College Basketball Nation: 2012 ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Pickeral: Duke makes case as top team

November, 29, 2012

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke forward Ryan Kelly says he tends not to get a lot of sleep after games, tossing and turning and thinking about all of the things he should-have-could-have-might-have done.

But after Wednesday night's 73-68 come-from-behind victory over No. 4 Ohio State, the senior thought it might be a bit easier to snooze -- because of all the things he and his teammates did do.

A year after the Buckeyes shellacked Duke by 22 points in a decidedly one-sided bout (leaving Kelly sleepless for a couple of days), the second-ranked Blue Devils gritted, shot and rallied their way back from a 10-point deficit not only to avenge last season's loss but to make their case as the top team in the nation.

Wednesday's raucous victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium marked the third time this month the undefeated Blue Devils have topped a top-five foe, (following victories over then-No. 3 Kentucky on Nov. 13 and then-No. 2 Louisville on Nov. 24). According to ESPN Stats & Information, it's the first time since 1965-66 that Duke has won multiple regular-season nonconference games against squads ranked in the Associated Press top five.

"I've liked my group, but you just don't know if they have the confidence, the endurance, the togetherness to go through a stretch like this,'' said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team extended its nonconference home winning streak to 97 (the longest active stretch in Division I). "It would be hard to find anybody who has been through a stretch like this, and they've gotten better. I knew my team was together, and through accomplishment, they've gotten more together."

For Robbi Pickeral's full column, click here.

Rapid Reaction: Duke 73, Ohio State 68

November, 29, 2012

DURHAM, N.C. -- Quick thoughts on No. 2 Duke’s comeback 73-68 victory over No. 4 Ohio State at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday night:

Overview: Are we sure it’s not March? Because this rim-testing, eardrum-vibrating comeback had all the makings of a postseason battle, rather than an early-season test.

A year after Ohio State shellacked Duke 85-63, the Blue Devils came back from a double-digit deficit to avenge last season's loss -- and to make their case as the top team in the nation.

It marks the third time this month the undefeated Blue Devils have topped a top-five team; Duke had already defeated the Associated Press' No. 2 (Louisville) and No. 3 (Kentucky) teams in the country. And according to ESPN Stats & Information, it’s the first time since 1965-66 that Duke has won multiple regular-season non-conference games against AP top-five teams.

Turning point: The Blue Devils -- who made only 30 percent of their shots and pulled down only three offensive rebounds in the first half -- trailed by as many as 10 points early in the second. But an incredible transition alley-oop from Quinn Cook to Mason Plumlee electrified an already-sizzling crowd. And Duke, too, which outscored Ohio State 21-15 to pull to within 48-46 on a Plumlee bucket with 8 minutes, 42 seconds left.

Buckeyes forward Deshaun Thomas (16 points) responded with a 3-pointer to give his team a bit of a cushion back. But with 6:06 left, Duke senior Ryan Kelly knotted the score at 53-53 with a 3-pointer. Seconds later, Kelly buried another 3 to give his team its first lead since it had a 9-7 advantage. The Blue Devils led the rest of the way.

Key player: Plumlee finished with 21 points and 17 rebounds for Duke.

Key stat: The Blue Devils shot 58.1 percent in the second half.

Etc.: The win extended Duke’s streak of non-conference home victories to 97, the longest active streak in Division I. … The loss snapped the Buckeyes’ 19-game winning streak in the month of November.

What’s next: The Blue Devils will play Delaware at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Ohio State has a home game against Northern Kentucky at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Video: Breaking down BC's win over PSU

November, 28, 2012

Clay Matvick and Tim McCormick look at Boston College's 73-61 win over Penn State.

Video: Illinois 75, Georgia Tech 62

November, 28, 2012
Brandon Paul and Joseph Bertrand each scored 15 points as No. 22 Illinois beat visiting Georgia Tech 75-62 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Video: Miami 67, Michigan State 59

November, 28, 2012

Barry Larkin's son, Shane Larkin, scores 15 points in Miami's 67-59 win over Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Video: Purdue 73, Clemson 61

November, 28, 2012
D.J. Byrd's 22 points and 7 rebounds helped Purdue to a 73-61 victory over host Clemson in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Video: Virginia 60, Wisconsin 54

November, 28, 2012
Joe Harris scored 22 points to lead visiting Virginia to a 60-54 victory over Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
In lieu of four or five small blog posts -- and before we move on to Night 2 of the marathon -- here are a few random thoughts left over from my delirious viewing of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Night 1:
  • I still think NC State is overrated, but at least it looks better: You could see it throughout the broadcast last night, from the mic'd up pregame speech to the late-game timeouts: Mark Gottfried was constantly reminding his team to "stay together," reassuring them that they were "still OK," and so on and so forth. Without fully enrolling in Basketball Body Language 201, this appears to be just what the doctor ordered. After a lifeless 20-point loss to Oklahoma State and a near-disaster 82-80 win against UNC-Asheville, NC State went to play a crazy-hot all-doubts-now-eschewed Michigan team and didn't ever really go away. They have a lot of things to fix, and they were never the sixth-best team in the country (ahh, preseason rankings, never change) but they looked much more forceful last night. Maybe a few games like these will be good medicine for the challenges ahead.
  • Minnesota might just be that good: Sure, sure, this Florida State defense is not your typical Florida State defense. After years of being the best defense in the country, the post-Bernard Scott Seminoles are merely OK on that end of the floor. Even so, Minnesota went from an impressive run in the Bahamas, to a stopover in Tallahassee, and emerged with a 7-1 record and a host of very tired-seeming tweets. Impressive stuff.
  • Iowa has to play some defense, but give Va. Tech credit, too: This is not a revelation. It's pretty obvious, actually. But it is true all the same: You simply can't give up 1.28 points per trip and expect to win, no matter how fast you play. Iowa allowed Virginia Tech to go buck-wild last night, and the Hawkeyes, who had a merely good offensive night themselves, couldn't keep up. But don't just blame the porous Hawks. Virginia Tech is actually playing some really good offense so far this season -- its raw PPP average is 116.8 -- and considering how bad we assumed the rebuilding, transfer-riddled Hokies were going to be, new coach James Johnson (now 6-0) deserves a huge share of credit.
  • Wake Forest is the basketball equivalent of my past two days: Here I was, somewhat expecting Wake Forest to be not-totally-terrible this season. How silly of me. Tim Miles is a good coach, and he has Nebraska doing some nice things, but I'm sorry -- you can't lose to Nebraska by 16 points at home. You just can't. Jeff Bzdelik's tenure has suffered some brutal moments (including arguably the worst season in Wake history), but it doesn't seem to be getting much better, at least not thus far this season. When you consider that Bzdelik's best record at Colorado was 15-16, and the man he replaced went to the NCAA tournament two years in a row before he was fired, AD Ron Wellman's decision (based on a personal relationship with Bzdelik) always looked questionable. The more this keeps up, the more it looks fireable.
  • And hey, how about those Terps? By far the most common question we got in the Challenge chat Tuesday night was some formulation of "Is Team X this good or Team Y that bad?" (In the case of Indiana-UNC, I'm going to go with "both.") This gets a teensy bit annoying, though never as annoying as being asked whether a certain team can go to a certain round of the NCAA tournament. (Easy answer: Maybe!) In any case, it felt worthy of the Maryland-Northwestern game, before which Northwestern appeared to be a sneaky favorite. The Wildcats had been playing quietly solid basketball, transfer forward Jared Swopshire had been a major addition, and maybe, just maybe, this team was better than everyone thought. Maryland put that notion to rest rather solidly in the second half, thanks to the dynamic play of Dez Wells and center Alex Len's tireless interior dominance. Northwestern was badly outrebounded in this game. It remains to be seen whether that is going to be (as it has in past seasons) a consistent ceiling to their success ... or whether Len, Wells, James Padgett and company are going to be too much for a lot of teams this season. Either way, really impressive win.

Saddle Up: ACC/Big Ten, part deux

November, 28, 2012
Saddle Up is our semi-daily preview of the night's best basketball action. To see the ACC/Big Ten Challenge predictions from our six writers -- Who do they like tonight? How did they do in Day 1? -- click here. And visit last night's Home Court Live for a recap of Tuesday night's Challenge.

No. 13 Michigan State at Miami, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN: Usually, teams with obvious Final Four potential coast through most of the early portions of their season, saving their most cardiac-arrest-inducing performances for exempt tournaments and conference play. Home games against Boise State and Louisiana-Lafayette are supposed to be easy. They're tune-ups, cupcakes, guarantees. For this Michigan State team, which beat Boise 74-70 and barely scraped by Lafayette Sunday 63-60, nothing much has come easy yet this season.

That will be the case again Wednesday night. Sure, Miami lost to Florida Gulf Coast by 12, but, (a) that was on the road, and (b) Florida Gulf Coast is really not that bad. (For comparison's sake, FGCU is No. 137 in Pomeroy's efficiency rankings; UL-Lafayette is No. 228.) Miami has a bruising veteran frontcourt (Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson), which is exactly the kind of thing you need to play against Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne, and guard Durand Scott will present plenty of issues for the Spartans' guards on the perimeter. Chances this game is close are far greater than the chances Michigan State just rolls in Coral Gables and does whatever it wants.

Virginia at Wisconsin, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Do you like fast-paced basketball? Then this game will not be for you.

Keep in mind, that is not a criticism. Some like to have a go at Wisconsin for their low-low tempo, but I am not one of these people. Indeed, I have no problem watching one team take the air out of the ball, particularly if that team is as well-drilled, intelligent and efficient as Bo Ryan's teams typically are.

That said, there is simply no denying this game is going to be as slow as Division I college basketball gets. Last season, per KenPom, the Badgers finished No. 345 in pace. This season, Tony Bennett's Mike Scott-less Virginia team ranks No. 345. When forward Jared Berggren told me at Big Ten media day that Wisconsin could speed up if it wanted to, that must have been what he meant.

So what you'll get when you tune in to the Challenge's first game Wednesday night won't be fast-paced basketball. It will be slow, methodical and defensive, with both teams playing some form of the pack line principles Bennett's father, Dick, pioneered two decades ago at Wisconsin-Green Bay. The difference is that Wisconsin is a much more efficient offensive team than Virginia these days -- that was true when Mike Scott played in Charlottesville last season, and it remains true this season -- and the Cavaliers have to play in a building where Bo Ryan-coached teams almost never lose. It will be low scoring, it will be tight and boy, it will be slow -- but it is hard to picture Virginia coming out of Madison with a win.

Purdue at Clemson, 7:15 p.m. ET, ESPNU: In 2008, a young, freshman-oriented Matt Painter-coached team lost at Clemson in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. That team went on to win 25 games, and -- with freshmen Robbie Hummel, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson -- form the foundation for a rebirth of success in West Lafayette.

That era is (finally) over now, and some have drawn comparisons between that class and this fall's Indiana-oriented recruiting reboot. Those comparisons may be valid, but the Boilermakers aren't there yet. Were Purdue granted a different matchup (cough, Wake Forest, cough, Boston College) or not forced to go play Clemson on the road, you might like its chances as a sleeper/upset pick. But if Purdue is not as bad as you think (and it isn't), Clemson -- led by seniors Devin Booker and Milton Jennings, and getting great stuff from freshman Adonis Filer -- embodies that quality much more fully.
(Editor's Note: Shortly after this article was posted, Clemson announced that Jennings -- Clemson's leading scorer and second-leading rebounder -- is suspended for tonight's game due to a violation of team rules)

Georgia Tech at No. 22 Illinois, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2: For whatever reason, last season Illinois just flat quit on Bruce Weber. Maybe that was Weber's fault. He just stopped connecting. Or maybe it was his players' fault. Maybe it's both. But after a 7-0 start, there is no denying the simple fact that this group of Illinois players -- guards Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson and Tracy Abrams, forwards Tyler Griffey and Myke Henry and Joseph Bertrand and Nnanna Egwu -- is not nearly as talented as last season's team but is already also playing about 5,000 times more coherent, cohesive basketball than that team ever did.

At Big Ten media day this season, Paul -- a notoriously inefficient, often wild scorer in his three years before this one -- told me about the kinds of things his new coach was teaching him: patience, selflessness, the importance of bringing teammates along for the ride. John Groce said the biggest side for Paul was "mental -- who did you help today?" That sort of total reset appears to have been exactly what Paul needed. He's taking fewer bad shots. Illinois looks better for it. And Georgia Tech, as well as Brian Gregory has been coaching them so far this season, appears to have much more than it bargained for awaiting it in Champaign, Ill., tonight.

Boston College at Penn State, 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPNU: One of the underrated glories of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is that games like this -- which, let's be honest, most nonpartisan viewers would need some sort of compensation to consider watching -- can determine the whole thing. I think that's unlikely this season (the Big Ten should win its fourth straight Challenge, and easily) but do keep an eye on the final tally. You never know.

Meantime, Penn State is recovering from the loss of Tim Frazier, who might have been the single most important player to any one team in the country. Now transfer D.J. Newbill has to step up, or the Nittany Lions' season gets far uglier than anticipated.

No. 4 Ohio State at No. 2 Duke, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU: Our reporter in ACC country, Robbi Pickeral, has you covered with a full-featured preview of this game, so I won't spend much time on the narrative. Instead, let's focus on the key matchups: Aaron Craft versus Duke's guards, and Deshaun Thomas versus Duke's bigs.

Don't get me wrong: How Ohio State matches up with Mason Plumlee will be a major key, too. With the exception of 6-foot-11 forward Amir Williams, the Buckeyes don't have a great individual option for Plumlee.

But Duke's guards have thus far been just as great -- if not greater -- key to the Blue Devils' impressive early success. Craft happens to be the single-best perimeter defender in the country. But he can't guard Quinn Cook, Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon all at the same time ... can he? How will Thad Matta employ him? Will he stop the point of attack? Take on whatever player has the hottest hand?

As for Thomas, well, check the technique. Through four games your boy is averaging 24.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, with shooting averages of 54.0/48.0/94.1. Lines don't get much better than that. Once regarded as a possession-hogging chucker, Thomas is now capable of a month that good (albeit against some mostly subpar competition), and that's Duke's single biggest concern is figuring him out on the defensive end. Ryan Kelly is probably the best matchup; despite his scrawny, slightly goofy look, Kelly is an excellent player and an underrated defender to boot. In any case, he's probably Duke's best chance, because Thomas is such a matchup nightmare -- too quick and perimeter-oriented for bigs like Plumlee, Josh Hairston or Amile Jefferson; too big for guards and small forwards -- that very few players (if any) can actually play him straight up.

You have to like Duke here. The Blue Devils are already battle-tested (no team has better wins thus far this season), they know their roles, they're smart and they finally get to play a big game at home. But Ohio State has Craft and Thomas and its always-excellent defense. If ever a team was going to win in Cameron, perhaps this is it.
DURHAM, N.C. -- Ryan Kelly’s most vivid memories from last season’s 85-63 blowout loss at Ohio State aren’t necessarily from the game, but from what happened afterward.

“Just, when you lose that badly, you don’t feel good for days,’’ the Duke senior forward said Tuesday, obviously not enjoying the process of looking back at his team’s most lopsided loss of the season -- and one of the worst of coach Mike Krzyzewski's career. “You can’t sleep. Winning’s a great feeling, but often losing -- especially that badly -- is worse than the other direction. So it’s got to be all about winning.”

[+] EnlargeJared Sullinger
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteJared Sullinger and Ohio State had plenty of reasons to smile after last year's rout of Duke.
That’s the goal Wednesday night, for both teams. The 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) rematch at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge will not only mark a showdown between two top-five undefeated squads, but two top-five undefeated squads with something to prove.

For No. 2 Duke, it’s about erasing (or at least replacing) the memories of those sleepless nights from a year ago, after OSU began the game with an 11-0 run and never looked back.

For the fourth-ranked Buckeyes, it’s about showing they remain more than worthy of their ranking. While Duke has already been tested this season, beating Minnesota and VCU and notching top-five wins over Kentucky (in Atlanta) and Louisville (in the Bahamas), OSU has not. Ohio State’s quartet of double-digit wins have been over Albany, Rhode Island, Washington and Missouri-Kansas City.

“You go into this game and you’re saying at the conclusion of this game, you’re going to know a lot more about your team," Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said Tuesday. “Road environment … you’re playing a great, great team. So from that perspective, as much as you’re thinking ‘tomorrow night, tomorrow night, tomorrow night,’ you’re thinking long-term as well.”

This will mark OSU’s first trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium, the 9,000-plus construction of craziness where the Blue Devils have won 96 consecutive nonconference games (the longest active streak in the country).

But for all the familiar faces on the court, there are plenty of changes from last year, too.

With star forward Jared Sullinger now playing in the NBA, 6-foot-7 forward Deshaun Thomas (who scored 18 points against Duke a year ago and is averaging 24 ppg this season) has become the Buckeyes’ main offensive threat. Junior point guard Aaron Craft (17 points, 8 assists against Duke last season) continues to lead from the backcourt, while guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. has increased his production to 11.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

Meanwhile, Duke has made it a priority to feed senior forward Mason Plumlee (19.7 ppg, 10.0 rpg) in the post since last year’s leading scorer (guard Austin Rivers) turned pro. In addition, senior guard Seth Curry (17 ppg) remains an accurate outside threat and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon (12 ppg) gives the Blue Devils some much-needed height on the wing to better defend the perimeter. And they have a confident point guard in Quinn Cook, who played only 11.7 minutes per game last season but was named MVP of the Battle 4 Atlantis last weekend. He’s now averaging 30.7 minutes per game (along with 5.5 assists and 10.7 points).

"We're a different team," Plumlee said, "and they are, too."

Thus, for all the memories of last season’s blowout, the Blue Devils wouldn’t go quite so far as to call this a "revenge game." Krzyzewski even addressed the subject with the team, Plumlee said, telling them: “If revenge is our only motivation, we’re going to be a terrible team, because we’ll have to lose to everybody to win one.”

But there’s little doubt that there’s extra motivation.

“It’s hard not to have some bad memories … and every day, we’ve got to have something to prove,’’ Kelly said. "And this is another opportunity. We’ve had an unbelievable schedule; we’ve been put in a position where we have to compete every single day … and this is that next step. They’re obviously tremendously talented, and they’re a top-five team, and there’s no question that they’ve earned that. But we believe we’ve earned the position we’re in now as well.”
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- North Carolina coach Roy Williams said earlier Tuesday that he had to stop himself from being too critical during his team's loss to Butler last week in Maui because of the freshmen on the court.

He knew he had to be patient. But that patience might be wearing thin.

The Tar Heels could use an excuse that P.J. Hairston was back in Chapel Hill with a sprained left knee, that the freshmen had never been in such a hostile environment as Assembly Hall or that the veterans like Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald and James Michael McAdoo were either injured or hardly significant players last season.

But Williams isn't using any of those as a crutch, and neither were his players after a humbling 83-59 defeat to the top-ranked Hoosiers.

[+] EnlargeRoy Williams
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireRoy Williams admitted he was frustrated in Tuesday's loss, but remains high on UNC's potential.
"There's a point and we're at that point," said Williams. "The best thing is that they have the day off [Wednesday]. Basketball is a simple game. You just need to do the crap that I tell you to do."

Williams said that the young players weren't all at fault. He cited Strickland's inability to get back and the times when everyone failed to compete.

Carolina came out with a sense of urgency, unlike in its loss to Butler in the Maui Invitational semifinals Nov. 20. But the last four minutes of Tuesday's first half and the beginning of the second were as lopsided as Williams has seen in his tenure, or at least as much as that humbling 33-point loss to Florida State in January.

North Carolina was beaten consistently as Cody Zeller outran the Tar Heels. Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls passed over the Tar Heels or IU's Will Sheehey or Victor Oladipo got ahead for a flush or an otherwise-demoralizing finish.

"We were where we wanted to be, but then after the last media timeout [the four-minute mark of the first half] we were lackadaisical and they pushed it to 10 points," said McAdoo. "They kept it going and we never hit them back. We've got to learn from our mistakes. We have so many young guys, we're learning new roles."

North Carolina came into the game ranked No. 14. The Tar Heels won't likely be in the poll next week and will have plenty of work to do to regain their national credibility.

"We don't look at the rankings, we stay in our own camp," said McAdoo. "Right now we have to figure out who we are as a team. We've got a lot of work to do. We're playing for March."

That was sort of Williams' point earlier Tuesday. He said to check back with him in 30 days, 60 days and at the end of the season. This team still can be very good, but he noted that the ACC schedule lies ahead, to say nothing of a visit to Texas (still a road game, regardless of the Longhorns’ struggles) and one from UNLV.

"We felt like we could win this game," said Strickland. "We just had a lot of mental mistakes on defense. We left Cody wide open. We have to do a better job of hustling and showing a better sense of urgency and more aggressive play."

Strickland said the Tar Heels lost their poise offensively after the quick strikes by the Hoosiers. That was evident in nearly every fast-break IU basket.

"They just killed us in transition," said freshman Marcus Paige. "We didn't get easy baskets. We struggled from the floor."

The Tar Heels shot 1-of-8 on 3s. Hairston would have helped, but the problems are much larger than his health. UNC received good news when an X-ray on Reggie Bullock's finger was negative, although Williams said late Tuesday that the staff might take another one back in Chapel Hill.

The Tar Heels need a vocal leader, someone to take charge or calm this team down when things go awry. McAdoo tried to get the squad going in the hallway prior to the second half, imploring his teammates to grab every rebound and get after the Hoosiers.

Indiana then ripped off 13 consecutive points and was ahead 22. Game over.

Duke is clearly the ACC's best team right now. NC State is struggling but hasn't looked as vulnerable as Carolina so far. Florida State lost at home while Maryland won on the road Tuesday. The league is wide open -- after Duke -- so all is not lost for the Tar Heels. But they had better find that intensity, urgency and, for Williams at least, get back on defense -- and fast.

"I don't worry about the expectations," said Paige. "We can be a really good team."

That’s still to be determined.

"It's a good group, a really good group of kids," Williams said. "Right now is a tough time and we'll find out how mentally strong we are in practice."

Video: Breaking down Indiana-UNC

November, 28, 2012

Andy Katz and Myron Medcalf discuss Indiana's victory over North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Once the question began to unfold, Northwestern Wildcats sophomore point guard David Sobolewski began shaking his head in disapproval.

His squad had just been routed on its home floor Tuesday, losing 77-57 to the Maryland Terrapins in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The query was whether Northwestern’s loss was anything more significant than an early-season defeat, considering the Terps were the first major-conference opponent the Wildcats had faced after starting the season 6-0.

Sobolewski jumped on the question as soon as it was finished.

“No, it wasn’t,” Sobolewski said. “It was a November game against an ACC team. It’s not the end of the season. We got a lot of work to do for sure, but we’re not going to stop working. If anything, this will make us hungrier to improve in practice. So it was nothing more than a loss in November.”

Some would debate that.

Whether the Wildcats like it, the question that will be associated with them from November until March is whether they are an NCAA tournament-caliber team. They’ve never been to the tournament ... and that, more than ever, is the measuring stick for the program after four consecutive NIT appearances. The question won’t disappear until the goal of an NCAA tourney berth is realized.

From that standpoint, Northwestern didn’t look much tournament team on Tuesday. The Wildcats were outscored 49-31 in the second half and outrebounded 42-15, shot 6-of-25 from the 3-point range and allowed 44 points in the paint. And their bench was outscored 23-7.

For Scott Powers' full column on, click here.

Rapid Reaction: Maryland 77, N'western 57

November, 28, 2012
EVANSTON, Ill. -- After a rough first half from both teams, Maryland overpowered host Northwestern to win 77-57 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday night.

Alex Len and Dez Wells each played a big part in dismantling Northwestern in the second half. Wells finished with a game-high 23 points. Len had 13 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks.

For the complete Rapid Reaction from, click here.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Quick thoughts from top-ranked Indiana's 83-59 victory over No. 14 North Carolina on Tuesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge:

Overview: Until the beatdown began in the second half, Indiana and North Carolina had mainly played a tight game Tuesday. The Hoosiers (7-0) couldn’t pull away. James Michael McAdoo & Co. attacked the rim, keeping the Tar Heels alive in a hostile environment during the first half.

But once Indiana turned up the pressure after halftime, the Tar Heels (5-2) didn’t have any answers. A 46-37 advantage became a 70-43 edge midway through the second half. It quickly became an embarrassing event for a North Carolina team that lost to another Indiana-based squad, Butler, in last week’s Maui Invitational.

With 3 minutes, 46 seconds to play in the game, Indiana had three players who had scored 19 points or more (Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey) and another, Jordan Hulls, who had registered 13.

Indiana was on a different level, a stark contrast from the disparities between the two programs in recent years. But this lopsided win was another piece of evidence that justified Indiana’s status as the No. 1 team in the country.

Turning point: With 3:45 to play in the first half, Oladipo drew a flagrant foul; Indiana led 33-31 at the time. By the end of the half, however, the score was 46-37 in favor of the Hoosiers. It was a burst that secured the momentum for Indiana entering the second half. The Tar Heels had climbed back into the game, but Indiana’s surge late in the first half turned the matchup for good.

Key player: You could pick a few, but Zeller was stellar. His size and tenacity were problems for the Tar Heels. They couldn’t match up with him in the half court. They couldn’t run with him. They couldn’t alter his shots at the rim. Zeller was a polished player his freshman season. But he’s clearly a more complete player as a sophomore.

Key stat: Indiana was 8-for-20 from the 3-point line against the Tar Heels.

Miscellaneous: McAdoo started strong, but give the Hoosiers credit for slowing him down in the second half. ... You could see the competitive fire between Marcus Paige and Yogi Ferrell, the top two point guards in the 2012 recruiting class. Ferrell’s crisp passing helped Indiana’s offense flow throughout the game. Paige played hard throughout, too. Bright future for both players. ... I don’t think having P.J. Hairston available would have changed the outcome. But the Tar Heels certainly missed his 3-point shooting (they were 1-for-8 from beyond the arc).

Next game: North Carolina will face Alabama-Birmingham at home Saturday. Indiana will attempt to preserve its perfect record when it plays Coppin State on Saturday in Bloomington.