The Big Ten had two games on Thursday night and both had massive repercussions for the Big Ten title race. Illinois hosted Minnesota in the first game and a ranked Iowa team went on the road to face another ranked team in Maryland in the late game.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 15 Maryland Terrapins 82, 18 Iowa Hawkeyes 72
This game was pretty hyped before tip-off and it lived up to the hype. Iowa led for much of the first half, but a great spurt by the Terps in the final few minutes of the half allowed Maryland to have a narrow halftime lead. Things remained tight quite deep into the second half until Maryland pulled away a bit to secure an 82-72 win at home.
The win pushed Maryland to 17-4 overall and to 7-3 in Big Ten play. The Terps are now tied for third place in the league standings and remain undefeated at home. And with Rutgers coming at home next (also tied for third) and Illinois (tied for first) after that, Maryland has an opportunity to move up even further in the Big Ten standings in the very near future. It should be an interesting week for the Terps coming up. Either way, Maryland fans have to be excited about what’s to come in February and March.
On the other side, Iowa saw its five-game winning streak snapped by the Terps and fell to 15-6 overall and 6-4 in Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes remain in solid position moving forward, but this certainly took a huge shot to the team’s hopes for a Big Ten title. Iowa is now fifth in the conference standings and two games back from Illinois and Michigan State. However, Iowa will get a big opportunity this week with Illinois at home on Sunday. Perhaps Iowa can get things rolling again starting then.
-No. 19 Illinois Fighting Illini 59, Minnesota Golden Gophers 51
Most expected Illinois to take care of business in this one at home against an overmatched Minnesota team. However, few expected it to be this close. The game ended up going down to the final minute and half of play after the Gophers had a big run near the end of the game. Nonetheless, Illinois held on for a 59-51 win.
With the win, Illinois now sits atop the Big Ten standings and is 16-5 overall and 8-2 in conference play. The Illini have also won seven straight in what is widely considered the nation’s best conference. That’s quite a remarkable feat considering where Illinois has been for much of the last decade. If the team can finish strong, it has a serious shot at a Big Ten title and a great seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Those efforts will continue on Sunday as the Illini go on the road to face Iowa.
For Minnesota, this will go down as just another missed opportunity. The Gophers are now 11-10 overall with seven of those losses coming by less than 10 points. Minnesota is a solid team that just hasn’t been able to finish in a lot of games. It’s frustrating for fans, but hard to criticize too much. The league slate is ridiculous this year and the Gophers are just a victim of the Big Ten’s depth. Fans will hope the team can rebound in its next game at home against Wisconsin on Wednesday.