Saturday’s action gave us an abundance of discussion points and incredible games, but Sunday’s action was much more mellow and calm. This certainly won’t be a day that will be memorable, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t important results to discuss, so let’s dive into some reactions.
EJ Liddell re-enters the National Player of the year discussion in win over Northwestern
With Johnny Davis taking a firm lead in the Player of the year race, EJ Liddell needed a big performance to close the gap and this game certainly helped. Liddell had an incredible start, scoring 17 points before the under-16 media timeout. Liddell continued his great play throughout and finished with a game-high 34 points, as well as 5 blocks to help lead Ohio State to the 95-87 win against Northwestern. Liddell is a fantastic player, his scoring inside is great, but his extended range is what makes him so dangerous because he can have games like this where he makes five threes. As for Ohio State, Liddell is certainly fantastic and at this point, Malaki Branham is a consistent #2 option for the Buckeyes. The question comes down to defensively, where they will need to improve in order to ultimately have a successful season. The defense just isn’t there and allowing 87 points to Northwestern isn’t cutting it, they have to improve on that end if they want to contend for a Big Ten title.
Memphis holds off Cincinnati in high-scoring affair
For two teams that have typically been pretty good defensively, it was kind of interesting to see an offensive showcase between Memphis and Cincinnati. Sure no DeAndre Williams for Memphis certainly helped the offense, because he’s so good defensively, but another issue was Memphis’ perimeter defense, which allowed open three after open three, with Cincinnati going 16-30 from deep in the game, and Jeremiah Davenport making seven threes himself. Ultimately, Memphis’ offensive firepower was just too much to overcome, Tyler Harris’ 20 point performance was key and shows why he might be Memphis’ best option to run the point. Lester Quinones had 18 himself, while freshman Josh Minott had 14 points and 10 rebounds. This Tigers team has kind of changed their offense, while they don’t run an offense, their strategy of going one-on-one and trying to score is a decent idea. This team clearly has had issues turning the ball over, so trusting your playmakers to make shots has certainly worked out in their favor as of late.
Guards key in Indiana’s win against Minnesota
We know Trayce Jackson-Davis can get Indiana 25 points and 10 rebounds in his sleep, but what has held Indiana back from being a consistent winner has been guard-play. Sunday’s game gave a glimpse into how good Indiana can be if they can get the good versions of this backcourt, as Indiana won 73-60 against Minnesota. Minnesota came in with a defensive game plan that involved them not allowing Trayce Jackson-Davis to get going inside and allowed Xavier Johnson, Parker Stewart, and Rob Phinisee to get open shots, but to their credit, they knocked them down. Minnesota made a run to get this game close but seemed to have run out of energy and Indiana gradually ran away with this game. The message is clear for Indiana, if their guards are going to step up offensively, this team can beat a lot of good teams, but that must be the case because teams aren’t going to let Trayce Jackson-Davis score at will anymore.
Wisconsin avoids disaster, escapes Maryland with a win
Leading 29-8 early in the game, the Badgers seemed to be walking into Maryland and rolling to a win pretty easily, but Wisconsin found a way to make this game interesting. The Terrapins got this game down to 7 at the half and tied it up early in the second half, with the game going down to the wire with the Badgers up, and ultimately it was a Steven Crowl three that put the Badgers up for good. This is not necessarily a win that is going to help Wisconsin that dramatically helps their seeding by any means, but if Wisconsin wants to contend for a Big Ten title, they need these types of wins.