year.
Tom Izzo's team hasn't lost when both Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton are at full strength. Morgan is still not full strength, but he's getting there. And Suton gave Izzo a strong 16-point, 10-rebound effort to help key his team's 61-50 win. Despite bad shooting from the three-point line, MSU compensated by hitting 47 percent inside the arc. And Suton's performance was just the lead role in a rebounding display that saw State assert a 34-18 advantage on the glass.
The loss ended Wisconsin's six-game winning streak, but the Badgers had moved into the Top 30 of the RPI prior to this game and are in pretty good shape to go back to the NCAA, so long as they close out remaining home games with Michigan and Indiana.
Purdue 81 Indiana 67
Matt Painter didn't allow his team to let up now that they're in the hunt for a championship. In a rivalry game that's always tough, both teams shot well, though both had some turnover issues. But the Boilermakers had E'Twaun Moore, who continued his late-season surge by scoring 26 points, the top figure in the conference this weekend. JaJuan Johnson cleaned up on the glass, grabbing 10.
Illinois 70 Ohio State 68
It wasn't the best of weeks for the Buckeyes, who dropped their third straight game and are falling back to the bubble. This was a well-played game, where both teams shot well and took care of the ball well. Rebounding was even. Mike Davis led Illinois with 22 points and 8 rebounds, while Trent Meacham hit for 17 and Demetri McCamey dished out 7 assists. Ohio State's Evan Turner was his usual versatile self, with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. And the backcourt of William Buford and Jon Diebler combined for 31. But OSU wasn't quite good enough on their home floor and needs to arrest this slide quickly.
Iowa 70 Michigan 60
Just when Michigan was looking good for the tournament, they come up short on the road. If anyone hasn't noticed, Iowa's Jake Kelly is making a strong case for All-Conference, particularly as some name players (Talor Battle and Manny Harris most prominently) have disappearing acts. Kelly was extraordinary on Saturday, pouring in 23 points, hauling down 8 rebounds and distributing 9 assists. Iowa's defense was also strong, holding UM to 32 percent shooting.
Minnesota 72 Northwestern 45
Lawrence Westbrook looks like he's finally found his groove again. The slumping Gopher guard had finally broke double-digits again earlier this week and Sunday night he knocked down 17 against a Northwestern squad that Bob Knight (in the ESPN broadcast of Duke-St. John earlier this week) called one of the nation's truly good stories this season. The Gopher defense was stifling, holding NU to 30 percent shooting and preventing Minnesota from suffering from Ohio State's problem of unlocking their bid and returning it to the bubble.
Player of the Sequence: Jake Kelly. Can the Hawkeye guard make first-team All-Conference with his February run?