After nearly a month off, Big Ten conference play resumed on Thursday night with two intriguing matchups. Minnesota went on the road to face Purdue and Michigan State hosted a dangerous Illinois team. Both figured to be fun games.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Purdue Boilermakers 83, Minnesota Golden Gophers 78 (2OT)
Talk about an absolute classic. Given Purdue’s dominance at home and Minnesota’s red hot play over the last few weeks, this one figured to be a great matchup. However, I’m not sure anybody expected this one to come down to the buzzer like this. The two teams exchanged the lead throughout and it didn’t get settled until double overtime, after Matt Haarms and Sasha Stefanovic made some key plays.
Let’s be honest. Minnesota probably let this one slip away. The Gophers were in position to win this game at the end of regulation and the first overtime. In fact, KenPom gave Minnesota had 88.5 percent odds to win with a minute left in regulation and nearly 75 percent odds with less than a minute left in the first overtime. Unfortunately for Gopher fans, Minnesota couldn’t close things out.
For Purdue, this is is a nice win to add to the resume. Whether the Boilermakers outplayed Minnesota is up for debate, but a win is a win. And Purdue is now 9-5 overall, 2-1 in Big Ten play, and has won three of its last four. Not every win is going to be pretty, but they all matter. Purdue will now head on the road to face Illinois on Sunday. A win there and Purdue would probably start getting some serious top 25 discussion again.
On the other side, this is an absolute heart breaker. Minnesota should have won this game. Still, there’s nothing to be ashamed about over losing on the road in double overtime against a team like Purdue. If you’re a believer in moral victories, this one qualifies. The Gophers will also be back in action on Sunday. Minnesota will host Northwestern at home.
-No. 14 Michigan State Spartans 76, Illinois Fighting Illini 56
We’ve heard a lot of criticism about this Spartan team to date, but Michigan State showed why its one of the best teams in the country on Thursday. It hosted a dangerous Illinois team looking for an upset and absolutely dominated. Michigan State’s defense was fantastic and Xavier Tillman did work with 19 points and seven rebounds. All told, Michigan State walked away with a 20-point win.
For Michigan State, the focus will now shift to arch-rival Michigan. The Spartans and Wolverines will face off on Sunday in one of the better games of the weekend. A win there and I would expect many of the critics to quiet down for at least a bit.
On the other side, Illinois will hope to regroup this weekend at home against Purdue on Sunday. The Illini are still 9-5 overall and in decent shape for the postseason, but it’s probably time to start wondering when the team will beat another quality opponent. While the win over Michigan last month was nice, it’s the team’s only win over a top 170 opponent. That’s not exactly an encouraging stat going into Big Ten play.