January 15, 2024 

Big Ten notebook: Minnesota’s big week, Iowa trounces Indiana and more

The Hawkeyes are the lone unbeaten team remaining in Big Ten play

Iowa-Indiana stole the headlines for top game on the schedule this week, but it didn’t exactly deliver as such. The Hawkeyes trounced the Hoosiers in Iowa City to remain unbeaten in Big Ten play. Also this week, Minnesota picked up big wins over Michigan and Nebraska, while Michigan State beat Maryland and lost a tight game to Ohio State.

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Here’s your Week 10 roundup of Big Ten action.

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What everybody’s talking about: Molly Davis, Caitlin Clark steal the show against the Hoosiers

When you’ve earned a nickname from broadcaster Gus Johnson by the end of the game, that’s usually a good sign. For “Molly D.,” it was about as perfect a Saturday night as she could’ve hoped for. The fifth-year guard entered the Hawkeyes’ matchup with Indiana averaging just more than five points per game, before scoring a season-best 18 on 7-of-10 shooting in Iowa’s 84-57 win over No. 14 Indiana. Clark added 30 of her own — as well as 11 assists — and the No. 3 Hawkeyes improved to 17-1 on the season.

Indiana trailed by just six at halftime, but a 22-11 third quarter from the Hawkeyes put the game out of reach. After shooting a ridiculous 23-for-42 (54.8%) from 3-point range in wins over Michigan and Nebraska last week, the Hoosiers have shot just 9-for-34 (26.5%) in the last two games, against Penn State and Iowa. The team’s rate will likely even out in the long run, but the inability to score at a high level from deep doomed Indiana’s chances in Iowa City on Saturday.

The Hoosiers’ defensive performance also left little to be desired. Entering the contest as one of the stronger defensive teams in the country, allowing 17 points to Davis, 12 to senior guard Gabbie Marshall and 10 to graduate guard Kate Martin simply wasn’t a recipe for success.

The loss snapped Indiana’s 13-game winning streak, while Iowa’s now won 14 in a row.

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This caught my attention: Minnesota demolishes Michigan, hangs on against Nebraska

Last year, Minnesota won four conference games all season; five games into conference play this year, the Golden Gophers have already won three. Against Michigan in Ann Arbor on Tuesday, Minnesota cruised to an 82-66 win, arguably its most impressive in head coach Dawn Plitzuweit’s first season.

The Golden Gophers trailed 54-53 entering the fourth quarter, but a 29-12 run over the final 10 minutes allowed one of the nation’s biggest surprise teams this season to walk away with the win.

Minnesota continued to impress Sunday, holding off a strong Nebraska team in a 62-58 victory.

Sophomore forward Mallory Heyer led the way scoring in both games this week, with 21 points (7-13 shooting; 6-9 from 3) on Tuesday and 16 points (7-13 shooting; 2-6 from 3) Sunday. Heyer’s performance against the Huskers helped pick up the slack as sophomore guard Mara Braun, the team’s leading scorer, had just nine points on 2-of-17 shooting.

Plizuweit’s group is now 13-3 overall and faces two stiff challenges coming up this week, at Indiana (14-2; 5-1 Big Ten) on Wednesday and at home against Michigan State (12-4; 2-3 Big Ten) on Saturday.

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Other notable headlines

Ohio State fends off Michigan State

Michigan State nearly pulled off its most impressive win of the season so far against a Buckeyes team it hasn’t beaten in nearly four years, but a late offensive drought doomed the Spartans’ chances in a 70-65 loss.

Ohio State’s defense held Michigan State to just eight points over the last 4:51, including 3-of-11 shooting from the field, allowing the Buckeyes to move to 13-3 on the season and 4-1 in conference play.

Kevin McGuff’s group still has areas to improve, particularly in free-throw shooting, where the Buckeyes were just 13-for-26 from the line on Sunday. Michigan State, on the other hand, while just 2-3 in the conference, has navigated a pretty brutal stretch of Big Ten games (Nebraska, Penn State, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio State) relatively well considering the expectations for the program entering the season.

Ashley Owusu makes first appearance in Penn State uniform

Transferring to her second team in two seasons, the graduate guard had been missing in action during the first 10 weeks of her tenure with Penn State for undisclosed reasons. She emerged Sunday against Rutgers for her first action of the season and provided a glimpse of why head coach Carolyn Kieger was so excited to welcome her to State College, scoring 18 points with five rebounds and five assists in 25 minutes of action.

The Lady Lions beat the Scarlet Knights, 94-80, moving to 11-5 overall and 2-3 in conference play. Owusu could play a major role moving forward, as Penn State looks to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years.

Strange week at the bottom of the conference

It’s been an interesting last couple of weeks for teams at the bottom of the conference. Last Sunday, Illinois dropped a disastrous game at home against Wisconsin, 67-61. The Badgers then lost a disastrous game at home against Northwestern, 74-69, and the Wildcats subsequently lost at home against the Illini on Sunday, 93-52. At the very bottom of the standings, Rutgers has still yet to win a Big Ten game, losing on Thursday to Ohio State (90-55) and Sunday against the Lady Lions.

Of those four teams, Illinois has the highest upside. Shauna Green’s team desperately needed a win over Northwestern on Sunday to right the ship, and perhaps that can put the Illini back on track with games against Rutgers and Maryland coming up this week.

Wisconsin’s loss to Northwestern is mostly notable because it was a giant step backward for a program trying to take a step forward this season. The Wildcats have been one of the worst defensive teams in the country this year, and, after the road win against the Illini, a win over Northwestern would’ve signified that the Badgers are continuing to progress. Instead, it’s not clear exactly where things are headed in Madison.

The Wildcats’ roller-coaster week took place as head coach Joe McKeown missed his third and fourth games with an undisclosed illness. Acting head coach Tangela Smith said after the game Sunday that he’ll be back with the team “pretty soon.”

Finally, the Scarlet Knights continue to play without Kaylene Smikle, their top scorer from last season, who’s missed the last four games for reasons not disclosed by the team.

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Notable games coming up this week

  • Wednesday: Ohio State plays Maryland at 7 p.m. ET
  • Wednesday: Minnesota plays Indiana at 8 p.m. ET
  • Wednesday: Michigan plays Nebraska at 8 p.m. ET
  • Thursday: Purdue plays Penn State at 7 p.m. ET
  • Saturday: Michigan State plays Minnesota at 3 p.m. ET
  • Sunday: Iowa plays Ohio State at 12 p.m. ET
  • Sunday: Nebraska plays Penn State at 1 p.m. ET
  • Sunday: Indiana plays Purdue at 2 p.m. ET

Written by Eric Rynston-Lobel

Eric Rynston-Lobel has been a contributor to The Next since August 2022. He covered Northwestern women's basketball extensively in his four years as a student there for WNUR and now works as a sports reporter for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire.

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