Before last night's action, the combined records of the four Big Ten teams was 62-48. (In case you were curious, 27-31 in the Big Ten, and largely bolstered by Indiana's 22-6, 12-3 records.) Perhaps not the most high profile night of the week for the Big Ten, but regardless, each team had something for which to play.
Most teams have just two or three conference games remaining. For Indiana, the Hoosiers are alone in first place, but there are several teams lurking. Indiana plays both Iowa and Maryland, which are both a game back, down the stretch. For Illinois, Nebraska and Penn State, it's all about the Big Ten tournament and playing for next season. (None of those teams will make the tournament.)
Game of the Night: Indiana Hoosiers 74, Illinois Fighting Illini 47
Iowa's loss to Wisconsin and Maryland's recent struggles has Indiana in a position to control its destiny. Win out and the Hoosiers are Big Ten champions all alone. Illinois wasn't about to roll over, however.
The Illini jumped to an early lead, perhaps lifted by the home crowd's energy. Like all good team do, Indiana responded with a 14-2 run with about seven minutes remaining in the half. That run gave Indiana an 18-16 lead after Illinois had dominated the early going.
Illinois freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands had a tremendous first half. He scored 11 points and hit three threes. His scoring gave Illinois the halftime lead, 28-27.
Normally a good shooting team, Indiana only hit 3-of-15 threes in the first half, but the Hoosiers handled their business in the second half, outscoring Illinois 47-19. It really was a tale of two halves, one in which Illinois was competitive and one in which it was not. Really, Indiana started hitting shots in the second half (10-for-17 threes in the second half).
Yogi Ferrell contributed 27 points, five rebounds and five assists. Thomas Bryant and Nick Zeisloft each had 14 for Indiana. Coleman-Lands continued his hot play in the second half, and scored 21 in all. He was the only Illinois player in double figures.
Illinois falls to 12-16 overall, 4-11 in the Big Ten. Indiana, meanwhile, now must play Iowa and Maryland, but they clear another hurdle on the way to a Big Ten regular season title. The Hoosiers are 23-6 overall, 13-3 in conference.
Back though tonight, he was Nebraska's offense. The Huskers trailed by eight at the half and by as many as 16 points about midway through the second half. Shields finished with 25 points (9-for-17 from the field). No other Nebraska player finished in double figures, and the bench only contributed five points on 2-for-10 shooting.
Penn State clung to a big lead and limped to the finish. In fact, the Nittany Lions didn't hit a field goal for almost the last seven minutes of the game, but did shoot 11-for-25 from three and amazingly Penn State led for almost 35 of the game's 40 minutes. Shep Garner scored 22, and Brandon Taylor contributed 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Nebraska falls to 14-15 overall, 6-10 in the Big Ten, while Penn State is now 15-13 overall, 6-9 in conference.