March 9, 2024 

How three lower seeds advanced in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals

Top seed Ohio State and third-seeded Indiana exit early

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament were full of surprises on Friday. Two of the top three seeds lost, and lower seeds won three of the four games. Top seed Ohio State fell to No. 8 seed Maryland 82-61, and No. 3 Indiana lost to No. 6 Michigan 69-56. 

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Second-seeded Iowa took care of business with a 95-62 blowout of No. 7 Penn State, and No. 5 Nebraska defeated 73-61 No. 4 Michigan State to set up Saturday’s semifinals at Target Center.

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No. 1 Ohio State falls

Although Maryland came into the Big Ten Tournament with a 19-12 record, the Terps can’t be counted out at tournament time. With the dominating win over Ohio State, the Terrapins advanced to the Big Ten semifinals for the 10th time in 11 years.

“I’m just really proud of this team. We’ve battled so much adversity this season — injuries, one of the toughest schedules in the country,” Maryland head coach Brenda Frese told reporters postgame. “We played so many top-25 teams, top-10 teams, and have battled them all. So to finally get over that hump today when it matters most, in the most time of pressure, is a testament to these guys.”

Four Terps scored more than 15 points, led by junior guard Shyanne Sellers’ 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. 

“I feel like we’re just peaking at the right time. I think we’ve always had it in us,” Sellers said, “even though people don’t believe in us and still don’t believe in us. Maybe they think this game is a fluke. I’m telling you right now, the Maryland team you see in March is not the same team you [saw] at the beginning. I think we just proved that right now.”

Graduate guard/forward Faith Masonius, who had 15 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, said the Terps put the two times Ohio State had beaten them in the regular season behind them and focused on this game.  

“It is hard to beat a team three times, and I think we wanted to come out here and just play to the best of our ability. Coach B’s been telling us the only team that can beat us is ourselves,” she said. 

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Maryland was able to shut down Ohio State star forward Cotie McMahon, who shot just 3-for-17 from the field. 

“We’ve played Ohio State three times, and Cotie had her way both times,” Frese said. “The first game she … made it personal about our rebounding, so I think this team really put a statement together on the glass.”

This game marked the first time a No. 1 seed has lost its first game of the tournament since No. 1 Penn State lost to No. 8 Ohio State in 2014. It was also Ohio State’s largest loss (-21) of the season. The Buckeyes lost back-to-back games for the first time this season after losing to Iowa in their regular-season finale on Sunday. 

“I thought Maryland played a great game,” Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said. “They were really prepared. They played like a team that might have needed this to get in the tournament, and we played like a team that showed up as the No. 1 seed and everybody was just supposed to lie down, and that’s not what happened.”

Buckeyes guard Jacy Sheldon, who was held to 10 points and 0-for-5 shooting from the 3-point line, said the team needs to put the loss behind it and prepare for the NCAA Tournament. But the loss likely cost the Buckeyes a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

“We weren’t ourselves today. We didn’t make a lot of shots we normally do,” she said. “We’ll regroup after this, take a couple days off and then come back and get ready to go for even more hard games. It’s not over. We have a lot to prepare for coming up. We have to shift our focus after today.”

Alexis Markowski of Nebraska pulls down an open rebound.
Nebraska’s Alexis Markowski (40) pulls down a rebound against Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn., on March 8, 2024. (Photo credit: John McClellan | The Next)

Nebraska outlasts Michigan State

With a 73-61 win over Michigan State, Nebraska advanced to the Big Ten semifinals for the second time in three years and snapped the Spartans’ five-game winning streak. 

“I’m just so proud of this red team right now. I just can’t even hardly see straight,” Nebraska head coach Amy Williams told reporters after the game. “I thought we played great defensively. We held them about 20 points, I think, below their season average and just had great contributions from all over the place.”

Forward Alexis Markowski (22 points, 12 rebounds) collected the 39th double-double of her career, one shy of matching the school record. Guard Jaz Shelley added 17 points, forward Natalie Potts had 15 and guard Logan Nissley chipped in 11 points in the Cornhuskers’ balanced attack.

“I think that’s a big part of our team. Anyone can step on any given night. For all three of us to have that kind of game, I think there’s multiple people that stepped up,” Nissley said. 

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Michigan State head coach Robyn Fralick is ready to learn from the loss and prepare for what’s next. 

“Give a lot of credit to Nebraska: I thought they played a really good game. Clearly, they really hurt us on the glass, especially early in the game when we had some good momentum,” she told reporters. “For us, it’s disappointing, but I think there is a lot to learn from it. We feel encouraged that we still have a lot of meaningful basketball left in front of us. We’ll have to learn and regroup.”

Sydney Affolter of Iowa smiles as she runs up the court after a shot.
Iowa’s Sydney Affolter (3) celebrates after a shot against Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn., on March 8, 2024. (Photo credit: John McClellan | The Next)

Iowa rolls over Penn State

Despite a tough shooting night from star guard Caitlin Clark, Iowa’s supporting cast stepped up to help the Hawkeyes handily defeat Penn State, 95-62.

Iowa made 15 3-pointers, tying the tournament record set by Nebraska in 2022. Six Hawkeyes made 3-pointers, including Clark, who broke Steph Curry’s NCAA single-season record of 162. Clark now has 164.

Although Clark shot just 5-for-19, including 2-for-14 from the 3-point line, she still managed to have a near triple-double.

“It’s funny: Caitlin has an off night, and how many people would say you have an off night when you have 24 points, 10 rebounds [and] seven assists? But it was an off night for Caitlin,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder told reporters postgame. “I’m just so glad that her teammates picked up the slack in that area. It just gives us so much more confidence moving forward. It makes us so much harder to guard when we play like we did tonight.”

Junior guard Sydney Affolter, who started in place of the injured Molly Davis, had a career-high 18 points. Graduate guard Gabbie Marshall had 15 and sophomore guard Taylor McCabe — who played three different positions during the game — had 12.

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While Penn State head coach Carolyn Kieger was happy with the way her team defended Clark, she said the Hawkeyes are unstoppable when they are clicking on all cylinders. 

“Give Iowa the credit: They’re a very deep program,” she said. “Obviously they were able to shoot 15 threes even in an off shooting night for Caitlin. So what our game plan was is … to take Caitlin out of her rhythm and hope the role players stayed in check, and tonight they stepped up, and they stepped up in a big way.”

Laila Phelia of Michigan goes up for a fadeaway jump shot.
Michigan’s Laila Phelia (5) goes up for a shot against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn., on March 8, 2024. (Photo credit: John McClellan | The Next)

Michigan claws back to beat Indiana

The day ended with another upset as Michigan pulled away from Indiana in the fourth quarter and won 69-56. Trailing by 17 points in the third quarter, Michigan rallied and took its first lead of the game with 8:40 remaining. The Wolverines will make their first Big Ten semifinal appearance since 2020.

Guard Laila Phelia poured in a career-high 30 points to lead the Wolverines, and fellow guard Lauren Hansen had 16 points, including three big 3-pointers down the stretch.

“Laila has been phenomenal, and I think she, like our team, is continuing to get better and better and better. I just think her growth and her understanding of the game is continuing to develop, and it’s been on display,” Michigan head coach Kim Barnes Arico said. 

Indiana guards Sara Scalia, Sydney Parrish and Chloe Moore-McNeil led the Hoosiers with 14, 13 and 10 points, respectively. Parrish also pulled down nine rebounds. All-American center Mackenzie Holmes, who injured her knee last weekend, entered the game with 6:28 left in the fourth quarter but failed to score or pull down any rebounds. Indiana’s starting five accounted for 54 of the team’s 56 points, which was its lowest output of the season.

After making adjustments at halftime, Michigan went from scoring nine points in the first quarter to 29 in the fourth.

“I just feel like in the locker room we came back in, and we all had things we wanted to talk about defensively, offensively, just getting movement. That kind of just reignited me. Then we got a stop, came down, and we were like, let’s get some stops and let’s finish this out,” Hansen said. 

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Indiana head coach Teri Moren said Michigan State’s halftime adjustments were too much to overcome given her team’s poor shooting and turnovers in the second half.

“It was a tale of two halves. We got off to a really good start. I thought we rebounded the ball in the first half,” she said. “But we came out in the  second half and it was a completely different story with bad shots, forced shots. I thought we panicked at times. We only had four turnovers at half, and we ended up with them scoring 24 points off of our turnovers.”

While the early exit stings, the Hoosiers are ready to put it behind them and start preparing for the NCAA Tournament.

“A lot of teams this week in the country are losing and their season’s over. We have the opportunity to go do something exciting in March, and we know that,” Parrish said. “Last year, we lost early in the NCAA Tournament, and I think that this year [we’re] going to have a chip on our shoulder, and we’re going to come out harder.”

Moren also hopes the time off will allow her team, especially Holmes, to recover. 

“The two weeks in between is going to be really, really important for this group to get healthy. I think when the NCAA Tournament gets here, I think we’ll feel a whole lot different and much, much better,” she said.

Michigan will face Iowa at 3:30 p.m. CT on Saturday in the semifinals. The only time they met in the regular season was on Feb. 15 in Iowa City. Iowa won 106-89, and Clark broke Kelsey Plum’s NCAA Division I scoring record

“They’re a great team. They’re one of the top teams in the country for a reason. They have the best player probably in the world right now on their team, who’s playing with a tremendous amount of confidence,” Barnes Arico said. “But she’s not the only player. They have a really good team. We got to go to their place and be a part of that special night for Caitlin and for Iowa, and that was extremely, extremely challenging for us.

“I think this gives us another opportunity to … get them on a neutral court and see if we can be better on the defensive end than we were at Iowa.”

Written by Angie Holmes

Angela Holmes is the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) reporter for The Next. Based in the Midwest, she also covers the Big Ten and Big 12.

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