The United Center provided a magnificent setting for some of the better basketball teams in the country on Friday. Announced attendance for the first two games was 21,793 - more than 2,500 over the basketball capacity for the arena. It was loud and exciting throughout, and the fans were treated to some fantastic action.
Sharing and shooting were the themes in the first two quarterfinal games at the Big Ten men's basketball tournament.
In the early game, Illinois' dismal first half put them in a hole that was too deep to climb out of, while Wisconsin won the second game of the session by hitting from all over the gym.
Certainly Indiana appeared to be a clear-cut number one seed, but Illinois did very little to help themselves. The Illini shot a season-low 25.9 percent from the field and trailed by as many as 17 in the first half. To their credit, they did fight back to a 35-21 halftime score.
The start of the second half was significantly better on Illinois' side of the scoreboard, but there were more of the issues that plagued them early on. Their ball movement was non-existent, which was only amplified by the quality movement by the Hoosiers. Illinois was only credited with six assists on 20 made field goals, while Indiana piled up 16 assists on 27 makes.
Even though Illinois did get the lead inside ten briefly, the game was never in doubt. Indiana dominated the glass, out-rebounding Illinois 38-26 and picking up nine steals to the Illini's three. Indiana also made 21 of 24 free throws, which helped them overcome an uncharacteristic 5-17 day from beyond the arc.
The shooting struggles that plagued Illinois in the second half against Minnesota were once again on display. DJ Richardson, Tracy Abrams and Brandon Paul combined to hit only nine of 38 field goal attempts. Paul the hero on Thursday, scored 11 of his 16 points from the free throw line.
In the second half of the session, the NBA showed up and took notice of the talent on display. Danny Ferry, the current general manager of the Atlanta Hawks, was in attendance to watch the sons of former NBA standouts Glenn Robinson and Tim Hardaway play for Michigan against the son of Jim Jackson with the Wisconsin Badgers.
Ferry, Steve Kerr, and the proud fathers got to see some really good basketball on both ends of the floor by both teams. Michigan got off to a hot start, holding an eight point lead for much of the half. But Wisconsin scored seven unanswered in the final 80 seconds to draw within three, and were able to continue that roll into the second half.
Like Indiana, Wisconsin distributed the ball very well. The Badgers were credited with 13 assists on 22 made field goals, while Michigan only assisted on seven of 23 makes. Michigan as a team wasn't bad from the free throw line; if you remove Glenn Robinson III going 0-4 from the line, the Wolverines were 10-13 from the charity stripe on the afternoon.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Michigan was only 3-13 from beyond the arc, while Wisconsin hit eight of 22 from downtown.
The stars of the two games were the kids the NBA were at the United Center to watch.
For Indiana, Cody Zeller dominated Illinois throughout the game. He scored 24 on 9-11 from the field and 6-6 from the line and added nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Victor Oladipo had, before the 360 dunk in the clip above, one of the quietest double-doubles I can remember. He led the game with 11 rebounds and added 12 points in the IU victory.
For Michigan, Tim Hardaway, Jr. led the way with nine rebounds and added 14 points and a blocked shot in spite of rolling an ankle just over nine minutes into the game. Trey Burke led all scorers in the game with 19 and added a game-high seven assists, but was only 8-22 from the floor in the loss.
Traevon Jackson, son of Jim Jackson, led the Badgers with 16 points in the win.
There will be a lot of red at the UC on Saturday when the Hoosiers and Badgers go to work just after noon.