The regular season ended tonight with a handful of Big Ten games that still had plenty of relevance after the regular season title was determined yesterday. Let's take a look at what happened today.
Game of the Day
#21 Wisconsin Badgers 73, Ohio State Buckeyes 67
Everyone had Ohio State on the right side of the bubble, even more so with a 20 point win against Iowa. Now that Iowa win isn’t looking as good and they’re riding a three game losing streak heading into the conference tournament, including getting blown out by Big Ten bottomfeeder Northwestern.
With the Buckeyes needing a winning desperately, scoring 16 points in the first half at home was definitely not how they wanted to start things off. Trailing by 23 at one point in the second half, Ohio State closed on a 27-5 run to send the game to overtime, including a 12-0 run to close the half. Unfortunately for Ohio State, though, their offense fell off once again in overtime, only making one field goal and scoring four points.
Entering today some people still had Ohio State as one of the last four in, but that could very well change with yet another loss. Even more so with Ohio State set to draw Indiana this week. If Ohio State loses their first game in the Big Ten Tournament than it’s highly likely that they’ll be heading to the NIT.
The Badgers ended the season with the last double bye and will play the winner of Maryland and Rutgers/Nebraska on Friday. Wisconsin has had some issues that have reared their head this season, but they’ll still be a dangerous team in the Big Ten Tournament.
There’s been some chatter of Indiana reentering the bubble picture and if that talk was going to continue they needed to avoid an upset against Rutgers today. They ended up taking care of that for now, avenging their loss at Rutgers earlier in the season.
Indiana’s offense shot 53.4% from the field, led by Juwan Morgan with 25 points. Devonte Green had a big day off the bench, scoring 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting. Rutgers struggled from three (28.6%) and shot 42.6% from the field, but they were able to get to the line 30 times. The game wasn’t particularly close down the stretch and now the Scarlet Knights will set their attention towards Nebraska.
As for Indiana, they’re still on the outside looking in but that sets up a game against Ohio State that could essentially serve as an elimination game. If Indiana wins they’ll likely need to knock off conference co-champs Michigan State once again if they want to legitimately reenter the bubble picture.
Nebraska Cornhuskers 93, Iowa Hawkeyes 91 (Overtime)
Fran McCaffery returned to the bench today for Iowa but the result was still the same as Iowa lost their fourth straight game. The one positive today against Nebraska was their 91 points was a considerable improvement compared to the 45 they scored at Wisconsin, though the end result was still the same.
Iowa built a 16 point lead and looked like they’d end their skid before a ferocious comeback by the Cornhuskers. Down nine points with less than 50 seconds remaining, Nebraska went 4 of 4 from three, made a pair of free throws and a late layup to force overtime. A late Amir Harris layup and a Thorir Thorbjarnarson block sealed the deal for Nebraska.
It was a big day for Nebraska’s starters, with James Palmer Jr., Isaiah Roby and Glynn Watson Jr. all reaching 20+ points. Overall Nebraska shot 51.5% from the field and 50% from three, though they inexplicably shot only 50% from the free throw line. Speaking of free throws, Iowa only hit 65.6% of their 32 free throws, not converting at the line throughout the day. Luka Garza led the team with 25 points on 10 of 16 shooting.
Now Iowa will look to bounce back and end their losing streak on Thursday when they play the winner of Illinois and Northwestern. The Hawkeyes are a tourney team but they can’t feel very good as they get ready for the NCAA Tournament. Nebraska has had a rough season and winning on senior day in thrilling fashion was definitely a high point for the team this year. Now Nebraska will face Rutgers on Wednesday.
Penn State closed out the season with a 16 point win over the Illini, finishing the season on a 6-2 run that included wins over Michigan and Maryland. It was a strong finish after a dreadful start and got them a 10 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. That of course could make things interesting this week as Penn State lost at Minnesota by one (in the middle of an eight game losing streak) so there’s a real possibility Penn State could be playing Friday against Purdue. And for whatever reason the Nittany Lions consistently keep it close whenever they face off against the Boilermakers.
As for today’s game, after a competitive first half the Nittany Lions were able to slow down the Illini offensively, holding them to 24 points in the second half. Penn State also picked up the pace, scoring 41 points down the stretch and outscoring Illinois by 17 in the second half. Josh Reaves was a big reason for that, hitting 6 of 10 from three and leading the team with 26 points. The Illini shot 34% from the field and committed 18 turnovers.
The Illini showed some progress earlier in conference play with wins against Maryland, Michigan State and Ohio State, but struggled to finish the season. They’ll play Northwestern on Wednesday and if they can win that they’ll face a slumping Iowa team on Thursday.