Big Ten Wonk
Monday, November 20, 2006
Mid-Majority Wonk
(With apologies to Kyle Whelliston--hey, he aped me first.)

I moved to Indy three months ago and live within easy walking distance of Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University. On Saturday night I put the four-year-old Official Wonk Son on my shoulders and headed down the hill on 52nd Street to see the Bulldogs play Illinois-Springfield.

In no particular order....

Forgive the gushing of a first-time visitor, but: what an absolute jewel of a venue for college hoops. Hinkle was built in 1928 and the Indiana state high school tournament was played here from 1928 to 1971. But you doubtless know Hinkle as the venerable old arena where Hickory High played the championship game in Hoosiers. (Norman Dale: "It is big.")...

Attendance is sparse to see Butler take on the visiting Prairie Stars--all the better for the Gasaways, as we're handed free tickets for first-row balcony seats directly behind the basket by a kindly man outside the gates who thinks my kid is cute. "Just cheer loud for Butler," he instructs us. We're directly above the band and between numbers I explain to my companion that "shots behind that blue line are worth three points if they go in." He quickly catches on and narrates the Bulldogs' warm-ups for me: "Two points! Two points! Three points!"...

Strictly speaking, Butler has two bulldogs: one's a student doing wacky antics in an oversized-head-based outfit; the other's the real deal--and he too is wacky. After the national anthem the bulldog mascot decides he wants to remain on the court and has to be dragged by the leash quite forcefully off the court. My companion thinks this basketball stuff is very entertaining already....

The game starts while Michigan and Ohio State are wrapping up their game in some other sport. I've DVR'd the game and have no knowledge of its contents--until a guy in Ohio State gear breezes into section 11 with four minutes to go in the first half and gives a triumphant "O-H" to a fellow Buckeye, real or imagined, in the balcony.....

UIS is coached by former Iowa Hawkeye and Boston Celtic Kevin Gamble. Like me, Gamble's a Springfield native. He is also one of the most serene sideline presences I have ever seen in the coach's box. The Prairie Stars play a 1-2-2 full-court press just like the Hawkeyes did in Gamble's day under Tom Davis. But without Brad Lohaus as the "1," this version's somewhat less disruptive.....

Every time Butler makes a three, the PA announcer booms: "That's an MCL Cafeteria Tray for a Trey!" He then announces a fan's name and says they can report to the scorer's table for a free meal. But the scorer's table is separated by a wide aisle from the first row and no one crosses that gulf to get their freebie....

During a timeout the cheerleaders are throwing rolled-up t-shirts into the crowd. No air guns here: the cheerleaders are relying on their own natural attributes. And the particular cheerleader in front of our section--how to best say this--um, is no threat to Johan Santana. Her pitiful toss lands in the band and she is mocked by the horn section instantly. One alert band member then tosses the shirt up to the guy two seats down from us. Up until now I've been pointing at my kid--and the kindly gent hands over the coveted item. It is immediately put on, it comes down to a four-year-old's shins, and it wins the vocal approval of the assembled fans in row AA.....

Butler won 62-56. (Box score.) And we'll be back for Kent State this Saturday. Need another shirt.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
The weekend, of course, began with an event so poetically eerie that it can justly be termed the sports equivalent of July 4, 1826.

As for the hoops....

The weekend in Big Ten hoops--Friday!
Maryland beat Michigan State 62-60 in the championship game of the loquaciously titled "2K Sports College Hoops Classic benefiting Coaches Vs. Cancer." The Spartans trailed by 11 early in the second half but rallied on the strength of 17 second-half points from Drew Neitzel to make it close at the end. Those pining for the Spartans to return to the good old days of dominance on the boards, please note: Tom Izzo's men owned the glass utterly and completely (51.5 offensive rebound pct.; 79.2 defensive) in this game against a "power"-conference opponent. But the Terps made 16 of 26 two-point shots, many of them dunks and layups off turnovers, and that was the difference. Neitzel led State in shots and points (21). (Box score.)

Stony Brook beat Penn State 59-51 in State College. Facing a Seawolves defense that aggressively doubled Jamelle Cornley (nine points) down low all night, the Nittany Lions responded by shooting threes (44 percent of their attempts)--they missed them (5-of-26) and lost. Cold shooting is a language, can't you read? Sophomore guard Danny Morrissey "led" the Lions with 12 points--only problem there being it took 13 attempted threes to get the mere dozen points. Stony Brook shot 23 free throws; Penn State attempted just five. (Box score (pdf).)

Stanford beat Northwestern 58-53 in Palo Alto. The Wildcats trailed by 12 with six minutes to play but rallied to tie the game at 53 before falling short. NU hit their threes (7-of-17, led by a 3-of-3 performance by Vince Scott) for the first time this season to make this a contest. Ultimately, however, the Cardinal won the game on the interior, hitting 21 of their 35 twos. Tim Doyle was on the floor for every possession (all 57 of them) and led the Wildcats in points (13), assists (six), rebounds (seven), and turnovers (four). Bold statistical extremist Tim Doyle, Wonk salutes you! (Box score.)

Ohio State beat Eastern Kentucky 74-45 in Columbus. The Colonels hung in this one for the first eight minutes before the Buckeyes broke the game open with a 20-2 run. The rebounding was even in this game but everything else favored The OSU, particularly the 26 turnovers that the visitors coughed up in a slow (62-possession) game. Daequan Cook led the Buckeyes in shots and points (22). Mike Conley Jr. went 6-of-6 from the field and recorded three steals. (Box score.)

Illinois beat Georgia Southern 85-50 in Champaign. Talk about Izzo depth! No fewer than nine Illini players recorded at least 11 minutes--this despite the absence of three starters. (Although the fact that Illinois had a 20-point lead within the game's first 13 minutes may also have had something to do with it.) The Illini beat the Eagles silly on the offensive glass (48.4 offensive rebound pct.), were strangely underwhelming on the defensive boards (60.5 defensive rebound pct.), and continued to be very generous with turnovers (coughing the ball up 19 times in a 73-possession game--some of which, granted, is whistle-happy refs in November). Trent Meacham led Illinois in minutes and points (19). (Box score.)

Indiana beat Indiana State 73-66 in Bloomington. The Hoosiers led by 20 with a little under 13 minutes remaining but the Sycamores managed to make it close down the stretch. Lance Stemler hit 5-of-9 threes and led IU with 18 points. Armon Bassett recorded four assists in ten minutes. Free throws helped the home team, as IU shot 32 and ISU attempted just 13. (Box score.)

Iowa beat Toledo 78-65 in first-round action at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. In a game where the shooting was about the same on both sides, the Hawkeyes won thanks to total domination on the boards and a +14 in free throw attempts. Tyler Smith came off the bench and led Iowa in shots, assists (five), and points (28). Adam Haluska had a ghastly outing, hitting just 2-of-15 shots and turning the ball over five times. (Box score.)

Michigan beat Harvard 82-50 in Ann Arbor. Total domination on the interior: the Wolverines had their way on the boards and made 73.7 percent of their twos in a 72-possession game in which the two teams combined for 45 turnovers. Ron Coleman led Michigan in minutes, shots, and points (20), while Courtney Sims posted perhaps the quintessential Courtney Sims line: great scoring efficiency (1.62 PPWS) on too few shots (six--Coleman took 16), alongside zero assists and six turnovers. (Box score.)

Minnesota beat Long Island 70-54 in Minneapolis. Lawrence McKenzie hit 5-of-8 threes and led the Gophers with 24 points, while Dan Coleman fired up shots like an NBA all-star game reserve (17 in 30 minutes) and scored 23. Spencer Tollackson recorded four blocks in 18 minutes. (Box score (pdf). I don't believe I've ever seen an official box score where the home team is on the top. Boldly iconoclastic official box score formatters of the University of Minnesota, Wonk salutes you!)

Purdue beat Western Carolina 82-57 in West Lafayette. Marcus Green came off the bench to lead the Boilermakers with 15 points. Fellow reserve Keaton Grant recorded seven assists in 23 minutes. Matt Painter gave eight of his players 15+ minutes in this game. (Box score.)

The weekend in Big Ten hoops--yesterday!
Alabama beat Iowa 72-60 in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. The Hawkeyes ran into foul trouble and--with Kurt Looby, Seth Gorney, and Cyrus Tate alternately sidelined or worried--the Tide capitalized, hitting 60 percent of their twos and going to the line 22 times. Tyler Smith led Iowa with 19 points and Tony Freeman had the best shooting day of his career, hitting 4-of-9 threes. (Freeman's teammates, however, were 3-of-21, including an 0-for-9 from Adam Haluska.) The Hawkeyes play Villanova today in the Paradise Jam consolation game. (Box score.)

Indiana beat Chicago State 90-69 in Bloomington. The Hoosiers never trailed in this game; D.J. White posted an 18-11 dub-dub in 29 minutes while Roderick Wilmont came off the bench to lead IU in shots and scored 15. Kelvin Sampson chose to go with a notably youthful starting lineup for this one and freshman Armon Bassett responded with 10 points and nine assists in 29 minutes. (Box score.)

Illinois beat Florida A&M 84-63 in Champaign. Off a Trent Meacham turnover with one minute gone in the second half the Illini trailed this game by seven but Bruce Weber 's men turned the ball over only three more times and scored 50 points in the game's final 19 minutes to get the W. Meacham led the Illini in shots and points (24), hitting 8-of-13 threes. (The eight makes ties a school record.) Chester Frazier played the full 40 and posted the rare points assists dub-dub (13-10) with just one turnover. Calvin Brock also joined this 40-dub-dub club with a more traditional points-boards couplet of 18-10 to go along with seven assists. Facing a Rattler zone, Illinois posted what may be the highest offensive rebound percentage I've yet seen this season: 67.9. (Box score.)...Injury updates: Brian Randle had abdominal surgery in Philadelphia on Friday to treat his strained groin and is not expected to return until mid-December at the earliest. Jamar Smith has gone from a boot to an air cast on his sprained ankle and Weber sounds more hopeful than a week ago, mentioning a possible return by Smith in time for the Arizona game in Phoenix on December 2.

Wisconsin beat Southern 92-39 in Madison. No Badger played more than 24 minutes in a game that was a blowout from the start. Alando Tucker led Wisconsin in shots and points (16). (Box score (pdf).)

The extended weekend in Big Ten hoops--tonight!
Purdue plays Georgia Tech as part of first-round action at the EA-Sports Maui Invitational (5pm ET, ESPN2). David Teague says he and his teammates need to show a little "swagger." The Boilers will face either Oklahoma or Memphis in the second round.

Ohio State plays San Francisco in Columbus. Thad Matta says he stresses shooting in practice: "It’s like taking 20 minutes to run five-on-zero and get all your sets down and (take) no time for shooting. You may run the play well, but (it doesn’t matter if) you can’t make the shot."

Wonk back!
Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!

When aberrant rebounding occurs, we'll be there!
Hey, John,

Interesting stat from Saturday's game between Nebraska and Creighton. Nebraska basically missed very few shots, so there were only 16 total rebound opportunities on the Cornhuskers' offensive end. Of these Creighton had 15 defensive rebounds and Nebraska had one offensive board.

Also, in 30 minutes of playing time, Dane Watts of Creighton had 11 of the 15 defensive rebounds (11 of the 16 total rebounds on that end of the court). I am not sure which is more unusual, a team getting only one offensive rebound over the course of a game or a player having a defensive rebound percentage above 90 for a game.

Jack M.

Good catch, Jack! As to which is more unusual, I'd venture to say Watts' feat is the more singular. Northwestern recorded just one offensive board on no less than two occasions last year (at Minnesota and at Illinois).

And then, going back two seasons, there was the historic night in Iowa City, Iowa, on February 12, 2005. Northwestern at Iowa: zero offensive rebounds for the Wildcats.


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