The Big Ten had a full slate on Saturday with four games, including a handful with NCAA Tournament implications. Maryland and Illinois faced off in Madison Square Garden and Nebraska and Wisconsin hosted intriguing opponents. Penn State also faced Rutgers.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Day:
-Illinois Fighting Illini 78, No. 13 Maryland Terrapins 67
By any measure, this has been a really tough season for Illinois. Though the team has had some bright spots, most of the season has been filled with frustration. The Illini were just 5-14 heading into Saturday’s game and had no real shot at the postseason. As such, few were expecting the team to take down a Maryland team ranked in the top 15 nationally.
However, that’s exactly what ended up happening. The Terps were careless with the ball offensively and fueled an Illinois team that relies extensively on creating turnovers. Ayo Dosunmu also had a big afternoon with 20 points and six assists. All told, Illinois grabbed a 78-67 upset over Maryland.
There’s no debating that this is a huge win for Brad Underwood and his staff. The Illini scored arguably the biggest win of his tenure on Saturday and have now won two of the team’s last four games. Fans will hope he can keep things trending upward on Wednesday on the road against Minnesota.
For Maryland, this is a devastating loss. Not only will it be a huge blow on Selection Sunday, but it also likely killed any faint Big Ten title hopes that fans still had after Monday’s loss to Michigan State. Fans will hope that the team can rebound on Tuesday at home against Northwestern. A loss there would set off some panic sirens.
Both Ohio State and Nebraska were reeling heading into Saturday’s matchup and were hoping to get back on track with a marquee win. The Buckeyes ended up coming out on top with a 70-60 road win over the Huskers. It was only Nebraska’s second home loss of the season. The Huskers had previously been nearly unbeatable at home for two full years.
There’s no debating that this is a huge win for the Buckeyes. The team had lost five straight before Saturday’s game and were desperate to get back on track. We will see if Ohio State can keep things rolling into Tuesday’s matchup on the road against arch-rival Michigan.
For Nebraska, this was the team’s third straight loss and its fifth loss in seven games. Outside of a road win against Indiana (who is also now reeling), Nebraska has essentially done nothing since Big Ten play restarted earlier this month. That has put the Huskers in an uncomfortable position moving forward. We will see what the team can do on Tuesday at home against a resurgent Wisconsin team.
The Badgers entered this game as solid favorites and were able to hold off a feisty Wildcat squad to grab a 62-46 home win. With the win, Wisconsin improved to 14-6 overall and 6-3 in Big Ten play. The Badgers will get Nebraska on the road next on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Northwestern will move towards Maryland on the road on Tuesday.
While neither of these teams are particularly great this season, Saturday was still an important game for both sides. Penn State was trying to score its first win in Big Ten play this season and the Scarlet Knights were trying to build off some upsets earlier in the season, including a huge win over Ohio State.
The game was competitive throughout, but Rutgers was able to grab the road win and improved to 10-9 overall. It was a huge win for Steve Pikiell and company and pushed the Scarlet Knights into the top 100 on KenPom. It also marked the first time that Rutgers has scored back-to-back wins in league play since joining the Big Ten. The team had previously gone 98 games without doing that before. Rutgers gets Indiana at home on Wednesday.
For Penn State, this is a disappointing loss. The team remains winless in Big Ten play and is slated to be an underdog in every remaining regular season game, except for the season finale against Illinois on March 10th. The team will hope to rebound on Thursday at home against Purdue.