Last night in the Big Ten: Nebraska stays perfect with double-overtime win

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USA TODAY

Last night in the Big Ten: Nebraska stays perfect with double-overtime win

Who knows how long Nebraska’s run is going to last here at the beginning of Big Ten play. But right now? It sure is fun to watch.

After grabbing upset wins over Indiana and Maryland to start off their Big Ten schedule, the Huskers moved to a perfect 3-0 in conference games Thursday night with a double-overtime victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes. It’s the first time Nebraska’s been 3-0 in conference play since the mid 1970s.

The backcourt duo of Glynn Watson Jr. and Tai Webster continue to pile up the points, combining for a whopping 57 of the team’s 93-point total, Watson accounting for 34 of those on a jaw-dropping 7-for-8 night from behind the 3-point line.

Nebraska had its chance to win the thing in regulation when gifted the ball with just a couple seconds left. Evan Taylor’s shot attempt missed, but he was fouled. Still, he missed the free throw, and the game went to overtime.

Iowa went up by four twice in overtime, including on a Jordan Bohannon 3-pointer with a minute and a half to go, but Nebraska came back, Webster hitting four free throws in the final 40 seconds of the first overtime period to tie the game.

Peter Jok’s 3-pointer in double overtime gave the Hawkeyes their only lead of that period, but it was soon wiped away, again by free throws as the Huskers hit four of them in the final 68 seconds to grab the win.

Nebraska got 26 of its points off 19 Iowa turnovers and owned the fast-break battle 10-0. The Hawkeyes lost despite beating the Huskers on the boards, 51-42, and smoking them in second-chance points, 27-5. But Iowa also missed 20 tries from 3-point range, while Nebraska scored 19 points from the free-throw line.

Another sensational scoring night from Jok went to waste for the Hawkeyes. He had 34 points and continues to light up the scoreboard night in and night out. The conference’s leading scorer, Jok has four games of at least 30 points this season.

Miraculously, the two teams at the top of the Big Ten standings at 3-0 are Nebraska and Michigan State. The Huskers went an ugly 6-6 during their non-conference schedule, and folks were panicking over the five losses the Spartans suffered before the start of Big Ten competition. Now they’re both in first place.

Another Northwestern cold snap as Minnesota bags another statement win

Minnesota looked every bit ready to challenge for a spot in the Big Ten conversation this season with that gloriously entertaining overtime loss to Michigan State in the conference-opener.

Since, all the Gophers have done is continue to flex their muscles. After winning on the road at Purdue, Minnesota went into Welsh-Ryan Arena on Thursday and took down Northwestern. In any other year, that would hardly be regarded as a statement win of any kind, but the Cats are legit this year and are included in many current NCAA tournament bracket projections.

So count Thursday’s win as another statement from the Gophers, who capitalized on some cold shooting by the Cats to grab a second straight road victory.

Minnesota and Northwestern both started off on fire, both teams shooting better than 50 percent in the first half. Five triples helped the Cats to a narrow halftime lead, but their 3-point shooting fell off a cliff after halftime. Northwestern shot a miserable 28.9 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes and went 1-for-15 from behind the 3-point line. Credit Minnesota for putting together a back-breaking 10-0 run in the middle of the second half that sent the Gophers from down seven to up three. After grabbing the lead during that run, Minnesota didn't trail again.

This is becoming a bit of a disturbing trend for the Cats, racing out to hot starts only to go cold late in games. Look back to that win over Dayton, where Northwestern shot better than 50 percent in the first half and under 30 percent in the second half, making just one basket over the final 10 minutes. The Cats shot better than 55 percent in the first half of their conference-opening win over Penn State but just barely better than 30 percent in the second half. And while shooting numbers weren't as drastic in losses to Butler and Notre Dame, the final seconds of those games could have and perhaps should have sealed Northwestern wins instead of leading to heart-breaking losses.

In a quest for enough conference wins to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time, Northwestern’s got to stop doing that — especially at home.

Meanwhile, Nate Mason continued to tear it up for Minnesota. He scored 12 points, handed out seven assists and grabbed five rebound in Thursday’s win and is now averaging 20.3 points, 7.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds in conference play.

Loss to Purdue, Bates-Diop’s injury make for tough night for Ohio State

The biggest headline of the night for Ohio State had little to do with the outcome of Thursday night’s game against Purdue, as junior forward Keith Bates-Diop has a stress fracture in his leg and will miss the remainder of the season.

That’s a real bummer for the Buckeyes, who are one of many Big Ten squads floating in bubble territory when it comes to NCAA tournament hopes. Trying to get on the right side of that bubble without Bates-Diop will be tough. Despite dealing with the injury this season, Bates-Diop was having a nice statistical year, averaging nearly 10 points and better than five rebounds a game.

Thursday night, Ohio State dropped to 0-2 in conference play with a gut-wrenching loss to Purdue. It was mostly a tight game, and though the Buckeyes never led in the second half, they were right there at the end, erasing a five-point Boilermakers lead with a little more than two minutes to play. Ohio State tied the game at 75 with 15 seconds left, Trevor Thompson corralling a terrible attempt by Marc Loving and putting it in and drawing the foul. But Thompson missed the free throw and followed by fouling Caleb Swanigan at the other end. Swanigan put in one of his two free throws to get the Boilers out of Columbus with a win.

All in all, it was a real tough night for Ohio State.

Northwestern's offense nowhere to be found as Illini complete sweep of season series

Northwestern's offense nowhere to be found as Illini complete sweep of season series

Northwestern's offense is missing in action, and not even the return of Scottie Lindsey is producing any points for the Wildcats right now.

Seemingly on the verge of making the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history, Northwestern can't seem to find the bottom of the basket, a problem that was glaringly exposed by an opportunistic Illinois team Tuesday night in Champaign.

Good defense by the Illini and atrocious offense by the Cats meant John Groce's team completed a sweep of the regular-season series between the in-state rivals with a 66-50 blowout of a decision at the State Farm Center.

Give Illinois plenty of credit for its defensive work, but it was hard to watch a Northwestern offense that has rarely seemed in sync since Lindsey began his four-game absence back on Feb. 1. He returned over the weekend against Rutgers and played Tuesday night against Illinois, but the Cats' leading scorer hasn't done much in his two games back. He scored just two points on 1-for-11 shooting Tuesday.

But Lindsey's personal woes were just the tip of the iceberg for Northwestern. The 50-point output was the team's lowest of the season as it shot 32.1 percent from the field, a number dragged down by a horrendous second half that saw the Cats shoot 18.5 percent (5-for-27 from the field), muster just 18 points and at one point go nearly 10 minutes without a made basket. Northwestern hit just once, a Nathan Taphorn 3 with a little more than a minute to play, over the game's final 10 minutes. The Cats also turned the ball over 11 times, including eight giveaways in the first half that led to 13 points for the Illini. Northwestern was just 4-for-18 from 3-point range on the night.

Despite all those problems, it took Illinois an awful long time to pull away. The Illini didn't shoot too well, either: 40 percent on the game and 37 percent in the second half. They owned just a one-point lead at halftime and joined the Cats in offensive ineptitude for much of the evening. But when Northwestern ran completely out of gas — Bryant McIntosh's bucket to bring the Cats within three with 10 and a half minutes left was the last real moment of danger for the Illini — Illinois was finally able to create some separation. Sporadic baskets and free throws slowly built the lead, which quietly reached double figures as Northwestern remained silent, before Malcolm Hill's 3-pointer with three minutes left served as the dagger to extend the gap to 16.

Hill finished with a game-high 18 points, 13 of which came after halftime. Leron Black was the other Illinois player in double figures with 11.

McIntosh scored a team-high 16 points for Northwestern, though he was an inefficient 6-for-17 from the field. Still it was a better result than the majority of his teammates. Lindsey's rough night teamed with Vic Law's three-point, 0-for-4 performance, and the two guys not named McIntosh that the Cats rely on to produce combined for five points on 1-for-15 shooting. Isiah Brown was 4-for-14 for nine points, and Gavin Skelly joined McIntosh in double figures with 11 points, six coming on a pair of made 3-pointers.

It's tough to expect too much from Lindsey just in his second game back from a mono-induced absence that head coach Chris Collins described as three weeks without exercise. But it's clear that the offensive doldrums for the Cats are not going away. This performance was by far the team's worst of the season, though it wasn't too dissimilar from what happened over the course of the five games that preceded it. Low shooting numbers and struggles from anyone not named McIntosh have now resulted in four losses in Northwestern's last six games. It's not at all good for a team that while seemingly a lock for an NCAA tournament appearance is in danger of stumbling its way to the Big Dance.

Meanwhile, as the speculation continues that John Groce might be in a position where he's fighting for his job, the win was huge for the Illini. Two weeks ago, the win at Northwestern was Illinois' best of the season, and now this win made two over a team flirting with a spot in the top-25 rankings and seemingly destined to be included in the NCAA tournament field. Illinois is still just 16-12 overall and 6-9 in Big Ten play, and there's no glory in that as the Illini appear on track to play in one of the two Wednesday-night games in the Big Ten Tournament. But with Groce's seat as hot as any coach's in the conference, any success is positive, and his team now has back-to-back league wins for the first time since 2015.

Just three games remain for both squads, and obviously given their positions in the standings, they loom far larger for Northwestern. The Cats travel to play Indiana and have home games against Michigan and Purdue to end the regular-season schedule. Illinois travels to Nebraska, plays host to Michigan State and travels to Rutgers to wrap the regular season. The verdict might be in on these seasons in the big picture — the best campaign Northwestern has ever had and a continued tournament drought for Illinois — but these last three games could dramatically alter the future of these programs.

James Franklin and staff celebrate Penn State wrestling win in singlets

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James Franklin and staff celebrate Penn State wrestling win in singlets

Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy — the man with America's finest mullet — made headlines last week when he posted a video promoting an upcoming Oklahoma State wrestling match while wearing a singlet.

Hilarious, right?

Well, as you can tell from that video, the match was against Penn State. And Penn State won.

So, to celebrate the Nittany Lions' big wrestling win, James Franklin and his staff upped the ante, donning singlets for a meeting and tweeting out this "Last Supper" style picture of it Monday morning.

You've got to love seeing football coaches and teams supporting the sports that don't get as much attention.

I'll let you be the judge if this is, as Franklin tweeted, #NotAGoodLookOnUs.