March may still be a few weeks away, but it didn’t fell that way on Sunday. The Big Ten slate featured three great matchups with plenty on the line in all three games. Michigan battled with arch-rival Ohio State, Nebraska went on the road to face Illinois, and Purdue hosted a red hot Penn State team.
Let’s take a look at how the games played out.
Game of the Night:
-Purdue Boilermakers 76, Penn State Nittany Lions 73
What looked like it might be a snoozer a few weeks ago ended up finishing as one of the better games of the weekend. Purdue entered this game amid a three-game skid and without star forward Vincent Edwards. Meanwhile, Penn State entered with a four-game winning streak that included a blowout victory over Ohio State on Thursday.
From the start, this one was highly competitive. Purdue would pull away and Penn State would respond in turn. The Nittany Lions ended up taking a 36-32 lead into halftime thanks to some great plays from the backcourt.
In the second half, Purdue built a solid lead, but saw it tumble in the closing minutes. Perhaps the biggest development in the game came from Mike Watkins after he got into foul trouble. As a result, the big man only ended up playing nine minutes all night. Purdue eventually came away with a tight 76-73 victory at home to snap its losing streak.
For Purdue, this was a huge win. It kept the team’s Big Ten title hopes alive and got the program back on track. It was also an impressive performance considering that Vincent Edwards never saw action. The major star for the Boilermakers was Carsen Edwards, who finished with 27 points, four rebounds, and three steals.
On the other side, this is a tough loss for the Nittany Lions. Losing on the road to Purdue is nothing to be ashamed about, but a massive victory slipped was there for the taking and it slipped away. The pressure will now be on the team’s final two games.
Purdue will return to action on Thursday on the road against Illinois. Penn State’s next game will be at home against Michigan on Wednesday.
-Michigan Wolverines 74, Ohio State Buckeyes 62
This was the only ranked matchup between Big Ten teams on Sunday and it largely lived up to the hype. Both Michigan and Ohio State came to play and it was a back-and-forth affair for much of the afternoon. The Wolverines, ultimately, ended up grabbing a solid 74-62 win over the team’s arch-rival to end its season in Crisler Center.
While this one was close throughout, it felt like Michigan was putting up the better “team” performance of the afternoon. The one person keeping Ohio State in the game was Jae’Sean Tate, who finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds. He was a monster around the rim for the afternoon and kept the Buckeyes in the game.
For Michigan, this is an immensely important win. Not only because it came against the team’s arch-rival, but also because it gives the Wolverines another marquee win to add to the resume. It also finished off a 15-1 performance at home this season. It’s the fourth time that Michigan has finished a season with two or fewer home losses in the last seven years.
On the other side, this is a tough one for Ohio State. This wasn’t a surprising result, but it will leave a huge mark on the team’s Big Ten title chances. As a result of this game, the Buckeyes are now going to need some luck to catch Michigan State this week. Not exactly what fans were hoping for after the 13-1 start to league play.
Michigan will return to action on Wednesday night on the road against Penn State. Meanwhile, Ohio State will resume play on Tuesday at home against Rutgers.
-Illinois Fighting Illini 72, Nebraska Cornhuskers 66
Most were focused on the other two games on Sunday, but this was another quietly important game for the league. Nebraska traveled to Champaign with its NCAA Tournament hopes on the line and Illinois was hoping to play spoiler.
However, even though Nebraska had far more on the line, it was Illinois who came out with the fire on Sunday evening. The Illini jumped out to a 43-36 lead at halftime and maintained things from there. Ultimately, Illinois pulled off the upset and grabbed a 72-66 win over the Cornhuskers.
The impact of this one isn’t exactly hard to figure out. Nebraska needed to finish the season with momentum for a shot at the NCAA Tournament and Sunday’s result will take a bit hit to those chances. The Huskers are now going to need a run in the Big Ten Tournament to have a real shot at the Big Dance.
Illinois returns to action on Tuesday on the road against Michigan State. Meanwhile, Nebraska will be back in action on Tuesday at home against Indiana.