The Big Ten had two games on Saturday and both ended up going down to the wire. Illinois narrowly beat Michigan on the road in the first game and Rutgers beat Nebraska by one possession at home to avoid an upset.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 21 Illinois Fighting Illini 64, Michigan Wolverines 62
Like many of the other Big Ten games this week, it was hard to look at this game and not get excited. An Illinois team tied for first in the league would go on the road to face a desperate Michigan team hoping to reverse its recent slide. Add in that Michigan would be getting back Isaiah Livers and it looked like the Illini could be ripe for an upset.
And for large segments of Saturday’s game, it looked like it would be the case. Illinois controlled the game early, but could never pull ahead by any significant margin. Then Michigan took the lead late in the game and it seemed like the Wolverines would be able to upset the Illini and get back on track. Ultimately, it came down to a few missed free throws and a big shot from Ayo Dosunmu to push Illinois to a 64-62 win.
Obviously, this is a huge win for Illinois. Not only because it pushed the team to 15-5 overall and to sole possession of first place in the Big Ten, but also because this is the type of win that’s really going to boost the team’s resume on Selection Sunday. This is a game a lot of teams in Illinois’ position would have lost. However, Illinois kept it together and scored a nice road win. The team will now hope to keep things rolling next Thursday at home against Minnesota.
On the other side, Michigan is now in a full blown slide. The Wolverines have lost four in a row, five of six, and are 4-8 over the team’s last 12 games. None of the losses have been horrible when taken at face value, but they’re adding up. Michigan is now very much in the bubble discussion and might even be on the wrong side of things. The Wolverines will hope to get back on track on Tuesday on the road against Nebraska.
-No. 24 Rutgers Scarlet Knights 75, Nebraska Cornhuskers 72
The Huskers really played well in this one. Nebraska went on the road to face a quality Rutgers team and were actually leading deep into the second half. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be enough as the Scarlet Knights were able to come back and narrowly win things.
The win pushed Rutgers to 15-5 overall and to 6-3 in Big Ten play. Rutgers will now prepare for a huge week with Purdue at home on Tuesday and Michigan in Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Two wins and Rutgers will be a bonafide Big Ten contender. Meanwhile, Nebraska fell to 7-13 overall. The Huskers will return to action on Tuesday at home against a struggling Michigan team.