The Big Ten had a loaded slate on Tuesday night, featuring two ranked teams and three others trying to build NCAA Tournament resumes. All told, we got to see some dramatic finishes and a huge win for Illinois.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Illinois Fighting Illini 62, No. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions 56
This was easily the Big Ten’s biggest game of the night on Tuesday and it certainly lived up to the hype. Illinois had been struggling recent and Penn State looked nearly unbeatable,b ut the Illini figured out a way to go on the road and knock off the Nittany Lions. Ayo Dosunmu led the way with 24 points and four rebounds.
For Illinois, this is a significant one. Not only because the win stopped the team’s recent four-game slide, but beating a top 10 team on the road is no easy task. And while Illinois seemed likely to make the NCAA Tournament, the recent losses had some fans doubting. Beating Penn State will certainly help things. Illinois will now get some time off before facing off against Nebraska at home next Monday night.
On the other side, Penn State saw its eight-game winning streak snapped by Illinois and took a big hit with regard to the team’s Big Ten title hopes. The Nittany Lions are still alive, but losing a game at home is certainly a blow. Penn State will hope to regroup and get back on track for a road game against Indiana on Sunday.
-No. 7 Maryland Terrapins 76, Northwestern Wildcats 67
This game largely went according to play, with Maryland cruising to a 10-point win over a thoroughly over matched Northwestern team at home. The win pushed Maryland to 22-4 overall. The Terps have now won nine in a row in the nation’s toughest conference and sit two games up in the Big Ten standings. That’s quite a statement about how good Maryland has been this season.
The Terps will hope to keep things rolling on the road against Ohio State on Sunday. Meanwhile, Northwestern returns to action on Sunday at home against Minnesota.
-Wisconsin Badgers 69, Purdue Boilermakers 65
This was a crucially important matchup for both teams’ NCAA chances. Each desperately needs to add wins if they want to feel good heading into Selection Sunday. And fortunately for Badger fans, Wisconsin was able to do that on Tuesday night. The win pushed Wisconsin to 16-10 overall and to 9-6 in Big Ten play. Meanwhile, Purdue fell to 14-13 overall. The Badgers return to action on Sunday at home against Rutgers.
There’s little debating this loss will be tough for Boilermaker fans to stomach. Not only because the game was so winnable, but also because the loss delivered a huge blow to Purdue’s at-large hopes. The Boilermakers are now just 14-13 overall and only have four regular season games remaining. Purdue probably needs a perfect, or near perfect, finish to even have a shot at earning such a bid, and with matchups against teams like Iowa, Michigan, and Rutgers, it’s hard to feel like those are guaranteed wins. We’ll see if the team can get things turned around starting Saturday at home against Michigan.