At first glance, it looked like Wednesday might be a calm night for the Big Ten. Indiana was hosting a struggling Northwestern team at home and a red hot Wisconsin returned to Madison for a winnable home game against Illinois as well. However, things ended up being far more dramatic than they first appeared.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Illinois Fighting Illini 71, Wisconsin Badgers 70
In Wednesday’s preview, I wrote about this game and how it put two hot teams against each other. Illinois was coming off a blowout win over Purdue and the Badgers had won four in a row, including a road win against a top 10 Ohio State team. We knew something would have to give in the matchup, but it definitely figured to be a tough game. I ended up picking Wisconsin primarily because the game was in Madison.
And early on, it looked like that was how the game was going to go. Wisconsin pulled ahead in the opening minutes and seemed like it would take control. However, Illinois gradually began cutting in the lead in the second half and was finally able to pull ahead slightly in the closing minutes. The Illini were ultimately able to grab a 71-70 win thanks in large part to Ayo Dosunmu’s 18 points and six assists.
Every Big Ten fan is well aware of how hard it is to win on the road in this conference and that rings even more true for games in Madison. Given those circumstances, we know this is a huge win for Illinois. It’s easily the team’s best road win of the season and arguably its best win overall considering how Wisconsin’s resume has improved in recent weeks. And it gets even bigger in light of same of Illinois’ early missteps. This is going to be a really valuable win to have on Selection Sunday. Illinois will return to action on Saturday at home against Rutgers.
For Wisconsin, this is a tough one. The loss dropped the Badgers to 9-6 overall and to 2-2 in league play. It’s hard to complain too much about a loss after winning two straight, including two road wins against top 50 opponents. However, this felt like a game Wisconsin should win. And after a 5-5 start to the season, Wisconsin needs to grab every win it can. The team will hope to regroup on Saturday on the road against Penn State.
-Indiana Hoosiers 66, Northwestern Wildcats 62
Whether fans and media members wanted to admit it or not, this didn’t figure to be a great game on paper. Indiana entered the game sitting at 11-3 overall, Northwestern had lost five in a row, and the game was in Bloomington. This looked like a matchup where the Hoosiers would be able to take care of business early and cruise to a solid win.
And while Indiana did end up getting the win, it was far from a comfortable evening. Northwestern led for much of the game and was actually in position to grab a win multiple times in the closing 10 minutes of the game. The Hoosiers got just enough from Trayce Jackson-Davis to escape with a 66-62 win.
Given the team’s divergent resumes entering this game, it was obviously a more significant one for the Hoosiers. Northwestern wants to win games for momentum and Big Ten Tournament seeding, but the Wildcats likely aren’t making any serious postseason run. Meanwhile, the win pushed Indiana to 12-3 overall and to 2-2 in league play. And with a home game against Ohio State on Saturday for the Hoosiers, there’s a chance to really get things going. Northwestern also returns to action on Saturday at home against Nebraska.