B1G Tournament Day 3 notes: Rivalries will highlight Saturday semis
When the Big Ten tips off Saturday for its semifinals, it won’t lack for talented basketball teams.
The four remaining — Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois and Iowa — are ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll with two likely being destined to be No. 1 seeds in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. And the games pit rivals (Michigan vs. OSU, and Illinois vs. Iowa) who competed in classic back-and-forth affairs earlier in the season.
It could be a great day of hoops in Lucas Oil Stadium.
After top-seed and No. 4-ranked Michigan blew past — and nearly fought — Maryland, it gets a date with rival Ohio State, ranked No. 9, at 1 p.m. today. In their only meeting this season, the Wolverines escaped Columbus with a 92-87 victory, perhaps in one of the best games in the Big Ten this season, when a few Buckeye errors in the final minute proved costly.
“They do understand we’re playing a terrific Michigan team,” OSU coach Chris Holtmann told media in a Zoom interview following the Buckeyes’ overtime win against Purdue. “(They are) well-coached and really, really good. We’ve got to defend a lot better than what we did in Game 1. We’ve got to defend a lot better. We’ve got to somehow get our legs under us and be able to respond quickly to a team that is a really complete team offensively and defensively.”
In Game 2, which will tip around 3:30 p.m., No. 3 Illinois will take on No. 5 Iowa. It’ll be a quick turnaround for the Hawkeyes after the late game Friday night, when they had to fend off Wisconsin for a five-point win.
It gives them a return date with Illinois, which blew out Rutgers to advance to Saturday’s semis. When the teams last met, it was the Fighting Illini who came out on top, winning a game that featured 22 lead changes and eight ties. It was an instant classic, with fans lamented why the two rivals played only once this year; now, they’ll get a second chance.
“They have a lot of weapons,” Fran McCaffery said. “They can hurt you in so many different ways, but they also defend. A lot of really good offensive teams don’t (defend), and they do. So, you put a game plan together and there’s a lot of things you have to look at. We’re a team that is sometimes hard to guard, as well. We’ve had three great games within the last two years, and we’ll have another one.”
Wieskamp, Brooks return
Iowa and Michigan received boosts when their ankle-injured players — Joe Wieskamp and Eli Brooks — not only returned to their team’s lineup but performed exceedingly well.
Brooks, Michigan’s guard who also had suffered an ankle injury last weekend, scored 16 points in 36 minutes. Wieskamp, who turned his ankle 5 days ago, scored 10 points and had 7 rebounds in 35 minutes in the Iowa win.
“I was really impressed with him,” McCaffery said of Wieskamp. “I felt good about him (Thursday). We practiced and he looked really good. I was really concerned as to whether or not I wanted to play him at all. But he was cleared to play, and he wanted to play. I was prepared to pull him if I didn’t think he looked right. I didn’t see anything at all in his performance that looked like he was a step slow.”
Friday’s tournament action featured great basketball.
And it featured a near fight.
Michigan coach Juwan Howard was ejected when he left the Michigan bench area to shout at Maryland coach Mark Turgeon during the under-12 media timeout of the second half. Howard explained afterward — he had received 2 technical fouls and thus was sent to the locker room — that he was out of the box to dispute a call with an official, when Turgeon told refs to send the UM coach back to his own area.
Howard says he felt Turgeon was coming after him.
“When guys charge you, it’s time to defend yourself. And especially when a grown man charges you,” Howard said. “And that right there, I went into defense mode forgetting exactly where I’m at. That’s not the right way how to handle the situation, when you come out and charge someone. I didn’t charge him. So, when he charged me, I reacted. And I reacted out of defense. So, that’s it. Words were exchanged. And then I got tossed.”
Clearly, Turgeon had a different view of events, explaining that the situation — whatever it is exactly — has been brewing between the programs.
“This has been going on for 3 games,” the Maryland coach said. “I’ve been doing this for 34 years and I’ve called the conference office, I’ve called the commissioner about what transpired in the first 2 games. And I said I wasn’t going to take it the third game. I stood up for my team, I stood up for me. … All I said was, ‘Don’t talk to me.’ … Never back down, I just stood there and said don’t talk to me.”
Smith sets tourney high
Thursday’s game between Michigan and Maryland will likely be remembered for the dust-up between coaches.
But the record book will remember it differently. UM point guard Mike Smith had 15 assists in the win over the Terrapins, setting a Big Ten Tournament record.
“He is really good,” Turgeon said. “He’s really fast. By the way we’re guarding them, they made great adjustments and started doing middle ball screens with him, and he just got downhill.”