While Wednesday’s set of games featured two exciting matchups for the Big Ten, Thursday did not. All four games were over relatively early and the lower seeded teams only won one of the games. And that team (Indiana) was actually favored by most oddsmakers heading into the game.
But anyway, let’s recap Thursday’s action.
Big Ten Game of the Night:
-Indiana Hoosiers 95, Iowa Hawkeyes 73
With so much riding on Thursday’s matchup between Indiana and Iowa, this game was the easy pick for Game of the Night. Both teams had postseason hopes riding on the outcome and the winner would get to move on to face a reeling Wisconsin team.
Initially, the game appeared like it was going to be competitive throughout. However, as the second half came around, Iowa was unable to keep up with Indiana’s offensive explosion. The Hoosiers finished with 95 points for the second straight game and put on a show. Indiana won by a 95-73 final score.
While it’s always dangerous to read too deeply into one game, it’s hard not to be impressed with what Indiana accomplished on Thursday night. Iowa had won four straight games and was on the verge of grabbing an NCAA Tournament bid and Indiana blew the doors off the Hawkeyes.
The key players in Indiana’s offensive effort were James Blackmon and De’Ron Davis. Blackmon finished with 23 points and eight rebounds and Davis finished with 15 points on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting night. Notably, it was the first time Davis scored double-digits since mid-February and just the third time since January 3rd.
On the other side, Iowa got some key performances from Jordan Bohannon, Isaiah Moss, and Cordell Pemsl, who all finished with double-digit scoring performances. In particular, Bohannon’s 24 points were key in keeping things as competitive as they were between the two teams. All three should be building blocks for next season.
For Indiana, the team will move on and face a reeling Wisconsin team. The Badgers have lost five of their last seven and has won one non-overtime game away from home since January 3rd, when the Badgers beat Indiana in Bloomington. It figures to be a great matchup between two desperate teams.
Iowa will now likely head to the NIT. The good news is that the Hawkeyes clearly appear to be heading in the right direction. With so much youth and depth, Iowa should be a team to watch this offseason.
-Michigan Wolverines 75, Illinois Fighting Illini 55
Heading into Thursday’s set of games, there’s no doubt that Michigan’s travel issues were the biggest story of the Big Ten Tournament. As most are well aware, the Wolverines slid off an airport runway on Wednesday evening and as a result, the team was forced to arrive early Thursday morning for a noon game.
Ultimately, Michigan did arrive in time for the game (delayed by ~30 minutes).
And, boy, did the Wolverines show up.
Michigan came out firing early and had Illinois on the ropes just a few minutes into the game. Michigan had a 24-11 lead halfway through the first half and a 40-29 lead at the break. Per KenPom, Michigan had 95 percent in-game odds to win the game barely through the majority of the 1st Half.
Tracy Abrams played really well for the Illini, scoring 23 points and grabbing five rebounds, but nobody else did much of anything. Jalen Coleman-Lands had seven points and two rebounds, but he finished with just a 83 offensive rating. Michael Finke also had eight points. No other Illini even had five points.
For Michigan, it was a spectacular performance. Zak Irvin, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Derrick Walton, and DJ Wilson all scored double-digits and Walton showed why he probably deserved first team All-Big Ten honors on Monday.
Michigan will now move on to face Purdue on Friday while Illinois will likely head to the NIT. Whether John Groce will be back next season remains to be seen.
-Michigan State Spartans 78, Penn State Nittany Lions 51
Given Michigan State’s loss to Penn State earlier this season, many pegged this as a game to watch on Thursday’s slate. However, while things were interesting for the first few minutes of the game, Michigan State ended up pulling away in dominant fashion. Ultimately, Michigan State grabbed a 78-51 win over the NIttany Lions.
For Michigan State, the key player was Miles Bridges. He finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, and three assists on the night. He was a force from tip-off and should give Richard Pitino and Minnesota some things to worry about heading into Friday.
Additionally, Michigan State also got nice performances from Josh Langford, Nick Ward, and Cassius Winston, in what was a freshmen-led afternoon. Langford finished with 13 points and four rebounds, Ward had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Winston made some great plays on the break and finished with seven points.
Despite nice performances from Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens, Penn State came up short on Thursday. Carr and Stevens both had 16 points during the game and Carr added another five rebounds and three assists. Undoubtedly, Carr looks like he could contend for All-Big Ten first team honors next season.
For Michigan State, the team will move on to face Minnesota on Friday. Thursday’s win should lock up an NCAA Tournament bid for the Spartans for the 20th straight season. Obviously, that accomplishment speaks to what Tom Izzo has done in East Lansing.
For Penn State, this likely signals the end of the season, barring an unusual CBI bid. It was a mixed season for the Nittany Lions, but with a young and talented roster, expect Penn State to make some noise next season.
-Northwestern Wildcats 83, Rutgers Scarlet Knights 61
For many, it’s going to be easy to write this game off as Northwestern beating up on a terrible Rutgers team in the second night of a back-to-back for the Scarlet Knights. However, that would be a pretty misleading analysis of a victory that was far more impressive than that.
To start, Rutgers is not a terrible team this season. The Scarlet Knights aren’t good, or even solid, but the team is not terrible. If you want proof, just look at Rutgers’ two-game winning streak in this game, or the numerous close calls the team had in conference play. This isn’t your slightly older brother’s Rutgers here, folks.
On top of that, this was a huge game for Northwestern. The team had lost three of its last four, four of its last six, and six of its last nine games entering Thursday’s matchup. And considering that one of those wins during that stretch came in dramatic fashion over Rutgers at home, it’s easy to see why this game was concerning.
Early on, it looked like the game was going to be a classic. A feisty Rutgers team looking to put a nail in Northwestern’s NCAA Tournament coffin and a Wildcat team desperate to avoid an upset.
But that’s when it happened.
And when I say it, I mean a 31-0 run.
Yes, that number is real. Northwestern went on a 31-0 run midway through the first half. Rutgers did cut the deficit a bit before halftime, but the instant that run hit (actually, it took quite some time), the game was over. Northwestern ended up winning by a 83-61 final score.
Northwestern’s win should end any doubt about the team’s NCAA Tournament hopes and sets the Wildcats up for a matchup against Maryland on Friday. A win there and Northwestern could end up getting a pretty nice seed.
For Rutgers, the loss marks the end of the season. While the team’s 15-18 overall record doesn’t look all that impressive, the team made considerable growth this season and should be set up for more progress next year.