The Big Ten had an absolutely loaded slate of games on Saturday. There were games from noon well into the evening and a number of them came with some pretty dramatic results, including huge wins for Maryland and Rutgers.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 9 Maryland Terrapins 67, Michigan State Spartans 60
Heading into Saturday’s matchup between these two, these two had taken very different turns. Maryland seemed to be gaining strength as the season continued, as Michigan State had lost three of its last four. However, a raucous crowd, throwback uniforms, and a win over Illinois on the road early in the week put some fresh air in Michigan State’s sails. As such, we expected a tight battle in East Lansing.
Early on, it didn’t seem like the game would live up to the hype. Maryland surprised the Spartans out of the game and dominated much of the first half. The Terps were up by as much as 15 at one point and Anthony Cowan was hitting shot after shot. However, Michigan State tightened things up to close out the half. In the second half, the Spartans took the lead in the closing minutes. But a few well timed threes from Cowan allowed Maryland to escape with a 67-60 win.
This win is a huge one for Maryland’s Big Ten title chances. The Terps were already the favorites to win the title and this seemed like the team’s most difficult remaining regular season game. To walk out with a win in it says a lot. Maryland has now won eight in a row and will head home to face Northwestern on Tuesday. The Terps now have a full game led in the Big Ten standings over Penn State.
On the other side, this is going to be a tough one for Spartan fans to stomach. Michigan State had the lead in the closing minutes and just couldn’t finish the job. This is the team’s fourth loss in five games and the team is just 4-6 in its last 10 games. The Spartans are now more than three games back in the league standings and might even have to worry about the team’s at-large hopes if things don’t turn around soon. That’s an incredible thing to say about a preseason No. 1 team. The Spartans will face Nebraska on the road on Thursday.
We knew the Buckeyes would be favored in this one with the game coming in Columbus and the team’s recent play, but I don’t think many expected Ohio State to score a 16-point win over what seemed like a relatively hot Purdue team. All told, the Buckeyes grabbed a 68-52 win over Purdue thanks to 16 points from Kyle Young.
Ohio State now sits at 17-8 overall and has quietly improved to 7-7 in Big Ten play. The team will now prepare for a tough game at Iowa on Thursday night. Meanwhile, Purdue fell to 14-12 overall and will hope to get back on track at Wisconsin on Tuesday night. A loss there and Purdue’s postseason chances would take a much hit.
-No. 13 Penn State Nittany Lions 77, Northwestern Wildcats 61
This game largely went as expected. Penn State hosted an inferior Northwestern team at home and easily cruised to a win on Saturday afternoon. The win pushed the Nittany Lions to 20-5 overall and undeniably locked up an NCAA bid for Penn State. The team has now won eight in a row and will look to improve upon that on Tuesday at home against Illinois. Meanwhile, Northwestern will hope to rebound on Tuesday on the road against Maryland.
-Rutgers Scarlet Knights 72, No. 22 Illinois Fighting Illini 57
This was likely the second biggest game of the day for the Big Ten and it largely lived up to the hype. Rutgers held a lead throughout, but things were highly competitive in the first half even without Ayo Dosunmu playing for the Illini. Unfortunately for Illinois, Rutgers proved to be too much and scored a 72-57 win.
With the win, Rutgers remained perfect at home and improved to 18-8 overall. The Scarlet Knights are likely just a win away from securing an NCAA bid. Something that would have been unfathomable a few years ago. The team will hope to get that on Wednesday at home against Michigan.
For Illinois, this was another tough loss. After starting the season with a 16-5 record, the team has now lost four in a row. And with a road game at Penn State awaiting on Tuesday and Dosunmu seemingly out of the lineup, that streak could be extending. The team is also now three games behind Maryland in the Big Ten standings. The one saving grace is that Illinois gets a pretty favorable slate to close the regular season after the Penn State game. Find a way to win there and the team could build a lot of late season momentum.
This game was far more competitive in the first half than many might have expected. However, the wheels came off for the Huskers in the second half and Wisconsin was able to walk away with a convincing road win. It pushed Wisconsin to 15-10 overall and Nebraska fell to 7-18 overall and to 2-12 in Big Ten play. The Badgers will now prepare for a huge home game against Purdue on Tuesday night, while the Huskers will hope to get back on track against Michigan State at home on Thursday.