This is the last full week of Big Ten play. After tonight, it's three games on Saturday and four more on Sunday. With the Big Ten Tournament looming, teams are jockeying for seeding; they're also trying to bolster tournament resumes. Maryland was the only tournament team in action last night, but Northwestern, Illinois and Penn State were all looking to solidify their conference tournament seeds. (All three are bunched together near the bottom.)
Game of the Night: Maryland Terrapins 81, Illinois Fighting Illini 55
Fans of the Maryland Terrapins should be pleased with the team's performance last night. It's been a weird three week stretch for Maryland. Struggling as of late, the Terrapins have lost three of four, including an ugly loss to Minnesota.
Maryland handled its business against Illinois though, particularly in the second half (outscoring Illinois 50-33). Importantly, Melo Trimble, who had been in a slight funk, played aggressively and attacked the rim. He finished the game with 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Perhaps equally important as Trimble's production was that of Jared Nickens and Jaylen Brantley. Getting something from its bench made (and makes) Maryland incredibly dynamic. Nickens (14 points) and Brantley (7 points) shot a combined 7-for-11 from the field, 5-of-9 from three. (As a team, Maryland was 14-for-25 from three.)
On senior night at College Park, Jake Layman scored 18 points, and grabbed six rebounds. Rasheed Sulaimon was quiet scoring-wise (3 points), but had nine assists. Maryland moves to 24-6 overall, 12-5 in the Big Ten. They move into a tie for second place in the conference standings. (One more regular season contest remains for Maryland: at Indiana.)
Maverick Morgan had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Illinois, which loses for the third time in four games and goes to Penn State to finish the regular season. The Illini are now 13-17 overall, 5-12 in conference.
- Northwestern Wildcats 71, Penn State Nittany Lions 61
Neither of these teams are NCAA tournament bound; Northwestern is looking for an NIT bid. The Wildcats are on an upward trajectory as a program and faded a bit after a hot start.
Against Penn State, Northwestern started hot and carried a 42-27 lead to halftime. Shooting over 50 percent from the floor, and led by a fast start by Tre Demps. Northwestern's at its best when Demps and Bryant McIntosh are the primary scorers, and such was the case last night. The only two in double figures for the Wildcats, Demps scored 23 points, and McIntosh had 17.
The Nittany Lions played much better in the second half, outscoring Northwestern by five. But the first half lead was too much to overcome. Penn State was led by senior Brandon Taylor, who scored 17 points. Shep Garner also finished with 13, but only on 2-of-9 shooting.
Penn State is now 15-15 overall, 6-11 in conference. The Nittany Lions wrap up the regular season on the road against Illinois. Northwestern, who is on the right path with Chris Collins, is on the outside looking in as far as an at-large NCAA tournament bid. The Wildcats are 19-11 overall, 7-10 in the Big Ten.