Saturday, March 13, 2010
A look at the Big Ten tournament semis
By Adam Rittenberg
INDIANAPOLIS -- The 2010 Big Ten tournament has reached the semifinals. Here's a look at the two matchups on tap today at Conseco Fieldhouse.
No. 1 seed Ohio State vs. No. 5 seed Illinois (CBS, 1:40 p.m. ET)
Records: Ohio State (25-7), Illinois (19-13)
Season series: The Buckeyes swept two games from Illinois and did so in convincing fashion, pummeling the Illini 72-53 in Champaign and 73-57 in Columbus.
Advancement: Winner faces Purdue or Minnesota in the championship game Sunday (CBS, 3:30 p.m. ET).
What to watch for Ohio State: Evan Turner's legend grew Friday as the National Player of the Year frontrunner hit a 37-foot shot as time expired to lift the Buckeyes to a 69-68 victory over Michigan. Turner has been very good against Illinois this season, averaging 16 points, 11.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in the two meetings. Ohio State called Friday's game a wake-up call after a 10-day layoff, and Turner and his teammates need to reclaim their defensive swagger. Illinois big men Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis turned in one of their best performances Friday against Wisconsin, and it'll be important for Buckeyes center Dallas Lauderdale to stay out of foul trouble. Buckeyes sharpshooter Jon Diebler was on fire in his last game against Illinois, swishing 7 of 14 attempts from 3-point range.
What to watch for Illinois: The Illini likely put themselves in the NCAA tournament with the Wisconsin win, but they can virtually guarantee a spot with a win today. Star guard Demetri McCamey comes off one of his more complete performances of the season (13 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds), and he'll need an even better effort against the Buckeyes and Turner, his former high school teammate in Chicago. Tisdale did a nice job of extending Wisconsin's defense Friday, hitting two 3-pointers and several long 2-pointers. If he can bring Lauderdale or David Lighty away from the bucket, it should free up opportunities for others. D.J. Richardson looked like a freshman for much of Friday's quarterfinal win, but he found his shooting stroke late and never lost confidence. He needs to be a factor today if Illinois plans to advance.
Ohio State forward David Lighty: "It's a wake-up call. Watching games [Thursday], watching Syracuse go down, watching Kansas go down to the wire almost and things like that, it's kind of like we almost did the same thing. We have to get our minds right. It's like second lift, second wind for us."
Illinois head coach Bruce Weber: "No matter what, [Ohio State has] to be feeling relieved about [Friday's win], and then second, 'We kicked Illini butt two times.' I hope we can have a little bit of a mental edge."
No. 2 seed Purdue vs. No. 6 seed Minnesota (CBS, 25 minutes after Ohio State-Illinois game)
Records: Purdue (27-4), Minnesota (20-12)
Season series: Purdue crushed Minnesota 79-60 in West Lafayette on Jan. 5 and found a way to escape Williams Arena with a 59-58 win Feb. 24 after losing star forward Robbie Hummel to a season-ending knee injury in the first half.
Advancement: Winner faces Ohio State or Illinois on Sunday in the championship.
What to watch for Purdue: The Boilermakers missed 10 of their first 11 shots Friday against Northwestern and likely can't afford another slow start against surging Minnesota. Juniors E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson are really answering the bell in Hummel's absence, and both men need strong performances again today. Johnson recorded a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) in the 1-point win at Minnesota, while Moore recorded 18 points and five assists in the teams' first meeting. The Boilers amped up their defensive intensity Friday and will try to fluster Gophers guards Devoe Joseph, Lawrence Westbrook and Blake Hoffarber. Purdue won Friday without much from senior guards Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant, who struggled with poor shooting and cramps. Both men need to be better today.
What to watch for Minnesota: The Gophers have put themselves firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble, and they probably will put themselves into the field of 65 by beating Purdue. Aside from an ugly loss at Michigan on March 2, Minnesota has played pretty good ball the last three and a half weeks. Minnesota already has avenged a 1-point home loss to Michigan State and looks to do the same against Purdue. The Gophers' interior defense needs to be good on Johnson, but Tubby Smith is getting very solid play from forward Damian Johnson and center Colton Iverson right now. Minnesota has more length from Purdue and needs center Ralph Sampson III to bounce back from a poor performance Friday (0 points, 2 rebounds). Remember that Sampson had the best game of his career against Purdue in Minneapolis, recording 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
Purdue coach Matt Painter: "Our next opponent, no matter who it is, we have to out rebound them, but if we don't, we have to shoot the ball better. We're not going to get out rebounded and shoot the way we did [Friday] and win basketball games. You've got to understand how you're going to win, but you've also got to understand how you're going to lose and be proactive about that as a coach and really drill that home to your players."
Minnesota coach Tubby Smith: "We're as talented as anybody when we play the right way. I think every coach in America feels that way about their team, especially when they get to this level. If you don't feel that way, you're not going to win any games. I've got as much confidence in this team as in any team I've ever coached."