Shooting misses and sloppy play–just like the messy weather in 2/3 of the nation on Wednesday night, most of the games involving bubble teams mirrored the snow in the Midwest and the ice in the Deep South.
Illinois feels more like they are getting Orange Crushed
Carver-Hawkeye Arena again was not kind to the Orange Crush. Case in point the field-goal shooting: The Illini shot just 33.3 percent from the field, and some of the individual percentages were even worse. Malcolm Hill, who’s been the team’s go-to scorer since January, was 1-for-10 from the field with two points. Kendrick Nunn was 3-for-11 with 7 points. Rayvonte Rice and Ahmad Starks, who made up the majority of the team’s scoring output with 20 and 19 points, respectively, finished a combined 12 for 28 (Rice went 5-for-13 while Starks made 7 field goals out of his 15 attempts from the field).
Nnanna Egwu ended up fouling out, and three other Illini players had four fouls each. John Groce’s team was whistled for 25 personal fouls, and Iowa ended up going to the free-throw line a whopping 30 times. Iowa ended up missing 10 in the waning minutes, but their earlier 20 charity attempts that they did make proved to be more than enough in the Hawks’ 68-60 win.
Illinois only went 7 of 21 from long distance, which again did not help their cause in trying to find a consistent line-up that can produce some scoring output when it is desperately needed.
Aaron White was simply phenomenal for Iowa, scoring a career-high 29 points to go along with nine rebounds. He was the only Hawkeyes player in double figures, though Jarrod Uthoff managed to have himself a nice game with six points to go along with 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Illinois is in danger of missing out on the NCAA’s entirely, now having lost four straight games after looking so good during most of December and January.
The Illini are at 17-11 overall and 7-8 in the Big Ten, while Iowa is pretty certain they will be dancing come March with a cool 19-10 overall season mark to go along with a 9-6 mark in conference play. That game I talked about earlier in the week at Purdue in early March appears to be an even bigger game than originally thought when the schedule makers drew it up last July.
Valparaiso could have clinched the Horizon League regular season title outright, but fell short. The Crusaders blew a 58-55 lead during the final media time out, as the last 3:49 belonged to Detroit. The Titans were helped greatly by Anton Wilson, whose three point basket gave them the lead with 1:51 to play. Juwan Howard, Jr. (yes, the son of the former member of Michigan’s Fab Five during 1992 and 1993) made three free throws with one second to play. The 63-60 upset snapped the Crusaders’ seven-game win streak. Valpo is still in the driver’s seat (25-5 overall, 12-3 in the conference), but a huge matchup on Friday night at Cleveland State will probably settle who gets the top seed (10 p.m. on tape delay on ESPNU).
Richmond shocked VCU 67-63 in two overtimes. VCU had two players out due to injury (starting point guard Briante Weber, who is out for the season with a knee injury he sustained during the teams’ previous meeting on Jan. 31, and reserve forward Justin Tillman, who sat with an injured shoulder).
The Rams only shot 19 of 58 at 32.8 percent. The key play in sealing Richmond’s victory was Terry Allen’s free throws and a key block in the closing seconds. Treveon Graham hit a long distance shot at the end of regulation to cap a 16 point comeback during the second half. However, his attempt to send the game to a third overtime was thwarted thanks to Graham, who iced the game with two free throws. VCU travels to Dayton on Saturday, another huge game similar to Northern Iowa going to Wichita State in a battle of top dog supremacy in the Missouri Valley.
North Florida stunned “Dunk City” Florida Gulf Coast, 76-62 thanks to FGCU’s rather anemic shooting–going 24 of 65 for 36.9 percent. The Ospreys swept the season series, thanks to a blistering shooting exhibition–29 of 59 for 49.2 percent as four players finished in double figures. Although both teams finished 11-2 in Atlantic Sun play, they begin their conference tournament next week on opposite sides of the bracket. If form holds, “Dunk City” will be forced to go on the road for the final.
Finally, Fresno State toppled Wyoming 64-59 and Baylor scored their first-ever win at Ames in edging out Iowa State 79-70, s Scott Drew’s Bears continue to make another case on why they should be in the 68 team field.
As I close out this blog, honorable mention must go out to Chris Collins and the Northwestern Wildcats. Matching point-for-point with Indiana at a raucous Welsh-Ryan Arena, you must have thought that a Cubs baseball was breaking out. Tied at 40 entering halftime, the second half saw the Wildcats get hot and the Hoosiers get ice cold. Led by freshman Vic Law, who was coming off a career-high 17 points in NU’s previous win over Penn State, had another nice game with 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds in a convincing 72-57 upset.
Not only is Northwestern back at .500 for the season, but this was their first four-game Big Ten winning streak which was a long time coming.
The last time that happened, Batman was the show to watch on TV and Chicago went from 67 degrees in late January 1967 to seeing a then record of 68.4 inches of snow paralyze the city.
Will Thursday and Friday’s action prove to be any different?
Again, any upsets that occur–I will be over it.
Please have a good night, and continue to stay warm and dry.