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12/21 Recap: Illinois wins Braggin’ Rights

Big Ten goes 4-0 on Wednesday night

NCAA Basketball: Missouri vs Illinois Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten Conference put together a perfect 4-0 day on Wednesday. Illinois and Michigan State had the most important wins of the night while Purdue and Penn State each recorded blowout wins.

Big Ten Game of the Day:

-Illinois 75, Missouri 66

The Illini continued their recent dominance of the Tigers, recording their fourth straight win in the Braggin’ Rights game that pits the border rivals against each other.

Illinois (10-3) never trailed on Wednesday, taking a 39-29 lead into halftime then holding off Missouri (5-6) in the closing minutes to improve to 31-16 all-time against the Tigers.

Illinois’ Malcolm Hill scored a game-high 21 points, shooting 6-of-12 from the field, 2-of-4 from the 3-point line and 7-of-10 from the free-throw line.

Senior center Maverick Morgan had a big day off the Illinois bench, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Jalen Coleman-Lands added 12 points for the Illini, who have scored at least 75 points in four straight games.

Kevin Puryear paced Missouri with 17 points and nine rebounds.

Illinois lost the turnover battle, 15-8, but made up for it by having a plus-nine rebounding margin and shooting 49.0 percent (24-for-49) from the field.

The Illini will carry plenty of momentum into their Big Ten opener at Maryland on Tuesday. All three of Illinois’ losses came during a three-game stretch in late November. Illinois has won six straight games since then, including victories over NC State, VCU, BYU and Missouri.

The primary key has been offensive consistency, as the Illini are averaging 84.0 points per game in wins and just 66.0 points per game in losses.

The Rest:

-Michigan State 77, Oakland 65

Michigan Sate has plenty of room to grow, but they found some positives in Wednesday’s bounce back win over Oakland.

The Spartans (8-5), who were coming off Sunday’s 81-73 loss to Northeastern, pulled away from Oakland (9-3) late to close out the non-conference season on the right foot.

The Golden Grizzlies were within 54-50 midway through the fourth quarter, until Nick Ward scored four straight points to spark a 7-0 run as Michigan State opened up 61-50 lead. Oakland never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

Ward had a breakout night for the Spartans. The freshman big man, who was making his first start, scored a career-high 25 points, shooting 7-of-12 from the field and 11-of-17 from the free-throw line. Ward also grabbed five offensive rebounds and finished with a game-high nine total rebounds.

Senior guard Eron Harris came off the Michigan State bench to add 15 points and three steals.

Playing without leading scorer Miles Bridges for the fifth straight game, Michigan State is still lacking reliable scoring options. The depth made up for it on Wednesday, as nine Spartans scored and Michigan State finished with 33 bench points.

Led by Ward, the Spartans attacked throughout, shooting 24-of-37 from the free-throw line. That aggressiveness also led to 18 turnovers, but the Spartans countered that by forcing Oakland into 21 turnovers.

Ward’s performance is a welcome sight for a young Michigan State team that will likely take more time to discover how they want to play. The Spartans will have a relatively easy transition into Big Ten play, opening the conference slate by taking on Minnesota, Northwestern, Rutgers and Penn State. Overall, the Spartans have just four games against teams that are currently ranked.

-Purdue 91, Norfolk State 45

Caleb Swanigan put on a show and No. 15 Purdue (11-2) had no trouble dispatching of visiting Norfolk State (3-10) on Wednesday.

The Boilermakers put up 53 first-half points and cruised to a 46-point win, tying their largest margin of victory this season.

Swanigan continued his huge season, finishing with a career-high 32 points to go along with 20 rebounds. The sophomore forward shot 11-of-15 from the field and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line.

Swanigan, who had 21 points and 21 rebounds in Monday’s win over Western Illinois, became the second major conference player in the last 20 years to notch consecutive 20-point, 20-rebound games, joining Blake Griffin in the exclusive club. Swanigan has three such games as a Boilermaker. Purdue hadn’t had a player put up 30 points and 20 rebounds since Bob Ford did so during the 1970-71 season.

While Swanigan was the story, 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas also had a nice night, shooting 12-of-13 from the free-throw line on the way to an 18-point, six-rebound effort.

Vince Edwards collected 16 points, six rebounds and six assists off the bench.

Like usual, Purdue controlled the boards, outrebounding Western Illinois 51-29.

Other than a slow start against Notre Dame on Saturday, the Boilermakers have been firing on all cylinders since losing to then-No. 14 Louisville on Nov. 30. Since then, Purdue has ripped off six straight wins, scoring 87.2 points per game while giving up just 58.2 points per game during that stretch.

The games will certainly get closer during the conference season, which Purdue will open against Iowa next Wednesday, but Purdue fans can go into the Big Ten season confident that the Boilermakers can play with anyone.

-Penn State 96, Morgan State 55

Penn State (8-5) scored its most points of the season to blow out visiting Morgan State (3-8).

The Nittany Lions took control early, going on a 14-0 run to open up a 40-19 lead with three minutes to play in the first half.

Twelve Nittany Lions scored on the night as Penn State earned its most lopsided win of the season and hit the 90-point mark for the second consecutive game.

Lamar Stevens led the charge on Wednesday. The freshman put up an efficient 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting while adding eight rebounds.

Freshman guard Tony Carr nearly had a triple-double for the Nittany Lions, finishing with 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists while playing a team-high 34 minutes.

Payton Banks (11 points), Mike Watkins (10), Shep Garner (10) and Julian Moore (10) also scored in double figures for Penn State.

Morgan State’s Phillip Carr scored a team-high 19 points.

The Nittany Lions shot 46.6 percent (34-for-73) from the field, 29.2 percent (7-for-24) from the 3-point line and 87.5 percent (21-for-24) from the free-throw line.

On the other side of the court, Penn State gave up just 55 points after allowing 80.7 points per game in their last three games.

Penn State also had a 49-32 rebounding advantage while winning the turnover battle, 17-8.

The Nittany Lions will open the Big Ten season by hosting Northwestern on Tuesday.