Big Ten Winter Season in Review: Part 1

June 10, 2008

by Jeff Smith

Throughout the Big Ten's winter campaign, the regular season offered plenty of memorable moments in men's and women's basketball, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's indoor track and field, men's and women's gymnastics and wrestling. In the first of three features this week, will take a look back at some of those defining moments. The Big Ten Championship/Tournament season will be the focus on Wednesday, while the series concludes Thursday by highlighting NCAA Championship action. Here now are just a few of the memorable moments that occurred this past winter during the regular season.

NOVEMBER 9 - The 103rd season of Big Ten men's basketball and the 26th women's basketball campaign officially tipped off, with several first-year head coaches earning wins. Iowa's Todd Lickliter guided the Hawkeyes to a 58-43 win over Idaho State, while Michigan's John Beilein posted his first victory with the Wolverines with an 82-55 win over Radford. On the women's side, Illinois' Jolette Law got her first victory as Illini coach on the road at Eastern Illinois, 86-56. Michigan State's Suzy Merchant's earned a 65-35 win at home over IUPUI for her first "W" and Penn State's Coquese Washington led her Lady Lion squad to a 87-78 outcome over Arizona.

NOVEMBER 10 - Two more new head coaches opened the season in the win column, as Kevin Borseth captured a 67-55 victory over Akron for his first win as Michigan's women's head coach, while Tubby Smith guided his new Golden Gopher men's squad to an 84-52 outcome over Army.

NOVEMBER 12 - Freshman Eric Gordon led all scorers with 33 points in Indiana's 99-79 win over Chattanooga, which marked a new school record for a Hoosier debut. Gordon was 9-of-15 shooting and 7-of-11 from the perimeter, topping the previous record of 26 points set by George McGinnis in 1970.

NOVEMBER 18 - Michigan fifth-year senior Melissa Jaeger shattered the Big Ten and U-M records in the 200-yard butterfly by touching the wall in 1:56.77 at the Texas A&M Invitational. Jaeger's mark bested teammate Payton Johnson's previous record of 1:57.90, recorded at the 2007 NCAA Championships. She also broke the two-year old conference record set by Ohio State's Gulash Gunenc in 2006.

NOVEMBER 19 - The first annual Big Ten-ACC Women's Basketball Challenge began with Michigan earning a 65-50 win over Miami. The five-day event lasted through December 2, with the ACC winning the inaugural event, 8-3.

NOVEMBER 26 - The Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference tipped off in the ninth annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge. The ACC captured the three-day event, 8-3.

NOVEMBER 27 - Sad news from international waters as former Illinois men's track and field star Herb McKenley passed away in Kingston, Jamaica. He was 85. A two-time Olympian, McKenley captured a gold in the 1952 4x400-meter relay and silver in both the 1948 and 1952 400 meters and silvers in the 1952 100 meters. An eight-time Big Ten and four-time NCAA champion, McKenley is still the only man to reach the Olympic finals in the 100, 200 and 400 meters.

DECEMBER 1 - The 10th-ranked Michigan wrestling team captured the 26th annual Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas. With the help of three weight-class champions (Eric Tannenbaum at 165 pounds, Kellen Russell at 141 and junior Tyrel Todd at 184), the Wolverines posted 127.5 points, 2.5 ahead of runner-up Missouri. In the pool, Penn State's Kaitlin O'Brien broke the school and Big Ten records in the 400 IM by swimming a 4:08.40. She broke her own school record of 4:09:71 and the old Big Ten mark of 4:08.92, previously held by Bethany Pendleton of Wisconsin from 2004.

DECEMBER 2 - Staying with swimming, the ninth-ranked Minnesota women's swimming and diving team dominated the OSU Invitational with a winning score of 1296, far ahead of runner-up Ohio State (691.5) and Iowa (455). On the weekend, the Golden Gophers broke seven school records and earned 10 automatic qualifying times. One of those record-breaking performances included Jillian Tyler, whose 59.82 eclipsed a 10-year old 100 breaststroke school record, which was previously 1:00.32, set by NCAA champion and former Gopher Gretchen Hegener.

DECEMBER 9 - The No. 5 Penn State wrestling team ousted third-ranked Oklahoma State, 21-18, on the Cowboys' home mat, marking the first time PSU captured a victory in Stillwater since January of 1993.

DECEMBER 20 - Not only were the Nittany Lion grapplers impressive, but senior Shana Cox was named the USATF Athlete of the Week after her performance at the Blue/White Meet. Cox ran 500 meters in 1:09.19, more than a second faster than her own Penn State standard of 1:10.30. Her mark was also the second-quickest time in collegiate history.

DECEMBER 22 - Indiana women's basketball defended its home court with a 79-66 upset of No. 13 West Virginia. The Hoosiers hit nine 3-pointers and Jamie Braun and Kim Roberson each scored 17 points to give IU its first victory over a top-25 team since 2006.

Iowa earned the 45th annual Midlands championship on December 30, its first win at the event since 2002.
DECEMBER 30 - For the first time since 2002, the Iowa Hawkeyes' wrestling team captured the 45th annual Midlands championship. Iowa scored 185 points to top runner-up and defending champion Iowa State by 46 points. Junior Mark Perry (165 pounds) and sophomores Joe Slaton (133), Dan LeClere (141) and Brent Metcalf (149) all earned individual titles to help the Hawkeyes' earn their 19th event crown in program history.

JANUARY 10 - School records were set by two Badgers on the platform of the Hawaii Invitational in Honolulu. Freshman Caleb Percevecz's score of 286.80 bettered his own school record by 12.20 points, while sophomore Emily Cheffins took over the top-spot with a 251.70 against Hawaii. Cheffins' mark broke a two-year record of 245.95, set by Amanda Witte in 2006.

JANUARY 12 - Iowa's Tony Freeman scored a career-high 22 points, grabbed four steals and dished three assists while the Hawkeyes held Michigan State to 30.8 percent shooting in 43-36 upset victory in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes topped the sixth-ranked Spartans to give head coach Todd Lickliter his first Big Ten win and a victory over the highest-ranked team of his career. The result stopped an 11-game MSU win streak and marked the lowest point total for the Spartans in the Tom Izzo era.

JANUARY 13 - By winning seven of the 10 weight classes, the 11th-ranked Ohio State wrestling squad dethroned top-ranked Penn State, 24-11, for fifth place at the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals presented by CSG Sports Coatings in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The 4-1 ledger by Ohio State served as its best performance at the National Duals since posting a 3-1 record in 2002 and is its first four-win outing since 1992 (4-1).

JANUARY 16 - Bad news continued for Penn State as basketball standout Geary Claxton received word that his Nittany Lion career would end prematurely due to an ACL tear. Just 16 games into his senior season, Claxton injured his knee in an 80-55 loss against Wisconsin. At the time, Claxton was ranked second in the Big Ten in scoring (18.7 ppg) and rebounding (8.9 rpg) and was forced to the sideline as the school's fifth all-time scorer (1,542 points) and fourth all-time rebounder (755).

JANUARY 19 - Not even a week after Ohio State defeated the top-ranked Penn State wrestling team, the Michigan men's gymnastics squad did the same to the second-ranked Nittany Lions on another mat. The Wolverines captured a 356.950-354.400 upset win over the defending national champion in Ann Arbor. Also on the day, Minnesota sophomore Alicia Rue won the pole vault at the Minnesota Open in record fashion, clearing 13'-5.25" to smash the previous school record by over three inches.

FEBRUARY 1 - For the first time in three years, Iowa topped Minnesota on the wrestling mats. The top-ranked Hawkeyes defeated the No. 4 Golden Gophers, 20-13, in front of 7,472 fans at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. The win also marked Iowa's first in Minneapolis since 2000.

FEBRAURY 2 - Michigan sophomore Frank Shotwell set a new school record in the heptathlon with 5,525 points at the Akron Open. His total shattered the previous indoor record of 5,308, which was posted by Sean Clancy in 1995.

FEBRAURY 3 - Indiana's Duane Goldman earned his 200th career win as the Hoosier wrestlers defeated Michigan State, 23-9.

FEBRUARY 9 - No. 28 Iowa may have tied No. 22 Ohio State in women's gymnastics, but the Hawkeyes' team score of 195.400 marked the program's highest total since the 2005 season. On the track and field side, Michigan sophomore Adam Hairston took first in the 800 meters in South Bend, Ind., with a school record and provisional qualifying time of 1:49.86. The previous record stood at 1:51.27 set by Dave Novotny in 1996.

FEBRUARY 14 - Minnesota women's basketball earned its first win at Penn State in 13 years with a 56-48 victory over the Lady Lions. Emily Fox led the Golden Gophers with 21 points.

FEBRUARY 17 - Proving just how tough it is to win at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center, Michigan State women's basketball also ended a long drought with the Lady Lions. MSU's 66-50 victory over Penn State marked the first time in school history the Spartans had won in State College. The Spartans shot 55 percent from the field, the best mark for the team in the conference season.

FEBRUARY 23 - Just over a month since tallying a career-high 34 points in a 78-68 loss against Michigan, Northwestern's Kevin Coble recorded a new personal best of 37 points as the Wildcats nearly upset No. 15 Indiana, 85-82, in Evanston.

MARCH 7 - The fourth-ranked Michigan women's gymnastics team knocked off the three-time defending national champions and current No. 1 Georgia Gym Dogs with a season-high 197.600-196.950 victory in front of the seventh biggest crown in U-M gymnastics history. Michigan, which earned its 15th win of the season, posted a team score that was the sixth highest in program history and the highest since the 2004 Big Ten Championships (197.800).

MARCH 8 - The sixth-ranked Illinois men's gymnastics teams was also the beneficiary of a big late-season win, topping No. 5 Michigan, 357.150-353.200, on Senior Day at Huff Hall in Champaign. The victory marked the first time since 1998 the Illini defeated Michigan.

MARCH 9 - One of the final highlights of the winter regular season was the perfect 10 recorded on the vault by Michigan State's Rhiannon Banda-Scott. The blemish-free routine was performed during the team's win over New Hampshire at Jenison Field House in East Lansing. Banda-Scott's vault pass marked just the second perfect 10 in school history.