This Week in the Big Ten

Jan. 25, 2009

[ONE // a “wild” night in east lansing]
We start the week in review with one of the top victories in Northwestern men’s basketball history.  The Wildcats went on the road to Michigan State this past Wednesday and captured a 70-63 win in one of toughest surroundings in all of college basketball.  Northwestern’s win ended MSU’s 28-game home winning streak and its 80-game home winning streak against unranked opponents.  NU’s Kevin Coble went for 31 points and helped the Wildcats to their second straight win over a ranked team for the first time in school history.  In addition, the victory was NU’s first over a team rated in the top 10 since it downed No. 8 Michigan 97-93 in overtime March 12, 1994. It was also the program's first victory over a top-10 opponent on the road since a 71-65 win at No. 4 Minnesota on Jan. 3, 1953.

[TWO // beilein earns 500th career win]
While Northwestern’s win in East Lansing was monumental for the Wildcats’ program, its loss in nearby Ann Arbor on Saturday proved to be a milestone victory for Michigan head coach John Beilein.  The Wolverines’ 68-59 win over the Wildcats gave Beilein his 500th career victory at a four-year college. Overall, it marked the 575th win of his 31 years as a head coach. Beilein, who has never been anything but a head coach, is the only active coach in the collegiate ranks to record a 20-win season at four different levels: junior college, NAIA, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division I.

[THREE // nittany lion named nation’s top volleyball player]
Congratulations to Penn State senior outside hitter Nicole Fawcett, who was chosen as the Honda Award winner as the nation’s top collegiate female volleyball player on Wednesday. The honor was based on results of national balloting among 1,000 NCAA member schools as part of the Collegiate Women Sports Awards program, now in its 33rd year.  Fawcett, the 2008 AVCA National and Big Ten Player of the Year who helped the Nittany Lions to their second straight NCAA Championship title, is now automatically nominated as one of 12 student-athletes for the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year honor. She beat our three other nominees in the voting, including teammate Christa Harmotto.  The Honda Award is the second for a Nittany Lion women's volleyball player in program history.  Fawcett is also just the sixth Penn State female athlete to capture the honor in all sports.

[FOUR // wolverine gymnast claims another national award]
Another Big Ten standout received a national honor this week as Michigan sophomore gymnast Chris Cameron was named NCAA Gymnast of the Week by the College Gymnastics Association on Saturday.  Cameron, who was also tabbed as the Big Ten’s Gymnast of the Week on Tuesday, claimed his first all-around title with an 88.100 total in his first career appearance during the Wolverines’ season opener.

[FIVE // three tops two in men’s gymnastics contest]
Speaking of Michigan men’s gymnastics, the second-ranked Wolverines dropped a tightly-contested battle to No. 3 Penn State in State College on Saturday.  The Nittany Lions squeaked out a 348.900-348.350 victory in a matchup of Big Ten and national powers.  Leading the way for PSU was reigning NCAA All-Around Champion Casey Sandy, who took home the all-around title in the meet with a score of 90.000, the nation’s highest total so far this season.

[SIX // school records go down in track and field]
A pair of Big Ten track and field standouts had record-breaking performances this past week as Michigan’s Casey Taylor and Minnesota’s Chris Rombough both set new school marks.  For Taylor, who set the previous school record in the triple jump two weeks ago, bested her mark by leaping 13.09m (42-11 1/2) for the Simmons/Harvey Invitational title this past weekend.  As for Rombough, he broke the Minnesota 3,000-meter record on Saturday at the Jack Johnson Classic in Minneapolis with a new school-record time of 8:00.66 8 minutes, an NCAA provisional qualifying mark.

[SEVEN // a rout of a nation]
Although the Big Ten does not officially sponsor women’s lacrosse, the conference could certainly not be more proud of the dynasty the Northwestern Wildcats have built up over the past few years.  NU has captured the last four NCAA Championships and has become the team that every school wants to play.  Every school and every country that is.  The Wildcats routed Team Canada 21-5 in an exhibition game of the Surfside Cup on Saturday.  NU netted the first 13 goals of the contest and had 10 different `Cats tally first half goals.

[EIGHT // badgers who belong]
Pleased with the performance in their respective sports, the Wisconsin Athletic Board voted Friday to   renew the contracts of four Badger coaches.  Women’s soccer coach Paula Wilkins and men’s cross country coach Mick Byrne each received a one-year extension through 2010, while volleyball coach Pete Waite also gained another year on his agreement through 2013.  Bret Bielema, the successful Wisconsin football leader, earned another season in Madison, which means he will pace the sidelines of Camp Randall Stadium at least until January 2014.

[NINE // big ten reps shine in senior bowl]
Penn State’s Derrick Williams racked up a game-high 124 all-purpose yards Saturday in the 60th Annual Under Armour Senior Bowl, but his North team fell to the South squad, 35-18.  A 2008 first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-America selection, Williams gained 89 yards on three kickoff returns, including a 44-yarder, the second-longest in the contest.  In addition, Purdue’s Kory Sheets rushed for 32 yards on seven carries, while Ohio State’s Brian Robiskie hauled in three catches for 47 yards.  Fellow Buckeye Marcus Freeman led all defenders with a game-high eight tackles, including six solo stops.

[TEN // former conference standouts prepare for super bowl]
Twenty former Big Ten football players will battle this upcoming Sunday in Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa.  Both the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers boast 10 former conference standouts each.  Eight Big Ten institutions are represented, paced by Michigan's seven.  Taking the field for Arizona will be Illinois’ Nathan Hodel (LS) and Neil Rackers (K), Iowa’s Kenny Iwebema (DE), Michigan’s Alan Branch (DT), Steve Breaston (WR), Victor Hobson (LB), Jerame Tuman (TE) and Gabe Watson (DT), Penn State’s Levi Brown (T) and Purdue’s Chike Okeafor (DE).  The Steelers’ Big Ten contingent consists of Illinois’ Carey Davis (FB), Michigan’s LaMarr Woodley (LB) and Larry Foote (LB), Minnesota’s Tyrone Carter (S), Gary Russell (RB) and Matt Spaeth (TE), Northwestern’s Trai Essex (G), Ohio State’s Santonio Holmes (WR), and Penn State’s Sean McHugh (TE) and Scott Paxson (T).

[ELEVEN // men’s hoops coaches obamicon'd by big ten network]
Finally this week, in case you missed it, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States on Tuesday.  Throughout Obama’s two-year campaign, the former senator of Illinois had an iconic image of himself featured on shirts, posters, and billboards through the country.  In recognition of his inauguration Tuesday, the Big Ten Network “Obamicon’d” all 11 Big Ten men’s basketball coaches.  To see these campaign posters, click here.