Weekend visit to Purdue could show if Nebraska is for real
A look at the upcoming week around the Big Ten Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: Nebraska at No. 13 Purdue, Saturday. Tim Miles could have his best team in six seasons in Lincoln, and this is an opportunity for the Cornhuskers (11-5, 2-1 Big Ten) to show they’re for real. They knocked off a ranked Minnesota team at home in December and are coming off a Tuesday road win against Northwestern . Three transfers are among the new-look Huskers’ top four scorers, and point guard Glynn Watson snapped out of a mini-funk in the 15-point win over Northwestern. Purdue (14-2, 3-0) lost in Lincoln last year, but 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas was limited to 13 minutes because of a hip pointer. Nebraska struggles against size, and Purdue coach Matt Painter plays 7-3 redshirt freshman Matt Haarms alongside Haas at times.
LOOKING AHEAD: Given that No. 1 Michigan State (14-1, 2-0) has won 13 straight by double digits and four of its last six games were against opponents ranked No. 294 or lower by kenpom.com, the Spartans’ next couple could be tricky. Maryland (13-3, 2-1) visits on Thursday, and the Spartans are at Ohio State (11-4, 2-0) on Saturday. Anthony Cowan Jr. has been splendid as Maryland’s successor to star point guard Melo Trimble, and first-year coach Chris Holtmann has the Buckeyes playing solid ball through the first two months. Maryland and Ohio State both had wins over Michigan State last season.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ohio State freshman forward Kaleb Wesson has provided a sorely needed inside presence for the Buckeyes and is on his way to becoming one of the premier players in the Big Ten. The 6-9, 270-pounder is averaging 11.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 22 minutes per game, and he can be downright dominant when he stays out of foul trouble.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Keep in mind that the opponents were Houston Baptist, Long Beach State, Cleveland State and Savannah State , but Michigan State became the first team in 11 years to score 100 points in four straight games. The Spartans have won their last four by a total of 193 points (48.3 per contest), and Nick Ward shot 94.1 percent (32 of 34) from the field.
ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE: No. 18 Iowa (14-1, 2-0) is out to its best start since the 1995-96 team opened 20-1. Junior forward Megan Gustafson is averaging 22.5 points and a Big Ten-leading 12.5 rebounds. The Hawkeyes are coming off their first win over a ranked opponent in two years (82-72 over Michigan) and face their toughest challenge so far with a Thursday night road game against No. 13 Maryland (13-2, 2-0). ”Beating a Top 25 team gives us confidence going against the next Top 25 team,” coach Lisa Bluder said. ”We played pretty well at Maryland last year and they lost a lot of players. This is a great opportunity for us.”
Compiled by AP Sports Writer Eric Olson in Omaha, Nebraska.
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