A pair of Big Ten teams got much-needed wins on Wednesday night. Minnesota continued its rapid rise up the conference standings with a convincing victory at No. 24 Maryland. Michigan also improved its NCAA Tournament resume after recovering late to beat Rutgers.
Let’s recap the night’s action.
Big Ten Game of the Night:
-Minnesota Golden Gophers 89, Maryland Terrapins 75
While Minnesota isn’t truly competing for a Big Ten title, the Gophers have been the best story of the second half of the conference season. That continued on Wednesday night, as Minnesota stretched its winning streak to six games with a 14-point win at No. 24 Maryland.
The Gophers (21-7, 9-6 Big Ten), who have made a habit of playing close games, looked like they had another nail-biter on their hands. Maryland (22-6, 10-5) took a 35-34 lead into halftime and held a 53-50 lead after an Ivan Bender free throw with 13:17 remaining. But the Gophers took over from there, as Dupree McBrayer hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 53-53 and spark a 9-0 Minnesota run.
The Gophers led the rest of the way, opening up a 70-60 lead when McBrayer hit another 3-pointer with 6:26 to go. The Terrapins never threatened down the stretch, losing their second straight game.
Maryland’s defense abandoned them on Wednesday, as the Terrapins gave up a season-high 89 points. Minnesota was efficient on the offensive end, committing just six turnovers while shooting 50.0 percent (32-for-64) from the field, 36.4 percent (8-for-22) from behind the arc and 85.0 percent (17-for-20) from the free-throw line.
McBrayer led the way with 18 points off the bench, shooting 6-of-8 from the field, including 3-of-5 from the 3-point line. Nate Mason added 17 points five rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Akeem Springs shot 4-of-7 from behind the arc on the way to adding 16 points. Jordan Murphy chipped in 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks, as Amir Coffey collected 13 points, four rebounds and four assists. Oddly, Minnesota only finished with nine assists on 32 made field goals.
Maryland had an advantage on the glass, grabbing 17 offensive rebounds and outrebounding Minnesota 43-35. But the Terrapins didn’t take advantage, shooting 41.1 percent (30-for-73) from the floor, 25.9 percent (7-for-27) from behind the arc and 61.5 percent (8-for-13) from the free-throw line.
Maryland junior point guard Melo Trimble struggled, shooting 4-of-12 from the field, including 1-of-6 from behind the arc, on the way to finishing with 11 points and six assists. Sophomore forward Ivan Bender came off the bench to score a career-high 15 points for the Terrapins, while Justin Jackson had 10 points and seven rebounds, and Anthony Cowan chipped in 11 points, four rebounds and four assists.
The Gophers evened the season series, as their last defeat was an 85-78 home loss to Maryland on Jan. 28. Wednesday was easily Minnesota’s biggest win since a 91-82 overtime win at No. 15 Purdue on Jan. 1. The Gophers are now tied with Northwestern (20-8, 9-6) for fourth place in the Big Ten standings.
Losers of four of their last six, the Terrapins are all but out of the Big Ten championship race, leaving Purdue (23-5, 12-3) and Wisconsin (22-5, 11-3) to fight for the crown.
-Michigan Wolverines 68, Rutgers Scarlet Knights 64
Michigan avoided a crucial dent in its NCAA Tournament resume, hanging on to earn a 68-64 win at Rutgers on Wednesday night.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Wolverines (18-10, 8-7) built up a 35-28 halftime lead and held off the Scarlet Knights (13-16, 2-14) down the stretch.
Michigan looked like it would pull away early in the first half, opening up a 46-36 lead with 15 minutes to play before Rutgers turned up the pressure defensively. The Scarlet Knights clawed all the way back, taking their first lead of the half when C.J. Gettys scored to give Rutgers a 52-51 lead with 7:58 remaining.
The Scarlet Knights led by as many as four before D.J. Wilson hit a 3-pointer to give Michigan a 57-56 lead with 5:50 to go. The Wolverines led the rest of the way, doing just enough to hang on despite shooting 6-of-10 from the free-throw line in the final two minutes.
Four Wolverines scored in double figures as Michigan got 61 of its 68 points from the starting five. Zak Irvin scored a game-high 16 points for the Wolverines, shooting 3-of-6 from the 3-point line and going just 3-for-8 from the free-throw line.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman added 14 points, while Derrick Walton Jr. chipped in 13 points, five rebounds and five assists. Wilson added a double-double for the Wolverines, finishing with 10 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in 28 minutes of action.
Corey Sanders paced Rutgers with 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Mike Williams added 14 points and eight rebounds, while Nigel Johnson came off the bench to collect 12 points, four assists and two steals.
Both teams shot 40.7 percent from the field, as Michigan went 22-of-54 and Rutgers was 24-of-59 thanks thanks to committing just seven turnovers. However, Michigan lived at the 3-point line, shooting 10-of-31 from behind the arc compared to 6-of-16 for Rutgers. The Wolverines also had an advantage on the boards, grabbing 12 offensive rebounds and outrebounding the Scarlet Knights 40-33.
Michigan head coach John Beilein earned his 500th career Division I win, including his 207th since leaving West Virginia to take the job in Ann Arbor prior to the 2007-08 season.
The Wolverines have won four of their last five games to pull into the middle of the Big Ten standings and move into the thick of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Michigan has two big opportunities to bolster its resume in the next week, hosting No. 14 Purdue on Saturday before visiting Northwestern on Wednesday.
The Scarlet Knights have lost five straight games and can only hope to play spoiler as the season winds down.