The Big Ten had five games on Friday. And while most ended with convincing wins for the Big Ten, there were two really intriguing ones, including a legitimate scare for a top 10 Illinois team at home.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 8 Illinois Fighting Illini 77, Ohio Bobcats 75
Whew. That’s about all you can say after this one. Illinois entered this game significantly favored, but it didn’t feel that way throughout. Ohio played a great game led by Jason Preston, who finished with 31 points, eight assists, and six rebounds. The Illini were able to pull out things in the last minute thanks to some heroics from Ayo Dosunmu, but this was far from a convincing win.
From a positive perspective, a win is a win and a lot of great teams have gotten scared in a non-conference game or two. Moreover, this was the third game in as many days for Illinois with two huge matchups next on the schedule. It’s not hard to think Illinois might have gotten a little complacent heading into tip.
On the other side, Illinois is ranked eighth nationally. And even if Ohio is better than many expect, it’s still well outside the top 100 on KenPom. This is a game Illinois should have won with ease. The team is going to have to improve defensively and players like Trent Frazier and Adam Miller have to be better. Otherwise, Illinois isn’t going to have a chance at achieving its long-term goals.
Ilinois will now have a few days off before facing off against Baylor on a neutral court next Wednesday. It figures to be a massive showdown between highly ranked teams.
-No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes 103, Southern Jaguars 76
This one went about how you would expect. Iowa jumped out to a significant lead in the first half and never looked back. Luka Garza was fantastic in this one, finishing with a monstrous 41 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks. The stellar big man is averaging 33.5 points per game so far this season. Iowa will get one more “buy” game next Thursday at home against Western Illinois before things get more difficult moving forward.
-Maryland Terrapins 82, Navy Midshipmen 52
Heading into Friday, this actually projected to be a relatively intriguing game. Maryland had some significant question marks and Navy was tougher than your generic “buy” opponent. Instead, Maryland cruised to a 30-point win. Eric Ayala led the way again with 15 points, six assists, and three rebounds. Maryland is now 2-0 and will hope to keep things going on Sunday at home against Mount St. Mary’s. Notably, the two wins have pushed Maryland from 51st to 37th on KenPom.
-No. 24 Rutgers Scarlet Knights 96, Fairleigh Dickinson Knights 75
This didn’t project as a particularly interesting game on paper. However, with Geo Baker sidelined, many were curious to see how Rutgers would perform. All told, Rutgers did pretty well, scoring a 21-point win against the Knights. Ron Harper looked like a legitimate star throughout, finishing with 30 points and four rebounds. Rutgers will return to action on Sunday at home against Hofstra.
-No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers 92, Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions 58
This was a complete and utter blowout. Wisconsin roared out of the gate and things were never close thereafter. The bench was unloaded in the second half and we got to see the freshmen for extended segments. Micah Potter led the way with 19 points. Wisconsin will return to action next Tuesday at home against Green Bay.