The Big Ten had four games on Christmas Day and every matchup ended up with some drama before the closing buzzer. Wisconsin and Michigan State played in the early game, Purdue and Maryland faced off after that, Michigan traveled to Nebraska afterward, and Iowa faced off against Minnesota to close things out.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Minnesota Golden Gophers 102, No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes 95 (OT)
Heading into tip, this game had a lot of factors suggesting it could be a trap for the Hawkeyes. Iowa was coming off a nice win over Purdue earlier in the week, Minnesota was flying under the radar, and the game was in Minneapolis in a prime time setting. The Gophers also had a difference maker in Marcus Carr with the ability to take over a game.
Still, it was hard to see Minnesota topping Iowa.
And for much of the game, those thoughts were justified as Iowa was in control. The Hawkeyes scored 1.23 points per possession and Luka Garza finished with 32 points and 17 rebounds on the night. However, Iowa couldn’t do enough to pull away late in the game and Minnesota was able to force the game into overtime. Iowa’s defense was putrid to close things out and the Gophers finished with a red hot 1.32 points per possession on the way to victory. Carr led the way with 30 points and eight assists.
Obviously, this is a massive win for Minnesota. Upsetting a top five team is never easy and it’s something that can redefine a season. Pull it off and the reverberations can be felt for weeks. It’s the kind of win that can shift a team’s momentum moving forward. And from a resume perspective, this is easily the team’s most impressive win of the season and pushes the Gophers to 8-1 overall and 1-1 in league play.
For Iowa, this is obviously a disappointing loss. Minnesota is a solid team, so losing isn’t a complete disaster, but this is a game Iowa should have won. The Hawkeyes were favorites heading in and got enough from Garza to win. Unfortunately, the defense got shredded and Iowa blew things in the final minutes of regulation and overtime. Iowa better hope it can get some of those issues figured out. Otherwise, things could get rough in league play.
Moving forward, Iowa will get Northwestern at home on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Minnesota will get Michigan State at home on Monday.
-No. 19 Michigan Wolverines 80, Nebraska Cornhuskers 69
This one largely went as expected. Nebraska kept things close throughout the first half, but fell flat in the second. Isaiah Livers led the way with 17 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Teddy Allen also had a good game for Nebraska, scoring 25 on the night.
The win pushes Michigan to 7-0 overall and 2-0 in league play. The Wolverines will return to action on New Year’s Eve on the road against Maryland. Meanwhile, Nebraska dropped to 4-5 overall and 0-2 in league play with the loss. Nebraska will hope to bounce back on the road against Ohio State next Wednesday.
Early on, it looked like Purdue might run away with this one. The Boilermakers jumped out to a nice lead and seemed on their way to a convincing win. But Maryland was able to come back and make things highly competitive down the stretch. Unfortunately for the Terps, it wasn’t enough and Purdue scored a 73-70 win.
The win pushed Purdue to 7-3 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten play. The Boilermakers will now prepare for a challenging game on the road against Rutgers next Tuesday. On the other side, Maryland fell to 5-3 overall and 0-2 in conference play with the loss. The Terps will hope to bounce back on the road against Wisconsin next Monday.
-No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers 85, No. 12 Michigan State Spartans
This looked like the Game of the Day heading into tip, but it got overshadowed by the upset in Minneapolis. Still, it was a fun game. Michigan State was actually in control for segments of the second half before D’Mitrik Trice pushed the Badgers to victory. The senior guard finished with 29 points and two assists.
For Wisconsin, the win pushed the Badgers to 8-1 overall and 2-0 in league play. The team now looks poised to be a major factor in the Big Ten title race and figures to be a favorite in nearly ever game over the next two months. Wisconsin has looked incredibly impressive so far this season and the lineup looks deep and balanced. We’ll see if the Badgers can keep things going moving forward. Wisconsin returns to action next Monday at home against Maryland.
On the other side, Michigan State fell to 6-2 overall and 0-2 in Big Ten play with the loss. It’s the first time since the 2005-’06 season that the Spartans have started a season with two losses in conference play. Not exactly an encouraging statistic in what figures to be one of the deepest Big Tens in modern history. The Spartans will hope to improve on the defensive end of the floor and rebound on Monday on the road against Minnesota.