The Big Ten Tournament in Chicago: The Ten Best Performances Ever

The Big Ten tournament returns to the United Center for the first time since 2007 this season. The first five years of the Big Ten tournament was played at the UC before they began alternating with Indianapolis until 2007. The Big Ten then signed a five year contract to play the tournament exclusively in the circle city from 2008-12.

The tournament returning to the United Center provides a more neutral homecourt. Chicago is the hub of Big Ten alumni.

The Big Ten’s post season showcase has produced many memorable performances, runs and moments in its seven incarnations in Chicago. Here are a look at the best Big Ten Tournament performances at the United Center.

Amazingly, many of these performances came in losing efforts.

Brian Cardinal Purdue, 33 Points vs. Michigan 3/4/1999, First Round
In a rematch of the inaugural Big Ten Tournament, Cardinal’s 33 were not enough as the Wolverines defeated Purdue for the second straight season in the conference tournament.

Cardinal hit 12-14 from the line and 5-10 on his three points attempts. He also finished with nine rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Four Wolverines finished in double figures led by Louis’ Bullock’s 26 as tenth seeded Michigan defeated the seventh seeded Boilermakers.

Purdue earned an NCAA Tournament bid as the tenth seed in the East. They upset seven seed Texas and two seed Miami to advance to the Sweet 16.

Evan Eschmeyer 30 vs MSU Qarterfinals 3/5/1999
In only its second year, the 1999 Big Ten Tournament saw a plethora of outstanding performances. Eschmeyer nearly single handedly led NU to an upset of the top seeded Spartans. Michigan State had only lost one Big Ten game during the 1999 season.

Eschmeyer scored his 30 points on 11-16 from the floor and 8-8 from the foul line and also made 11 free throws. His teammates made just 10-25 from the floor. Current NU assistant Traveres Hardy was the only other Wildcat in double figures with 11.

NU had a chance to pull away late. Hardy missed a jumper with NU up three with less than two minutes left. MSU’s Maurice Peterson tied the game with a three and a Mateen Cleaves runner with 37 seconds left provided the winning margin.

Michael Redd Ohio State 32 vs. Illinois Semifinals 3/6/1999
Redd’s 32 points were not enough as 11th seed Illinois made an astounding run to the title game. The 11th seeded Illini are the lowest seed to ever advance to the championship game.

Redd hit 11-18 from the floor and had three rebounds, three assists and three steals for the second seeded Buckeyes went down in the semifinals 79-77. His backcourt mate Scoonie Penn was the only other Buckeye in double figures with 15.

Four Illinois players finished in double figures led by then Freshman Cory Bradford with 17. Illinois’ miracle run ended a day later in the final to Michigan State

Kyle Galloway, 30 IOWA vs. MINN First Round 3/9/00
Galloway hit 5-7 from three point range, 7-9 from the floor overall and made all 11 of his free throw attempts as Iowa has to hang on late to oust Minnesota 81-78 in the Big Ten first round.

Iowa led 46-30 at halftime, but Galloway had to make four free throws late to ice it for the Hawkeyes.

Dean Oliver, 30 IOWA vs. MSU, Quarterfinals 3/10/00
Oliver did everything he could to keep the Hawkeyes in the game. A day after Galloway scored 30, Oliver matched him. Oliver had to practically put his team on his back just to stay in the game.

The former All-Big Ten player nearly scored half of his team’s points in a 75-65 quarterfinal defeat. Oliver who also had four assists in the game, hit 11-17 from the floor and 4-8 on three point attempts.

Kerwin Fleming 31, Minnesota vs. Purdue First Round 3/9/2001
Fleming 31 point explosion in the first round of the 2001 Big Ten Tournament is one of the most unlikely performances in Big Ten Tournament history. Fleming averaged only 6.9 PPG in his Minnesota career. Coming off the bench, Fleming hit 5-10 from three-point range and 10-15 from the line to give the Golden Gophers a chance. Leading by five at halftime, Purdue pulled away in the second half to secure a 91-77 victory.

Reggie Evans, 30 and 18 IOWA vs. PSU Quarterfinals 3/10/01
A year after Galloway and Oliver each went off for 30, Evans turned in arguably the most dominant performance in Big Ten Tournament history. In the middle of a historical run by the Hawkeyes, Evans manhandled Penn State. The bruising forward scored 30 points and had 18 rebounds as the Hawkeyes crushed the Nittany Lions 94-74 in semifinals.

Iowa led 49-33 at halftime and never looked back. They completed a magical run as the sixth seed a day later to become the lowest seed ever to capture the tournament title.

Brent Darby Stat Sheet Stuffer, Ohio State vs. Iowa First Round 3/13/2003 

Darby’s stat line must have made Buckeye alumnus Clark Kellogg proud. Darby was a stat sheet stuffer with 18 points, six rebounds, seven assists and five steals. He also mad 5-6 from the line and scored the game winning basket with two seconds remaining to give the Buckeyes a 66-64 victory.

The Buckeyes then scored upsets over top seeded Wisconsin and fifth seed Michigan State before falling to Illinois in the title game. Darby went on to set the Big Ten scoring record with 84 points in the tournament.

In addition to the 21 PPG, Darby averaged 4.0 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2.75 SPG and hit 29 of his 31 free throw attempts. He was beat out for the tournament MOP by Illinois’ Brian Cook who averaged 20 points and 7.7 RPG in three games.

Sadly, Darby passed away in 2011 from complications from blood clots and heart problems.

Mike Walker, Penn State, Seven Three-Point Field Goals Vs. Illinois First Round 3/8/2007 

Walker scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half to spark a second half comeback from 16 points down. Walker hit seven of 11 from beyond the arc to set the Big Ten Tournament record for three point shots made in a game. Illinois avoiding an embarassing loss to Penn State who was 2-14 in the Big Ten. The Illini made three free throws in the final 30 second to provide the final margin.

Greg Oden vs Purdue, Defensive Wrecking Crew vs. Purdue  3/10/2007, 

Oden was a one man defensive tour-de-force. He pulled down 19 rebounds and blocked four shots in addition to 17 points and nine offensive rebounds as the Buckeyes knocked off Purdue 63-52.

Oden was locked in a legendary battle with the Boilermakers Carl Landry who scored 24 points.

The Buckeyes went on to capture the Big Ten title the next day against Wisconsin and Landry’s brother Marcus. In his only season in Columbus, Oden led the Buckeyes to the national title game where they lost to Florida.

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