Ohio State and Illinois earned home wins in a fairly calm night in the Big Ten. All four teams that played on Wednesday night are now tied with Penn State for ninth place in the Big Ten standings.
Let’s recap the night’s action.
Big Ten Game of the Night:
-Ohio State 78, Minnesota 72
Ohio State (13-8, 3-5 Big Ten) pulled out a home win over Minnesota (15-6, 3-5) to split the season series with the Gophers.
The roles were reversed from when the teams met on Jan. 8, when the Gophers notched a 78-68 home win over Ohio State.
Trevor Thompson stepped up big for Ohio State on Wednesday night. The 7-foot junior center controlled the paint on his way to a double-double, finishing with a career-high 19 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in the win.
Thompson had plenty of help on Wednesday, as Marc Loving also scored 19 points while shooting 6-of-10 from the field, including 3-of-5 from the 3-point line. JaQuan Lyle added 11 points and four rebounds for the Buckeyes, as Jae’Sean Tate chipped in 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
Minnesota’s Nate Mason led all scorers with 21 points on 7-of-18 shooting. The junior guard added five rebounds, four assists and three steals. Akeem Springs continued his strong play of late for the Gophers, collecting 15 points, 10 rebounds and two steals.
Ohio State took a 40-35 lead into halftime, then stretched its lead to double digits midway through the second half. The Gophers drew within one possession on several occasions down the stretch, but the Buckeyes also had the answer. Loving gave Ohio State a 75-69 lead with a 3-pointer with 57 seconds to play. Springs responded with a 3-pointer of his own with 48 seconds to go, but Minnesota was held scoreless the rest of the way as the Buckeyes held on from the free-throw line.
The 78 points are the most points that the Buckeyes have scored during the conference season. Ohio State got it done by shooting 50.0 percent (24-for-48) from the floor, 41.2 percent (7-for-17) from the 3-point line and 76.7 percent (23-for-30) from the free-throw line.
Minnesota attempted 13 more shots than the Buckeyes thanks to forcing 15 turnovers and grabbing 14 offensive rebounds. However, the Gophers shot just 41.0 percent (25-for-61) from the field, including 33.3 percent (8-for-24) on 3-pointers.
Ohio State continues to climb the Big Ten standings, having won three of their last four games after starting the Big Ten season with four straight losses. Conversely, Minnesota has dropped four straight since starting the conference season with a 3-1 record.
-Illinois 76, Iowa 64
The outcome was never in doubt in the late game, as Illinois got off to a fast start and cruised to a win over visiting Iowa. The Illini (13-8, 3-5) ended a three-game losing streak while handing the Hawkeyes (11-10, 3-5) their third straight loss.
The Illini took control early, jumping out to a 10-0 lead before stretching their lead to 40-24 heading into halftime. Iowa outscored Illinois in the second half, but the Hawkeyes couldn’t overcome the double-digit deficit.
Iowa pulled within single digits once in the second half, as Ahmad Wagner scored to cut the deficit to 66-57 with 3:29 remaining. But Illinois responded with a 6-0 run and that was as close as the Hawkeyes would get.
Illinois broke out for 76 points after averaging just 60.3 points per game over its previous three games. Some of the scoring output came from playing an Iowa team that’s giving up 83.0 points per game during its three-game losing streak. The Illini had 18 assists on 26 made field goals, shooting 44.8 percent (26-for-58) from the field, 47.4 percent (9-for-19) from the 3-point line and 78.9 percent (15-for-19) from the free-throw line.
Michael Finke had a huge night off the bench for Illinois. The sophomore big man shot 7-of-10 from the floor, including 3-of-5 from the 3-point line, to finish with a team-high 17 points and five rebounds. Maverick Morgan also got it done down low for Illinois, finishing with 12 points, seven rebounds and one block. Senior guard Malcolm Hill scored in double figures for the 15th straight game, tallying 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Iowa struggled to get anything to drop, shooting just 40.0 percent (26-for-65) overall, 21.7 percent (5-for-23) on 3-pointers and 43.8 percent (7-for-16) on free throws.
Iowa’s Peter Jok, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, was dealing with a back injury and finished with just 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting. Nicholas Baer and Ahmad Wagner led the Hawkeyes offensively, each collecting 12 points. Baer added seven rebounds and two blocks, while Wagner chipped in five rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal.
The teams will meet again when Iowa hosts Illinois on Feb. 18.