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Big Ten Tournament: Day one recap

The 2015 Big Ten Tournament in Chicago got underway on Wednesday. There were only two games on the slate, as the bottom four teams in the conference were in action. The 12-seed Nebraska Cornhuskers squared off with the 13-seed Penn State Nittany Lions in the first game, and the 11-seed Minnesota Golden Gophers faced the 14-seed and dead last place Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Both games would prove to be fairly competitive for the full 40 minutes on Wednesday.


 

PENN STATE ESCAPES

Both teams were coming into this opening round match on really bad skids. The Nittany Lions had lost six of their last seven ball games, while Nebraska was riding an eight-game losing streak.

The Cornhuskers had high aspirations of competing for a Big Ten regular season title coming into this season, led by juniors Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields. The wheels fell off the track real fast halfway through conference play, and all hope was lost for Nebraska.

Penn State was not expected to be much of a threat this season, but they had a player on their roster that was capable of keeping them in any game and giving them a chance to win in senior D.J. Newbill.

After blowing a 16-point lead late in the second half, the Nittany Lions would find a way to hold on and fend off the Huskers, by a final score of 68-65. Newbill for PSU had a team-high 26 points and freshman guard Shep Garner chipped in with 19 points. The two led a key 14-1 run early in the second half to put the Nittany Lions up by 16. They survived a late surge and possible collapse to advance to the second round.

Nebraska would finish their extremely disappointing 2014-2015 season on a season-worst nine-game losing streak. Petteway had a game-high 29 points. Shields recorded a double-double for the Huskers, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Nebraska did not give up after Penn State went on a 14-1 run in the second half. They would respond by scoring 14 unanswered points of their own to keep the game close for the remainder, but they were unable to catch up.


 

MINNESOTA PULLS AWAY LATE

Like the teams in the first game, the Gophers and Scarlet Knights came into this game with rather disappointing finishes to their season. Minnesota lost five of their last six, struggling once again in conference play as they have over the past few seasons. Rutgers meanwhile, upset the top-5 nationally ranked Wisconsin Badgers back in early January, pushing their conference record to an even 2-2. Since then? Fourteen consecutive losses.

Minnesota was led by two seniors, guard Andre Hollins and center Maurice Walker, all season long. The fairly young Gopher team, coached by second-year man Richard Pitino, had difficulty competing against the top teams in the Big Ten this season.

Rutgers, in their first season in the Big Ten, would quickly realize that this is a different style of basketball and one of the best conferences in the country. Another young team, the Scarlet Knights had two of the more underrated seniors in the entire conference, guard Myles Mack and forward Kadeem Jack. Rutgers is coached by former Scarlet Knight player and NBA coach Eddie Jordan, who is also in his second season.

This game would also be competitive for majority of the game, but a 22-8 run by Minnesota late in the second half would help lead the Gophers to victory by a final score of 80-68. Minnesota got very solid contributions from their role players in this game. Forward Joey King would lead all scorers with 20 points, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range. Guards Nick Mason and Carlos Morris would also be in double-figure points. The seniors for the Gophers were rather quiet. Walker had a double-double, 10 points and 10 rebounds, but Andre Hollins, arguably their best player, did not record a single point.

Rutgers simply could not hang around with Minnesota for the full 40 minutes. They would get good contributions from Mack and Jack, scoring 15 and 18 respectively. Guard Bishop Daniels would also score 15 points in the contest.


 

DAY TWO PREVIEW

The 2nd round of the Big Ten starts early on Thursday, beginning with a noon tip-off. (Seeds reflect Big Ten Tournament seeding)

  • (9) Michigan VS (8) Illinois, 12:00 P.M. on Big Ten Network – Winner faces (1) Wisconsin
  • (13) Penn State VS (5) Iowa, 2:25 P.M. on Big Ten Network – Winner faces (4) Purdue
  • (10) Northwestern VS (7) Indiana, 6:30 P.M. on ESPN2 – Winner faces (2) Maryland
  • (11) Minnesota VS (6) Ohio State, 9:00 P.M. on ESPN2 – Winner faces (3) Michigan State
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