College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, December 2, 2009
It took eleven years, the biggest comeback in Illinois basketball history and a nail-biting win by Wisconsin over Duke, but after ten years of frustration, the Big Ten finally beat the ACC in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, taking six of the eleven games, with three wins coming on the final night of competition.
In their 76-74 win at Clemson, the Fighting Illini lived up to their name, coming back from 22 points down in the second half for the biggest comeback in school history. Led by Mike Davis' 22 points (9-11, 4-4 free throws) and 9 rebounds and freshman Brandon Paul's 20, the Illini kept Big Ten hopes alive with an unlikely road win after dropping their last two games. Clemson, which took a 20-point lead into the half, appeared to be cruising to the win when the Illini went on a 22-2 tear, and finally caught the Tigers when Paul stole the ball and went in for a layup to tie the game at 61 with 5 minutes left.
The Tigers didn't fold, however, and actually had a lead late, but the Illini were undeterred as they improved to 5-2, haning the Tigers their second loss of the season (6-2). The win by the Illini kept the Big Ten close, but the ACC led, 5 games to 4 with just two left to be played in the challenge.
Wisconsin led from the opening bucket, sending the Duke Blue Devils to a loss for the first time in the eleven years of the Challenge, 73-69. The Badgers opened the game with a barrage of three-pointers to take an early lead, then let guard Trevon Hughes loose in the lane and on the perimeter. He scord a game-high and personal season-high 26 points in leading the Badgers to their 5th win in 6 tries this season. Hughes hit 9 of 16 shots from the floor, including 4 of 8 from three-point land. He added a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line to match Duke's Kyle Singler point for point.
Moments later, when Ohio State beat Florida State, 77-64, the Big Ten could finally exhale and celebrate the conference's first win over the ACC.
The three other wins for the Big ten were provided by Penn State, Purdue and Northwestern.
ACC winners were Miami, Boston College, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia Tech.