(Video of Wisconsin F Jared Berggren's dunks courtesy of BTN)
News and notes from around the Big Ten:
- The No. 2 Wolverines (14-0) dismantled Northwestern (9-5) on Thursday night in Evanston, winning 94-66 behind 23 points, five assists, and four rebounds from PG Trey Burke. During one three-minute stretch just before the 15-minute mark of the first half, Burke hit five consecutive shots, including three 3-pointers, as Michigan surged to a 16-4 lead. The second half wasn't much better, as the Wildcats got into foul trouble, burned their timeouts early and were basically run out of Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tim Hardaway Jr., who missed Michigan's last game with an ankle injury, scored 21 points and hit four 3-pointers. “Fourteen and oh, that's a great start, but we've got to keep the attitude that guys are still doubting us,” Burke told the Detroit Free Press. “As long as we stay humble, keep that type of attitude, we'll be OK.”
- Wisconsin (10-4) hung on against Penn State (8-5) Thursday night with a 60-51 victory despite a less-than-dominating performance. The Badgers don't have the PG play to which they've been accustomed, and have had to rely on superior frontcourt play from Fs Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz. The trio combined for 38 points and 20 rebounds against the Nittany Lions, who after the loss of all-league PG Tim Frazier to an ACL injury, have had guard troubles of their own. “We struggled a little bit at guard, making some decisions there so the frontcourt bailed us out,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “For most years that I've been here, it's been the other way around with pretty much being able to make some plays and do some things,” he said.
- After just a 6-6 nonconference record, Purdue, fresh off a 68-61 upset of No. 11 Illinois (13-2), is beginning to show signs of life. The Boilermakers' veteran leaders D.J. Byrd and Terone Johnson had 16 points during a crucial 20-4 run on Wednesday, which flipped a six-point deficit into a 10-point lead with 3:25 left in the game. Johnson finished with a career-high 25 points and added nine rebounds. “We've been down like this a lot this season,” Johnson told the Journal and Courier. “And instead of going our separate ways this time, we came together.”
- No one could've predicted the Gophers would get out to a 13-1 start and begin conference play with a riveting 76-63 home victory over Michigan State on Dec. 31. Minnesota is ranked ninth in the AP poll, the highest it has been ranked since 1982. Is it fair to call the Gophers underrated any longer? “It seems to me that the Gophers have gotten intriguing press ever since winning two of three in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. They've steadily climbed the rankings week-after-week,” Amelia Rayno of the Star Tribune wrote. “They've been lauded for their defense, their balance, their athleticism, their impressive offensive rebounding.” Two of Minnesota's next three opponents are ranked teams (No. 11 Illinois, No. 5 Indiana) and should the Gophers get past both of them, the wins would certainly help justify a top-10 ranking.
- Iowa (11-3) nearly upset No. 5 Indiana earlier this week, falling 69-65 at home, but had its best player Roy Devyn Marble not played arguably his worst game of his career, the Hawkeyes may well have pulled the upset. In 33 minutes, Marble shot 1 of 14 from the field, but he partially atoned for his awful shooting by knocking down 12 of 13 FT attempts. The Hawkeyes have a grueling three-game stretch to open Big Ten play with games upcoming against No. 2 Michigan and No. 18 Michigan State. Marble's 15.6 ppg are essential to beating either of the teams from Michigan. "Any time you're chasing a Big Ten title, you don't want to start 0-2," he said in a Q-and-A with the Big Ten Network.
For more Big Ten coverage, follow Mike Singer and Dave Carey @CBSSportsBigTen.