March 4, 2023
Big Ten Tournament notebook: Day 3 live from Minneapolis
On Friday, fans saw a classic Ohio State-Michigan matchup and early struggles from Iowa
MINNEAPOLIS — After a few dramatic days of games, the Big Ten Conference Tournament quarterfinals stuck to the script on Friday as the top four seeds advanced, setting up two much-anticipated semifinals on Saturday.
No. 1 Indiana 94, No. 9 Michigan State 85
Following a gutty win against Nebraska on Thursday, Michigan State acting head coach Dean Lockwood spoke of the challenge his team would face on Friday in attempting to beat top-seeded Indiana. Lockwood reflected on how the Spartans were able to hand the Hoosiers one of their two losses in the regular season and the challenge of doing it a second time, especially with guard Grace Berger back in the lineup for Indiana.
“We had some people produce in that game, and again, I thought our shot selection was pretty good,” Lockwood said. “Again, Indiana is a very, very good team, I think, without Grace Berger. We’ve got Indiana with Grace Berger now. That’s another task. Once we can enjoy this [win] for another five or 10 minutes, we’re going to think about that and get right back to more headaches.”
There was no evidence of a lingering big-win hangover for the Spartans, and they caused plenty of headaches for Indiana in the first of four quarterfinals at the Target Center.
Michigan State came storming out of the gates and showed why it has been so tough to play against all year. Its swarming full-court press produced four steals and forced six Indiana turnovers in the first quarter.
Indiana forward Mackenzie Holmes scored the first bucket 23 seconds into the first quarter. The Hoosiers then missed seven consecutive shots and didn’t hit another shot from the field for the next 7:20.
The MSU defense took Indiana’s second-leading scorer, guard Sydney Parrish, almost completely out of the game in the first half and held the Oregon transfer scoreless until the fourth quarter.
Guard Kamaria McDaniel ignited Michigan State on the offensive end, scoring 10 of her game- and season-high 32 points in the first quarter. The Spartans led 24-14 after the first 10 minutes in a dream start for the No. 9 seed and NCAA Tournament hopefuls.
The Spartans built their largest lead of the day halfway through the second quarter and held a 36-24 advantage at the media timeout.
Indiana junior forward Kiandra Browne subbed into the game at the 4:11 mark and drew a charge on Taiyier Parks to get the ball back for Indiana. But a bit of a scary scene followed: Browne crumpled to the floor and grabbed her right leg, writhing in pain. She had to be wheeled off the floor.
“She got hip-checked by TT Parks. I watched it,” Indiana head coach Teri Moren said postgame. “As we know, she’s had two already, hip surgeries. So she is on her way, I think, to get X-rays off site. So I don’t have a lot of updates right now on her.
“I can tell you this: She was in a whole lot of pain when I got out to her. Just hoping and praying for the best for K.B. because she has been through a lot in her short time at IU with injuries and whatnot, just had some bad luck.”
The Hoosiers settled down after the injury stoppage and rattled off the next nine points of the game. Indiana looked to Holmes down low and Minnesota transfer Sara Scalia on the perimeter to retake control of the game and cut the 12-point lead in half by halftime.
Scalia stayed devastating from deep all game, hitting 4-for-6 shots from downtown and 8-for-8 from the free throw line for her second 20-point performance of the season. And it didn’t hurt that Target Center is only about 25 miles from Scalia’s hometown of Stillwater.
“Playing in my home state where I grew up in, it’s something special,” Scalia said. “Minnesota is obviously a big part of where I’m from and where I grew up, so it’s definitely special playing in my home state.”
As the game wore on, Holmes got tougher and tougher inside. Michigan State had its hands full trying to contain her and stay out of foul trouble. Holmes shot 8-for-13 from the field and she sank 11 of her career-high 14 free throw attempts.
Isaline Alexander picked up two fouls early for Michigan State and only played five minutes on the night. Parks and Julia Ayrault both fouled out as Indiana played more like its one-seed self in the second half.
“Halftime came at a good time for us, really, just to sort of collect our thoughts and also make some adjustments,” Moren said. “Not, I guess, strategically just as much as our minds. I thought we were much better in the second half.”
The Hoosiers scored the first five points of the second half and outscored Michigan State 15-9 to tie it at 49. Then IU freshman Yarden Garzon drained a 3-pointer to give Indiana its first lead since leading 2-0.
Consistent with its usual toughness, Michigan State had an answer. Indiana had a tough time stopping McDaniel any time she got downhill and attacked the basket, and McDaniel had back-to-back crafty buckets to put the Spartans back in the lead.
The razor-thin margin may have held had Indiana’s 3-point shooting not woken up all the way in the fourth quarter. Parrish made back-to-back threes, and Scalia and Garzon both made their lone 3-point attempts of the quarter.
As the physicality of the game increased and started to turn into a bit of a slugfest or free throw contest, no Hoosier was more valuable than junior guard Chloe Moore-McNeil.
“Chloe Moore-McNeil, I said to our group, was just tremendous,” Moren said. “Her stat line was very impressive today, and her defense is something that we certainly count on.”
Moore-McNeil shot 10-for-12 from the line, made all three of her shots from deep, posted a double-double with 19 points and 11 assists, and added five boards.
Indiana took everything Michigan State had to give, but in the end, the Hoosiers will march on to the semifinals and the Spartans will wait and see whether they will earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
“There is not one ounce of quit in us,” Lockwood said. “So until we see that bracket and we’re not in it, we’re going to prepare to play in the tournament. … I am not conceding until that point.”
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No. 4 Ohio State 81, No. 5 Michigan 79
On Thursday, Michigan defeated Penn State, a team it had beaten twice in the regular season, to earn a place in the quarterfinals. Even playing shorthanded, Penn State showed just how difficult that is to do. Michigan traded places on Friday and battled Ohio State — its archrival whom it had lost to twice this season — for a place in the semifinals.
The rivalry game lived up to the billing.
As they’d done in their two regular-season victories over the Wolverines, the Buckeyes brought plenty of pressure early. Neither team hesitated to push the tempo, and both shot pretty well in the early going. After a fun and fast-paced first quarter, the score was Ohio State 24, Michigan 22.
The Buckeyes got a brilliant performance from forward Cotie McMahon, one of many freshmen who have seen their stars rise even higher on the conference tournament stage. McMahon hit her average of 14 points within the first 11 minutes of the contest and was nearly unstoppable any time she got a head of steam towards the basket.
The freshman from Centerville, Ohio was marvelous when the ball was in her hands, but she may have been even stronger on the other side of the court.
“Offense wasn’t my main focus,” McMahon said. “It was defense. I feel like you take care of the defensive end and your offense will take care of itself, and it did.”
McMahon enjoyed one of the finest days of her brilliant first season in scarlet and gray. Her 28 points marked her second-highest total of the season and the most she’s scored against a Big Ten opponent.
“Incredible player. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen somebody that young play so hard,” Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said. “She competes on every possession. She competes on every possession in practice. Really fun to see. She’s also got a real joy for the game. You can see she loves to play. She loves to play with her teammates. Just a great kid to coach. Really excited about what the future holds for her.”
Defensively, Ohio State held Michigan to 36.8% shooting from the field (6-for-19) in the second quarter and took an eight-point lead into halftime. The Wolverines came charging back in the third quarter and turned the game into a back-and-forth heavyweight bout synonymous with playing in March.
The Wolverines also protected the ball better than in either of the previous matchups against the Buckeyes this season. Michigan committed just nine turnovers compared to 11 for Ohio State.
“We put ourselves in a position to win,” Michigan head coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “We made plays down the stretch in terms of taking charges and doing what we needed to do. Just really proud of our team and just the way that we battled. I thought we probably played harder than we’ve played all season long, and that’s a great sign moving into [NCAA] Tournament time.”
First-Team All-Big Ten selection Leigha Brown paved the way for the Michigan offense, scoring 11 of her team-high 19 points in the second half. Brown scored tough bucket after tough bucket, trading haymakers with McMahon and Taylor Thierry, who also scored 20 for the Buckeyes.
Michigan chipped away at the Buckeye lead until guard Maddie Nolan drilled the second of her three long balls on the day to make it 70-68 in favor of the Wolverines. It was their first lead since the first-quarter media timeout.
The rivals traded baskets until they were knotted up at 76. That’s when Ohio State got the biggest lift from their emotional leader.
Senior Jacy Sheldon, who has missed all but six games this season due to a foot injury and hadn’t played at all since Feb. 8, came off the bench and gave the Buckeyes 13 gutty minutes. More importantly, she drained her lone 3-point attempt of the game to break the 76-76 deadlock with 1:29 remaining.
“She makes everybody around her better,” McGuff said. “We play a little faster with her in the game. Just the overall pace is better. When we press, we’re significantly better with her in there. Also just adds another scoring guard. She can really score the ball.”
Fellow senior Taylor Mikesell added a layup on a fast break to make it 81-76 in favor of the Buckeyes. Nolan responded with another clutch three, and after forcing a rare turnover, Michigan called its final timeout and had the ball back with 23 seconds left and a chance to win or tie.
The Wolverines got two looks at a game-tying shot, and the ball went to exactly who Michigan fans wanted it to on the second attempt. Brown got the ball and drove to the basket, where a host of Buckeyes waited for her. She got the shot off and drew contact, but it didn’t drop and no whistle was blown.
“We were thinking, ‘Get the ball in Leigha’s hands.’ Maybe we should have gone to more of a screening action,” Michigan forward Emily Kiser said. “They were kind of getting lost in that earlier in the game. But … I thought Leigha had that shot right there. She went to the basket, and they didn’t call anything. But I think we were happy with the look we got.”
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No. 2 Iowa 69, No. 7 Purdue 58
The Target Center officially became Carver-Hawkeye Arena North for the night session. 8,577 fans came through the turnstiles, setting a new attendance record for a Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal.
The second-seeded Hawkeyes, star guard Caitlin Clark and the always excitable Iowa fans brought the energy and the decibel levels up. But the Purdue Boilermakers were not just happy to be there; they wanted to spoil the party.
Iowa won the tip, and Clark drilled a three right off the bat. The fans went nuts, Clark held three fingers in the air, and it felt like the Hawkeyes were going to dance their way into the semis. But for the rest of the first half, Clark and the Hawkeyes looked miserable.
Sure, Iowa had the better offense in the first half and had a 29-25 lead after the first 20 minutes. But had there not been a scoreboard, based entirely off of body language and vibes during the second quarter, one could have assumed Iowa’s entire season was crumbling.
“They went to their box-and-one [defense] that they started to do,” Clark said. “I think we didn’t really run and cut to spots. I think we had too many turnovers, especially in the second quarter. And then we also didn’t make some shots that we do usually make.
“I think overall they just kind of changed up their defense and they made some shots, and we couldn’t really push in transition as well.”
An enormous amount of credit goes to Purdue’s defense and head coach Katie Gearlds. Clark had just seven points in the first quarter, and in the second quarter, she had more technical fouls (one) than points (zero).
“I was just kind of frustrated, and sometimes your emotions get you, and that’s what happens,” Clark said of the technical. “But I think I responded pretty well. It is what it is. That’s just how things go sometimes.”
Clark battled both the Boilermakers and the officials all game long, and it showed. After three quarters, she had 10 points, on pace for her lowest total of the season, and the Hawkeye lead was just five. Gearlds and Purdue had a plan to pull off the impossible, and they nearly made it happen.
As tremendous as Purdue’s defense was, it didn’t have an answer inside for Monika Czinano. The Watertown, Minnesota, product scored nearly at will any time she touched the ball, shooting 6-for-7 from the field and 2-for-2 from the line.
“We all knew it was us against the world in there,” Purdue senior guard Cassidy Hardin said. “[The Iowa fans] obviously travel super well. It got really loud for them sometimes, but I think we handled it amazingly, and I think we were able to silence them a lot of times.”
One of those times was the 6:27 mark of the third quarter. Hardin drilled a three to give the Boilers a 34-33. The momentum swung Purdue’s way, but when it swung back the other way, Purdue gave the lead back for good.
“I thought we really responded in the second half,” Clark said. “We weren’t intimidated by the box-and-one at all. We got some easy buckets. Gabbie [Marshall] really stepped up and made some huge shots for us. Got to give a lot of credit to her. And I thought Monika was really good inside, too.”
Clark added 12 points in the fourth quarter and led all scorers with 22 on the night, notching her 27th game of the year with 20-plus points.
Iowa’s defense, by Marshall in particular, was as sensational as it was needed on a night when the Hawkeyes didn’t have their usual offensive firepower. Purdue’s 58 points marked the seventh time this season Lisa Bluder’s team has allowed 59 points or fewer, and it is 7-0 in such games.
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No. 3 Maryland 73, No. 6 Illinois 58
The nightcap featured length against quickness, an established power against Cinderella, and the third-seeded Maryland Terrapins against the sixth-seeded Illinois Fighting Illini.
The Illini have been one of the best stories in college basketball this season, and after one quarter, it looked like this game could be the latest installment in a series about whether there’s anything Illinois head coach Shauna Green can’t do.
Then the second quarter happened, and Maryland’s length proved to be too big a mismatch for Illinois. The Terps ran the Illini off the floor, 21-7, in the quarter and took a 16-point lead into the half. Illinois didn’t trim the lead to single digits the rest of the night.
“Obviously we’re thrilled to be able to come out [on top], and I thought we set the tone from the tip,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese said. “… We’ve been off for about a week, so it took a little bit in that first four or five minutes to get our feet under us. I thought defensively we were really aggressive and were able to turn them over … Offensively, [I] just loved the 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio as a team, just spreading the wealth, being really, really unselfish.”
Future WNBA draft pick Diamond Miller had a ton of success down low early in the game for the Terps. As soon as Illinois started to double and attack Miller defensively, Miller made crafty assists to open teammates under the basket. Miller finished tied for the team high in points with 14 and added nine boards and five dimes.
“A lot of teams have spent a lot of time sagging and trying to make Diamond pass, and I thought this was one of Diamond’s most flawless games,” Frese said. “Five assists, no turnovers. Her defense — I thought she was all over the game.”
The game was a tale of two halves for Illinois’ Genesis Bryant, who had a phenomenal opening game of the tournament against Rutgers on Thursday. After making just 1-for-6 shots from the field in the first half, Bryant bounced back, shooting 6-for-7 from the field and finishing with 17 points. Bryant’s backcourt partner, Makira Cook, was also electric, scoring a game-high 19 points.
The win was Maryland’s seventh consecutive victory. The Terps haven’t lost since falling to Iowa in Iowa City on Feb. 2, and the victory on Friday set up a heavily anticipated rematch with the Hawkeyes.
“I can’t say enough about Shauna and [her] staff and Illinois,” Frese said. “I hope they make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Their staff has done a terrific job this year. Obviously, we’re thrilled about continuing on.”
Written by Terry Horstman
Terry Horstman is a Minneapolis-based writer and covers the Minnesota Lynx beat for The Next. He previously wrote about the Minnesota Timberwolves for A Wolf Among Wolves, and his other basketball writing has been published by Flagrant Magazine, HeadFake Hoops, Taco Bell Quarterly, and others. He's the creative nonfiction editor for the sports-themed literary magazine, the Under Review.