MINNEAPOLIS — The business end of the 2023 Big Ten Tournament got underway on Friday, and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year got down to business in her first-ever conference tournament game.
The top four seeds took to the court for the first time in Minneapolis, and all of the powerhouses took care of business to set up a couple of blockbuster matchups over the weekend. The highlight of Friday’s action was a renewal of the timeless rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan, and it was the Buckeyes who made it a hat trick of victories over the Wolverines, led by precocious freshman Cotie McMahon. With a series of spin moves and explosive drives to the basket, the six-foot freshman dazzled with 28 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.
Awaiting McMahon and the Buckeyes are the top-seeded Indiana Hoosiers, who overcame a spirited effort by No. 9 Michigan State to win 94-85 behind 27 points from unanimous All-Big Ten First Team selection Mackenzie Holmes and her 27 points. The Spartans, on the bubble and desperately hoping to earn a second victory of the season against the Hoosiers, opened up a 12-point lead midway through the second quarter but were not able to withstand the eventual surge that the No. 2 team in America was bound to make.
The first game of the evening session saw Caitlin Clark take the floor for the first time in Minneapolis, and she cruised to 22 points and eight rebounds as Iowa used a 14-4 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to turn a tie game into a comfortable lead that the Hawkeyes would see to the finish line. Like the Spartans, the Boilermakers are also flirting with the NCAA Tournament bubble, though a number of bracketologists have Purdue making the field at the moment.
In the nightcap, No. 3 seed Maryland continued its scintillating form at the end of the season with a comprehensive 73-58 victory over sixth-seeded Illinois, as the Terrapins outscored the Fighting Illini 21-7 in the second quarter to take full control of the contest.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday’s games, with the photos taken by Detroit-area photographer Aaron J. Thornton. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 40 pictures in total.