The 2019 Big Ten Tournament tipped off on Wednesday night and both games ended up coming down to the closing minutes. Nebraska needed a second half comeback to get past Rutgers and Illinois needed overtime to beat Northwestern.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Day:
-No. 11 Illinois Fighting Illini 74, No. 14 Northwestern Wildcats 69 (OT)
What’s better than a rivalry game in March? Generally speaking, not that much. There are few things more entertaining than seeing two rivals go at it in a game of consequence in the most important month of the year.
But what’s even better is when each team’s season is riding on that game.
Entering this game, both Illinois and Northwestern knew their seasons were on the line. Neither have a shot at going to the NCAA Tournament or NIT as at-large teams, meaning it would take winning the Big Ten Tournament to keep things going for another week.
Illinois led things early on, but Northwestern was able to keep things close throughout. And this was despite Vic Law being sidelined from the matchup. The Wildcats were eventually able to force overtime. In the extra session, Illinois was able to pull away and grab a 74-69 win over Northwestern. Giorgi Bezhanishvili finished with 26 points and four rebounds.
For Illinois, this is about as exciting as it gets. The Illini just scored a win over their in-state rival in the Big Ten Tournament to keep their season alive. Illinois will now move on to face a reeling Iowa team in the late game on Thursday night. Buckle up.
On the other side, this will assuredly end Northwestern’s season. Ever since dropping some key games in December, little has gone right for the Wildcats. It will now be up to Chris Collins and his staff to try and figure things out this offseason. The team will not only be losing Law, but also key senior Dererk Pardon. It’s going to take some rebuilding to get the Wildcats back in NCAA Tournament contention moving forward.
-No. 13 Nebraska Cornhuskers 68, No. 12 Rutgers Scarlet Knights 61
Talk about a swing of emotions. Despite playing really well in the first half and for much of the second half, Rutgers ended up falling short in this one thanks to an epic collapse in the closing minutes. Nebraska used a massive double-digit scoring run led by James Palmer to steal this one and grab a 68-61 win over the Scarlet Knights.
Like the teams above, neither of these two had any shot at keeping their seasons alive without winning on Wednesday. Rutgers was below .500 overall and Nebraska barely had a winning record. As such, both were pretty desperate to grab a win.
For Nebraska, this keeps the dream alive. Personally, I think the Huskers have an outside shot at an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, but it will take at least two more wins in the Big Ten Tournament. That certainly won’t be an easy task as the team prepares to face Maryland on Thursday afternoon. The Terps swept the regular season series.
On the other side, this will be the end of the line for Rutgers this season. The Scarlet Knights had a really encouraging performance this year and fans have to be excited about where things could be heading. However, Steve Pikiell and his staff will have to get back to work this offseason. There’s clearly still a long way to go.