The Big Ten had two games on Boxing Day and both ended up pretty close. Northwestern faced off against Ohio State in the early game and Illinois hosted Indiana after that. The two games were both decided by single-digits.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Northwestern Wildcats 71, No. 23 Ohio State Buckeyes 70
While Northwestern’s expectations weren’t great heading into the season, the Wildcats got off to a great start in Big Ten play, beating Michigan State and Indiana over the last week. And that set up another challenge on Saturday as the team faced off against a ranked Ohio State team. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes were coming off wins against UCLA and Rutgers and hoping to keep things rolling.
The game itself was highly competitive with the two teams deadlocked at halftime. However, Northwestern did enough to hang around in the first 50 minutes or so and hit a few big shots to steal a 71-70 win at the final buzzer. Miller Kopp really impressed with 23 points and three assists.
For Northwestern, this is just another win validating its recent success. The Wildcats are now 6-1 overall, 3-0 in Big Ten play, and have scored three straight wins against top 35 KenPom opponents. That’s an incredible achievement given the team’s struggles from last season. In fact, Northwestern only beat one top 35 opponent (Penn State) during last year. Beating three in a week and a half is a huge step forward.
On the other side, Ohio State dropped to 7-2 overall and 1-2 in league play with the loss. The team’s offense continues to underwhelm and the Buckeyes just aren’t getting enough from players like Justice Sueing and CJ Walker. We’ll have to see if Chris Holtmann can figure things out in the weeks ahead.
Northwestern will now prepare for a massive showdown against Iowa on the road next Tuesday. A win there and fans can start thinking about a lofty finish in the Big Ten’s regular season standings. Meanwhile, Ohio State will hope to bounce back at home next Wednesday against Nebraska.
-No. 18 Illinois Fighting Illini 69, Indiana Hoosiers 60
Indiana had a handful of bright moments in this one, but Illinois was able to get the job done, scoring a 69-60 home win and improving to 7-3 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play. Ayo Dosunmu led the way with 30 points and five assists. He proved to be the difference in the game as both teams struggled to find offensive consistency. Indiana dropped to 5-4 overall and 0-2 in Big Ten play with the loss.
Moving forward, Illinois will get some time off before facing Purdue at home next Saturday. Indiana will hope to get back on track at home against Penn State on Wednesday.