Emerging from the shadows of the monuments and museum that decorate Washington D.C., the Big Ten and their members descended into our nation’s capital for the annual Big Ten tournament. And what better way to start the tournament than having a game go into overtime.
Penn State and Nebraska came into the game struggling but the tournament atmosphere gave both a much needed boost. Penn State raced out to an 11 point first half lead. The Huskers fought back. A Penn State dry spell on offense allowed the Huskers to cut the lead to 2 with 5:49 left in the half. Penn State responded with a 3 pointer by Shep Garner only to have Nebraska’s Tai Webster match them with his own 3 which tied the game at 30. But the Nittany Lions ended the first half on a 8-3 run as Nebraska went 3:45 without scoring before Jack McVeigh 3 pointer broke the drought. Penn State went into the locker room with a 38-33 lead.
Nebraska came out in the second half getting touches in the post as the second half looked more like a traditional rock em-sock em Big Ten game. After several possessions with post touches the Huskers went on an early 5-0 run to cut the deficit to 1. Penn State responded by pounding it in to their own big man, Mike Watkins. But after that both teams went on scoreless streaks that saw over 3 minutes without either team putting the ball in the basket.
It was the Nittany Lions who started warming up a bit led by Garner’s back to back 3’s. That pushed Penn State’s lead back to 9 with 11:17 left. Nebraska continued to try and push the ball inside but to no avail whereas Penn State’s inside touches seemed to produce fouls. Evan Taylor’s three point play got the Huskers back within 7 but Penn State’s defense stiffened.
With 5:48 left, Penn State held a 53-46 lead and the Huskers were out of fight. Yet another offensive drought, this time almost three minutes, but the Huskers fought back to cut it to one with under 1:30 left. But the Nittany Lions got fouled on a second chance opportunity and Lamar Stevens took advantage by making both free throws to push the lead back to 3 with 1:18 left. The Huskers weren’t done. Glynn Watson Jr’s fade-away three tied it at 58 with 49.3 seconds left.
Penn State came out of the timeout and drove the ball right to the basket where Tony Carr got fouled. Carr calmly sunk both free throws. The Huskers came right back down and showed incredible patience. Ed Morrow Jr. rewarded that patience with the game tying layup. After a Nittany Lion turnover, the Huskers had 2.6 seconds to win the game in regulation but a missed half court heave sent the game into overtime.
Penn State opened the overtime scoring with a Lamar Stevens 3 pointer. After empty possessions by both teams, Nebraska followed a bad turnover with a foul 60 feet from the basket. With a little over 2 minutes left and a 3 point lead, Garner hit a three at the end of the shot clock pushing the lead to six. That seemed to be the final dagger and Penn State held on for a 76-67 victory.
After the win Penn State Coach Patrick Chambers said of Mike Watkins’ 18 points, 11 rebounds performance “It was critical. It was all about defending and rebounding, protecting the rim. He did it all today.”
The second game featured Ohio State against Rutgers. The Buckeyes jumped out to a quick 6-0 before Rutgers seemed to settle in. Jae-Sean Tate hit his first four shots as the Buckeyes maintained their 6 point lead over the first 8:15. But Rutgers answered with 5 quick points capped by a Jonathan Laurent 3 pointer that cut the score to 17-16. After an Ohio State turnover, a Nigel Johnson layup gave the Scarlet Knight a short lived lead. After Ohio State took the lead back, Rutgers’ Johnson hit another 3 pointer tying the game at 23. A dunk DeShawn Freeman put Rutgers ahead but Ohio State responded with a CJ Jackson three pointer. That was part of a 9-4 Buckeye run to end the half giving them a 32-29 lead at the break.
The second half started with Rutgers making a mini-run to take a 2 point lead at 34-32. A Eugene Omoruyi 3 pointer gave Rutgers their biggest lead of the game at 6 points. Ohio State’s struggle from the free throw line continued in the second half as they only made 2 of their first 6 free throw attempts. But what seemed to be a theme for the day, the Buckeyes stayed in it when the Scarlet Knights went over 3 minutes without scoring. A Buckeye 6-0 run capped by Marc Loving’s three pointer tied the game at 39.
A 15-8 run gave the Buckeyes a 48-47 lead but then Rutgers started hitting the offensive boards hard again. On the next three possessions Rutgers scored and two out of the three featured offensive rebounds giving them a 53-48 lead with 6:46 left. As the game went back and forth and the Buckeyes cut it to two, Rutgers would get a big 3 point basket from Johnson. That extended the lead to 58-53 with 2:18 left.
The Scarlet Knights took over from there. They held Ohio State without a field goal the last 5:43 in the 66-57 victory.
The athleticism of Rutgers showed on the offensive boards to the tune of 19 offensive rebounds. Coach Steve Pikiell on his team’s victory. “We had to play really well for 40 minutes. It was a good 40 minutes for us. (We’re) real happy we get to live another day”.
Illinois vs Michigan
Penn State vs Michigan State
Indiana vs Iowa
Rutgers vs Northwestern
Marcus “Mook” Washington is the host of Making The Cut. Follow Mook on Twitter: @mtcwithmook and IG: MTCWithMook