Generally speaking, Wednesday isn’t exactly the greatest day for the Big Ten Tournament. There are only two games and they exclusively feature the weakest teams in the league. More simply put, it’s hard to generate too much excitement about four teams that haven’t seen much success over the course of the season.
To a certain extent that was true this year as well. None of the four teams entered Wednesday with many optimistic projections. However, fans got to enjoy a tight battle in the first game and an upset in second game.
Let’s take a look at how the games played out.
Game of the Night:
-No. 12 Iowa Hawkeyes 96, No. 13 Illinois Fighting Illini 87
Entering Wednesday’s game, both Illinois and Iowa had a bit of momentum. Neither team was rolling, but the Illini had just beaten Rutgers and Iowa was coming off a nice win over Northwestern at home on Sunday evening. And with both teams being solidly outside of the postseason, Wednesday presented an opportunity for Illinois and Iowa to try and keep the season alive.
Early on, Iowa raced out to a massive lead over the Illini. That came thanks to some painful Illini turnovers and some excellent shooting from the Hawkeyes. But Illinois came back as the half extended and only trailed 35-31 at the break.
The second half also remained tight. Illinois came out with the momentum and Iowa would counter. Kipper Nichols has a particularly impressive game for the Illini and finished with an impressive 31 points and two rebounds. Jordan Bohannon carried Iowa and finished with 25 points and six assists.
Ultimately, Iowa proved to be too much for Illinois and grabbed a 96-87 win. It was a competitive game throughout and certainly should have gotten fans excited about what’s to come this weekend. Iowa will now move on to face Michigan on Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, this will be the end of the line for the Illini this season. Brad Underwood was never going to resurrect this season with the roster he inherited, but a 14-18 final record is certainly disappointing. Fans will hope he can recruit better heading into next year.
-No. 14 Rutgers Scarlet Knights 65, No. 11 Minnesota Golden Gophers 54
The second game may not have looked good on paper, but it did end up giving fans their first upset of the 2018 Big Ten Tournament. Rutgers was able to score a huge win over Minnesota to advance to Thursday where the Scarlet Knights will face Indiana.
Perhaps the biggest star of the evening was Corey Sanders, who finished with 23 points and seven rebounds on the evening. Rutgers also showcased an impressive defensive performance, holding Minnesota to 0.82 points per possession.
For Minnesota, Wednesday finished off what became a terrible season for the Gophers. The program had high expectations before the year, but things derailed after Reggie Lynch was suspended (and later expelled) and Amir Coffey got injured. Nonetheless, there’s no excuse for how the Gophers finished by losing 11 of 12 games.