After a month off, Big Ten conference play resumed on Wednesday night. And both games were intriguing, with Nebraska going on the road to face Maryland and Northwestern traveling to East Lansing to face Michigan State.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Day:
-Maryland Terrapins 74, No. 24 Nebraska Cornhuskers 72
After repeatedly falling short in non-conference play and on the road against Purdue last month, Maryland entered 2019 without a marquee win on its resume. The Terps were 10-3, but had little substance behind its win total. And with a ranked opponent coming into town, Maryland had a key opportunity to correct that error.
Likewise, Nebraska entered hoping to turn the page on some of its recent struggles. While the Huskers have been impressive this season, Nebraska hasn’t done much away from home over the last few years. In fact, Nebraska was just 1-4 in its previous five games against top 75 opponents away from home. This was a chance for the Huskers to prove that this year’s team was different than last year’s group.
And on Wednesday night, it was easy to feel the intensity. While the crowd was sparse, both teams clearly wanted this one. Nebraska got up early, but Maryland was able to keep things close enough to have a chance in the second half. And after Nebraska couldn’t close from the free throw line and Jalen Smith went off, Maryland grabbed a 74-72 win at home.
The significance of this one for Maryland is pretty obvious here. The Terps needed a quality win and got one on Wednesday night. The team also got some major momentum heading into a tricky stretch. Maryland’s next four games are all projected to be pretty tight by KenPom. Getting some confidence is certainly good news for Terp fans. Maryland will now face Rutgers on the road on Saturday.
On the other side, Nebraska will head home after losing its second straight road game and with another on the plate on Sunday. The Huskers look incredibly impressive at home, but that play is going to have to translate on the road and on neutral courts if this team is going to take the next step. Sunday at Iowa will be a great test.
Heading into this game, most expected this to be a pretty competitive matchup. Northwestern had played teams like Indiana, Michigan, and Oklahoma tough earlier this season and the Spartans would be without starting guard Joshua Langford.
But that wouldn’t be the case.
Michigan State came racing out of the gates and never looked back. The Spartans were in complete control of this one and Northwestern was absolutely dominated. Nick Ward finished with 21 points and Cassius Winston had 13 points and 12 assists. Foul trouble for Northwestern and domination for Michigan State in the paint led to an easy Spartan victory.
Obviously, Wednesday was an encouraging game for Spartan fans. The team has been trending up over the last few weeks and this was a major statement. Even if the final margin was a bit inflated, beating a top 50ish opponent by 30 is a significant win. It also pushed Michigan State to 12-2 and fourth overall on KenPom. We will see whether this can translate to further success with Ohio State on the road on Saturday.
For Northwestern, it’s hard to feel good about what happened in East Lansing. This was an absolute beat down. The challenge will be finding a way to move forward. The Wildcats let some key opportunities slip away earlier this year and now got embarrassed. Fans will hope Northwestern can get back on track against a reeling Illinois at home on Sunday.