This year’s iteration of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge was unfortunately not completed but after winning six of the 11 games played, the Big Ten was crowned champion. With COVID-19 rearing its ugly head yet again, the scheduled games of Michigan State-UVA, Louisville-Wisconsin and NC-State-Michigan were not played. It remains to be seen if they will be made up at a later date but for now, the Big Ten regains its conference pride bragging rights. Let’s quickly recap what we saw in each matchup beginning with our Yellow Jackets.
Georgia Tech def. Nebraska 75-64
This game was a virtual dead heat for 35 minutes but it was the Jackets’ 16-8 run in the final five minutes that propelled them to victory. Jose Alvarado led the late charge with three huge three-pointers and finished as Tech’s leading scorer with 24 points. Tech also got a great performance from sixth man Kahlid Moore who scored 11 points, added 8 boards and helped hold top Husker scorer Teddy Allen to 10 points.
Iowa def. UNC 93-80
The much hyped tilt between two elite big men did not disappoint but it was the Hawkeyes elite three-point shooting that carried them to victory. Iowa made 17 of 40 three-point attempts in this one, and no that is not a misprint. National player of the year frontrunner, Luka Garza, attracted consistent attention from the UNC defense, forcing Iowa to go to plan B to get the win. Jordan Bohannon and CJ Frederick lead the way with 24 and 21 respectively and Garza still put up 16 and 14 rebounds despite being contained for most of the night. Folks, the Hawkeyes are a legit Final Four contender.
Penn State def. Virginia Tech 75-55
In one of the biggest surprises of the Challenge, Penn State cruised to a 20 point win over the #15 ranked team in the nation. Izaiah Brockington led the way for the Nittany Lions with 24 points and 8 rebounds.
Miami def. Purdue 58-54
This was a game of two halves as Miami erased an 18 point halftime deficit to beat Purdue at home. Senior guard Kameron McGusty was the Hurricanes leading scorer with 18 points in a defensive struggle that saw both teams struggle mightily from 3-point range. Ultimately it was Miami’s ability to get to the line - 29 attempts to Purdue’s 10 - that was the difference.
Minnesota def. Boston College 85-80 in OT
Another game that featured a big comeback as Minnesota rallies from 15 down in the second half to beat BC. Marcus Carr finished with 22 points to carry the Gophers. BC’s Makai Ashton-Langford tied the game with five seconds in regulation to send it to OT but ultimately the Eagles fell to 1-4 on the season. Minnesota moved to an impressive 5-0 start to their year.
Illinois def. Duke 83-68
Many wondered if the Illini were truly deserving of their pre-season top 10 ranking after seeing them lose to Baylor. They answered those questions with a resounding yes after a convincing game that they never trailed in. Illinois shot the lights out from the field (58%) and from three (7 of 11 for 64%) while getting significant contributions from almost everybody in their lineup. Seven plays scored at least nine points with star PG Ayo Dosunmu (18/12/5) and Kofi Cockburn (18pts and 8rebs) bouncing back from their struggles against Baylor.
Rutgers def. Syracuse 79-69
Rutgers entered 2020 with expectations of a banner season and so far haven’t done anything to dampen those hopes. The Scarlet Knights utilized great ball movement to beat the Cuse zone, finishing with 19 assists on 28 field goals. The guard trio of Ron Harper Jr. (26pts, 7rebs), Jacob Young (18pts, 10asts, 5stls) and Montez Mathis (19pts, 7rebs) were tremendous. Syracuse was clearly missing Buddy Boeheim in this one, shooting just 27% from the deep.
Ohio State def. Notre Dame 90-85
Ohio State got a scare in this one but bounced back from and 8-pt halftime deficit to edge out a tough Notre Dame squad. The 22nd ranked Buckeyes had five players score in double figures with E.J. Lindell leading the way with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks. This was a good showing from the Fighting Irish who I think will outperform expectations this season. Junior guard Prentiss Hubb in particular was great in this one (26pts, 6rebs, 6asts, 2stls).
Clemson def. Maryland 67-51
The Tigers dominated former ACC member Maryland in this one, leading by 23 at half in a game that was never close. Senior forward Aamir Simms was a force inside with 16 points and 7 boards while showing versatility to his game by hitting 2 three-pointers. It looks like Brad Brownell will find a way to get the most out of a pretty talented squad with tough defense and just enough on offense.
Pitt def. Northwestern 71-70
This was a heartbreaker for Northwestern who never trailed in this game until a Justin Champagnie dunk with seven seconds left gave Pitt the win. The Panthers relied heavily on Champagnie and guards Audiese Toney and Xavier Johnson who combined for 59 of their 71 points. They won this game on the back of a 19-4 edge on the offensive glass.
Florida State def. Indiana 69-67 In OT
Many believed this one would be among the most evenly matched games in the Challenge and it delivered. Trayce Jackson-Davis was incredible for the Hoosiers, putting up 25 points and 17 rebounds. He hit the tying free throws with six seconds to go in OT but it wasn’t enough to extend the game to a second extra session. Scottie Barnes hit a game winning shot on the ensuing possession to secure the win for the Noles. MJ Walker continued the strong start to his senior season as he led FSU in scoring with 19 points.