This Week in the Big Ten

Jan. 18, 2008

by Jeff Smith

[ONE // two men's basketball teams undefeated in league play]
No. 9 Indiana and No. 17 Wisconsin remain atop the Big Ten men's basketball standings at a perfect 4-0 in conference play. The Hoosiers nearly escaped Minneapolis with a win late Thursday night, surviving a 65-60 scare from Minnesota. The Golden Gophers held Big Ten scoring leader Eric Gordon to just 12 points, but could not put the Hoosiers away in the end. D.J. White had 17 points and nine rebounds. Jarmarcus Ellis, featured yesterday on, also finished with nine boards.

[TWO // shake up at the top of the women's basketball standings?]
One of the leading conference squads survived, while the other did not this week. No.16 Ohio State moved to 4-1 in league play with a 43-42 comeback victory at home against Illinois on Thursday. Maria Moeller sank a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left to secure the win. The Buckeyes were down by as many as seven with less than five minutes to play. On the other hand, second-place Minnesota dropped a heartbreaking 80-77 double-overtime road contest at Indiana on Thursday. All 10 starters between the two teams scored in double figures, led by Indiana's Nikki Smith's game-high 21 points.

[THREE // disappointing end to a promising career]
No senior deserved to finish out his career more than Penn State's Geary Claxton. The heralded leader of the Nittany Lions will not have that chance after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Penn State's 80-55 loss to No. 17 Wisconsin on Tuesday. Penn State had a seven-game winning streak, which included two straight Big Ten road wins, entering the contest. Claxton was leading the team this year in points (17.5) and rebounds (8.4) and finishes his career fifth (1,542) and fourth (755), respectively, among the all-time school ranks. Head coach Ed DeChellis talked about Claxton and where the Nittany Lions go from here with the Big Ten Network's Dave Revsine.

[FOUR // purdue's ragin and remorseful cajun]
Speaking of the Big Ten Network, this week the BTN profiled Purdue women's basketball player Lauren Mioton, a New Orleans native who has penned a cookbook to help give back to her ravaged region. The "Live to Eat" cookbook contains 250 recipes from Purdue alumnae, staff, supporters and local Louisiana residents, including former Purdue and current Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his wife Brittany. All the profits from cookbook sales will go directly to the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation to support their "Save Our Coast" effort.

[FIVE // zook enjoys bowl win in paradise]
This past Saturday Illinois' Ron Zook coached the Aina squad to a 38-7 win over the Kai team in the 2008 Hula Bowl in Honolulu. Zook's group of college all-stars racked up 527 offensive yards, while allowing just 240 defensively. The margin of victory was the second-best in Hula Bowl history.

[SIX // national award winner returning to buckeyes in 2008]
In the midst of several college football standouts announcing they will forgo their senior year of eligibility to test the NFL waters, it was refreshing this week to learn that two-time All-American James Laurinaitis will return to Ohio State next year for his senior season. Laurinaitis captured the Butkus Award along with the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award this past season and was honored with the Nagurski Trophy in 2006. In addition, teammate and All-America defensive back Malcolm Jenkins will also return as a senior to two-time BCS National Championship finalists.

[SEVEN // welcoming new wildcats]
Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald was busy filling some key positions this week and formally introduced his new offensive and defensive coordinators today at a press conference. Mike Hankwitz, the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin last year, has been hired in the same capacity, while Mick McCall comes to NU as the offensive coordinator, having served as an assistant coach at Bowling Green most recently.

[EIGHT // playoffs?!?!?!?!?! we're talking about playoffs?!?!?!?!?!]
That's right, and only four teams remain in the NFL Playoffs, which continue this weekend. The four remaining teams - Green Bay Packers (4), New York Giants (6), New England Patriots (7) and San Diego Chargers (10) - combined to boast a total of 27 former Big Ten standouts, while each of the 11 conference schools will be represented. Of those 27 are 13 first-team All-Big Ten players and five All-Americans, including Michigan's Charles Woodson (GB), Ohio State's A.J. Hawk (GB), Mike Vrabel (NE) and Matt Wilhelm (SD), and Iowa's Nate Keading (SD). Both Hawk and Woodson are former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honorees, and oh, there is also a former Wolverine named Tom Brady as well.

[NINE // iowa reigns supreme at nwca/cliff keen national duals]
Iowa claimed its first NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals team title since 1996 with a convincing 24-6 win over Nebraska on Sunday. Nearly 16,000 people were in attendance at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, and many of the Hawkeye faithful were able to see sophomore Brent Metcalf (149) in action as the meet's Division I Outstanding Wrestler. Iowa head coach Tom Brands talked with the Big Ten Network about the team's Big Ten opener against No. 6 Ohio State on Friday. Speaking of OSU, the then-No. 11 Buckeyes ended their weekend at the Duals with a 24-11 upset over top-ranked Penn State.

[TEN // michigan's harris "jumps" out to "quick" indoor season]
Congrats are in order for Michigan junior Adam Harris for his record-breaking performance over the weekend in indoor track. Harris recorded the second fastest 60-meter dash time in the country at the Eastern Michigan Open on Saturday with an NCAA provisional time of 6.64. His time shattered his own school record and was just 0.01 second away from stamping his ticket to the NCAA Championships. He also set a new personal record in the long jump with a mark of 23-6 in his lone leap of the day.

[ELEVEN // fond and not-so-fond facility memories]
This week two Big Ten schools brought attention to notable anniversaries of their basketball arenas. Iowa took a look back at 25 years of Carver Hawkeye Arena in this retrospective, while Wisconsin's Kohl Center celebrated its actual 10th birthday on Thursday. Unfortunately for the Badgers, the UW women's basketball team fell to Michigan, 79-73, in a heartbreaking overtime loss. After Rae Lin D'Alie hit what appeared to be a game-winning 3-pointer with 6.8 seconds left, Michigan's Krista Phillips drilled a 40-footer to tie that game at 68-68 and send it into overtime where the Wolverines eventually prevailed. Kudos to Michigan though, as U-M pulled out its first Big Ten road win in nearly four years. Ironically, its last conference victory on the road came on Jan. 22, 2004 in a 63-60 win at Wisconsin.