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12/20 Big Ten Recap: Northwestern Upsets Michigan State

Recap all the Big Ten action from Sunday.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten had three games on Sunday and all ended up with significant outcomes. Michigan State went on the road to face Northwestern, ranked Illinois and Rutgers teams squared off, and Minnesota hosted a quality Saint Louis squad.

Let’s take a look at what happened.

Game of the Night:

-Northwestern Wildcats 79, No. 4 Michigan State Spartans 65

Yeah, so that happened. In one of the most shocking games of the young season, a top five ranked Michigan State team went on the road and lost by double-digits to an upstart Northwestern squad. KenPom favored the Spartans significantly before tip, but that was out the window by halftime. It’s a game that will reverberate for months to come.

For Michigan State, this was an absolutely crushing loss. The team was significantly favored before tip and expected to win. This was very much in the “taking care of business” category. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t get it done. Michigan State’s defense struggled and the frontcourt thoroughly underwhelmed. When that happens, you’re probably going to have a bad time. And that’s what happened to Michigan State on Sunday.

And of course, this is a huge win for the Wildcats. Northwestern has struggled for consistency since the program’s NCAA appearance in 2017 and this should be a step in getting that fixed. One game alone won’t fix things, but knocking off a top five team isn’t easy. And after the loss to Pittsburgh earlier this month, it’s even more valuable.

Boo Buie was the star for Northwestern in the win, scoring 30 points in the team’s upset win over the Spartans. The team’s defense also really stepped up, holding Michigan State to an underwhelming 0.94 points per possession. It was a fantastic performance and speaks volumes about the team’s potential long-term.

Moving forward, Northwestern will return to action on Wednesday on the road against Indiana. Meanwhile, Michigan State will be off until Christmas Day, when the team hosts a red hot Wisconsin team.

The Rest:

-Minnesota Golden Gophers 90, Saint Louis Billikens 82

After getting steam rolled by Illinois earlier in the week, Gopher fans were hoping the team would bounce back against a tough Saint Louis team on Sunday night. The Billikens entered the game at 6-0, 26th nationally on KenPom, and favored by some at tip. It figured to be a tight game. Fortunately, Minnesota took control early in the second half thanks to a 12-2 run and ended up grabbing a 90-82 victory. Marcus Carr led the way with 32 points.

Obviously, this is going to be a valuable win for the Gophers moving forward. Saint Louis is a quality team and Minnesota needs every win it can get heading into a brutal Big Ten slate. Minnesota now sits at 7-1 overall with Iowa next on the docket. The Hawkeyes will come into town on Christmas Day. It should be a fun one.

-No. 19 Rutgers Scarlet Knights 91, No. 13 Illinois Fighting Illini 88

This was an absolutely battle. Rutgers led for most of the game, but the Scarlet Knights only ended up pulling it out by a three-point margin and it took a significant lead change to get it done. The win pushed Rutgers to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in Big Ten play. Meanwhile, Illinois dropped to 5-3 overall and 1-1 in league play.

The star of the show was Ron Harper, who finished with 28 points, nine rebounds, and one assist. Myle Johnson also stepped up off the bench, finishing with nine points and 13 rebounds. He’s been a dynamic bench player so far this season.

Rutgers will now prepare for a showdown with Ohio State on the road on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Illinois will hope to bounce back on the road against Penn State.