The 2019 Big Ten-ACC Challenge tipped off on Monday night with two Big Ten teams in action. Illinois hosted Miami (FL) and Minnesota hosted Clemson. All told, the Big Ten ended up splitting its games on the opening night of the Challenge.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Miami (FL) Hurricanes 81, Illinois Fighting Illini 79
This one may not have ended well for the Big Ten, but it was clearly the more entertaining game of the night. Illinois hosted Miami (FL) at home and was hoping to build on its 6-1 start to the season. And given that the Illini were favored before tip, it seemed likely that Illinois would be able to finish the night at 7-1 overall for the first time since the 2014-’15 season.
Unfortunately, things got off to a rough start.
Miami (FL) came roaring out of the gates on Monday night, jumping out to a 31-11 lead in the first 10 minutes of action. Even though Illinois was able to regroup and make a great run in the closing minutes, it wasn’t enough. The Illini ended up falling 81-79 at home thanks in large part to a lackluster defensive performance. Ayo Dosunmu also had an underwhelming night with just 12 points and a 93 offensive rating.
This was a tough one for Illinois. Not only because it feels like the Illini let one slip away, but also because Miami (FL) doesn’t project to be that great this season. The Hurricanes are only 82nd on KenPom and not expected to do great things. Losing to a team like that at home isn’t going to look good on Selection Sunday. This also seemed like one of the team’s more winnable notable non-conference games and Illinois couldn’t get the job done.
Illinois will now prepare for a road trip to face a Maryland team ranked among the top 10 on Saturday. A win there would be massive, but it’s going to be a major challenge to pull off.
-Minnesota Golden Gophers 78, Clemson Tigers 60
Finally. After narrowly losing four games against quality opponents earlier in the season, Minnesota finally got the job done on Monday night, knocking off Clemson at home by 18 points. It was the team’s first win over a top 100 opponent this season. The Tigers don’t look like a superpower, but are coming off an NIT appearance.
This was a big one for Minnesota. Not only because it gets the team back to .500 overall and will be a nice resume win, but also from a confidence perspective. The Gophers had let some key opportunities slip away already. Allowing another one would have been tremendously frustrating for this team. Luckily for Gopher fans, Minnesota got the job done and came away with a key win over an ACC opponent.
Minnesota will now prepare for a road trip to face Iowa next Monday. A win there and expectations about this Gopher team will likely have to be recalibrated.