Once again, the Big Ten/ACC Challenge was a rousing success for more than the reason that the Big Ten won. I think it is no coincidence that in every year of these seven straight Purdue wins (over seven different opponents, no less) the Big Ten has either won or tied the event.
You're welcome, Big Ten.
This year's event was another excellent one. Four of the 14 games went to overtime. The road teams dominated on the first two days, winning six of the first eight games and eventually 9 of 14. All but two games were decided by single digits, as Purdue's 13 point win at Pittsburgh was the largest win for the Big Ten, while Indiana's 20 point loss at Duke was the largest for the ACC.
Here is a quick recap of each game.
The Big Ten very nearly got a win from its weakest representative right from the start. The Scarlet Knights led for most of the second half, including by nine with about eight minutes left, but lost on a Cornelius Hudson layup with 17 seconds left. Rutgers missed two shots in the final four seconds that would have won the game, and settled for a three-pointer with a second left instead of attacking the basket.
The Golden Gophers got 24 points and 10 rebounds off the bench from Jordan Murphy and won after trailing by 6 at halftime. This game was 76-73 in favor of Minnesota with 2:32 left, but the Gophers scored six straight for some breathing room. From there they won the free throw shooting contest. Minnesota is now tied with Purdue for the most wins by a Big Ten team in the Challenge with nine.
A few years ago Purdue used an overtime win at Virginia Tech to springboard into the NCAA Tournament. Can the Wildcats do the same? Bryant McIntosh scored the winning bucket with 27 seconds left in overtime and Northwestern got a defensive stop for the win.
This is a good road win for Michigan. Caris LeVert had 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists but it was 17 points from Duncan Robinson off the bench that made a huge difference. The Wolverines led by eight at halftime and were able to hold the Wolfpack at bay.
For a while it looked like the Buckeyes were going to pull off a big home upset of a top 10 team. They kept it close throughout, but could not get over the top. Marc Loving led Ohio State with 19 points while Jae'Sean Tate had 12 points and eight rebounds.
This was the only official matchup between top 10 teams and it was a pretty good one, even if it still feels like a regular season ACC game. Melo Trimble was really, really dam good with 23 points and 12 assists too. He is my early pick for B1G POTY.
What else can be said about this game? It was an impressive road win by a team that is starting to make a lot of non-Purdue people believe. Our SB Nation friends at Cardiac Hill even credited Purdue as "knowing how to shut the door at the end like a good team should." When was the last time we were able to say that about a Purdue team?
Shavon Shields had 28 points and it really looked like the Cornhuskers were going to steal this one. Miami missed a layup at the end of regulation, but Davon Reed hit his only three-pointer with 2:43 left in overtime to give the Hurricanes the lead for good. Nebraska was only down two with 21 seconds left, but did not score again.
This was the biggest surprise of the Challenge, but wasn't it enjoyable to hear one of ESPN's New Yrok "The old Big East was totally awesome!" slurpers all morose that mighty Syracuse was losing at home to Wisconsin? The Badgers won this by surviving some big three-pointers and deliberately working the ball inside to their strengths.
Denzel Valentine is another player that is really, really good, y'all. He put up a line of 25-5-7 as the Spartans recovered from a 13 point deficit. Bryn Forbes had 20 points, but Valentine's triple with five minutes left put Sparty in front for good.
Hey! Penn State did a good basketball thing, even though there was barely anyone on hand to witness it in Boston. Shep Garner seems to be taking the Talor Battle Memorial Great Penn State Guard Who Has No Help for 2015-16. He had 30 points on eight three-pointers to help the Nittany Lions get the win.
This was another near win for the Big Ten from the least likely source, as Illinois has looked utterly awful so far. At least the Illini were able to remove one interim tag as the State Farm Center re-opened after renovations. Malcolm Hill got 19 points, but it is pretty clear Illinois is going to roll the dice with some freshmen and give them some experience.
The clincher for the Big Ten was an overtime thriller as Peter Jok hit a big three-pointer to give the Hawkeyes the win. Adam Woodbury had 11 points and 10 rebounds, but his biggest highlight was not physically assaulting another player.
This was one of those rare games that was a 20-point blowout and it really wasn't that close. This was almost the opposite of the Purdue game. Both Indiana and Purdue came out hot to take an early lead, even though Indiana's was not as big as Purdue's 17 points. After eight minutes Purdue had to stiffen up defensively and win a dogfight. Indiana just got run over. Duke didn't break 100 because Coach K was merciful in the final 5 minutes.