Last night in the Big Ten featured two very intriguing games, but for different reasons. Maryland finds itself in a tight race for the Big Ten regular season title (seven teams are within two games of the lead). Minnesota is just the opposite, another loss means we'd be closer to the 0-14 vs. 0-14 matchup with Rutgers on February 23rd (Rutgers would need to lose to Penn State on Saturday as well).
Not to be forgotten, both Wisconsin and Michigan State are in the hunt for the Big Ten title (two and two and a half games back respectively). Wisconsin's also trying to bolster its NCAA tournament resume, and a quality road win would go a long way to erasing bad early season losses. So, all-in-all, a pretty interesting night of Big Ten games, and we'll take a closer look at each.
Game of the Night: Minnesota Golden Gophers 68, Maryland Terrapins 63
Off a home loss to Wisconsin, Maryland traveled to Minnesota. The Terrapins hoped The Barn would be therapeutic, and although the Gophers have been competitive, playing a 6-19 team can be good therapy. Without Diamond Stone due to suspension, that wasn't the case for Maryland at all.
Minnesota was on fire in the first half, shooting 7-for-13 from three. They led by 11, 40-29, after the first 20 minutes. Joey King came off the bench, and hit three threes, almost right away. The Gophers got 16 points from their bench in the first half to Maryland's two. Minnesota also really hustled and seemingly got every 50/50 ball, despite giving up a few too many offensive rebounds to Maryland.
In the second half, Minnesota found itself with a sizable lead, somewhat unfamiliar territory. Maryland pressed about halfway through the second half, probably to pick up the urgency. Mark Turgeon seemed exasperated with his team's effort and consistency all night.
Despite being down as many as 12 points in the second half, Maryland actually took a 60-59 lead after a deep Rasheed Sulaimon three. Sulaimon was sensational on both ends for Maryland, and almost single handedly brought them back thanks to his 28 points on 8-of-18 shooting.
Minnesota regained the lead for good at the free throw line and the Gophers were finally able to break the losing streak and successfully finished a close game. It wasn't pretty; Minnesota took a bunch of late-in-the-shot-clock contested jumpers, but they made just enough of them. Nate Mason probably hit the biggest shot, a beyond NBA three with four minutes left in the game to give Minnesota a four point lead. Mason had 18 points, six rebounds and six assists. Jordan Murphy tallied another double-double (17 points, 11 rebounds), and King scored 15 off the bench. Minnesota snaps 14-game losing streak, and is now 7-19 overall, 1-13 in the Big Ten.
For Maryland, it's been an odd stretch. Last night, Turgeon only got two points from his bench and Melo Trimble and Robert Carter were a combined 6-for-23 from the floor. The Terrapins have now lost two straight and are 22-5 overall, 10-4 in the Big Ten.
Bryn Forbes came out firing. His shooting early helped Michigan State start fast; he scored 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Denzel Valentine contributed 24 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Michigan State is heating up; they're now 22-5 overall, 9-5 in the Big Ten, and very much in the race for the conference title.
Wisconsin's seven game winning streak ends. No one played exceptionally for the Badgers; Nigel Hayes (1-for-13) and Ethan Happ (7-for-16) struggled a bit through tough nights. The Badgers fall to 16-10 overall, 8-5 in the Big Ten.