The Big Ten only had two games on Saturday, but both were great matchups, highlighted by the late game between Maryland and Michigan State. A win would have pushed the Terps to the program’s first-ever Big Ten title.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 24 Michigan State Spartans 78, No. 9 Maryland Terrapins 66
With a Big Ten title on the line and College Gameday in attendance, there was more than a bit of fanfare surrounding the second regular season matchup between Maryland and Michigan State on Saturday night. The Spartans were coming off two straight wins and were hoping to play spoiler, while Maryland was hoping to build off a road win over Minnesota and lock up the program’s first-ever Big Ten title.
The game itself was competitive early on and fans got to enjoy a fantastic crowd. It was probably one of the better environments in the Big Ten this season, and maybe even going back a few years. Unfortunately for the Terp fans in attendance, Michigan State started to take over before halftime and never really looked back. Maryland did what it could to keep things interesting, but never got close enough to pull off the win. All told, Michigan State grabbed a really impressive 78-66 win.
For Michigan State, it’s hard to undersell the importance of this one. After losing at home to Maryland a few weeks ago, things looked pretty dire in East Lansing. The team was just 17-9 overall and had lost four of its last five games. And with a really challenging closing slate, some were starting to wonder whether the Spartans might even be at risk of missing the NCAA Tournament altogether. An incredible statement for a team ranked No. 1 preseason.
But fast forward two weeks and the Spartans are now in great position. The team is 20-9 overall, 12-6 in Big Ten play, and now has a reasonable chance of winning out. Michigan State is almost certainly going to get a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament and seems to be playing some of its best basketball to date. The improvement of Malik Hall and Rocket Watts over the last few months has been a huge boost. The Spartans will return to action on Tuesday on the road against Penn State.
On the other side, there’s no denying Terp fans will be disappointed in this result. Maryland seemed set to make a statement on Saturday night and the fans were in a celebratory mood. Instead, Maryland dropped its first home game of the season and has now lost two of its last three games. The Big Ten title is still in reach, but the Terps need to win one of the team’s last two games. Those efforts will restart on Tuesday when Maryland travels north to face a desperate Rutgers squad.
-No. 18 Iowa Hawkeyes 77, No. 16 Penn State Nittany Lions 68
After falling on the road against Michigan State on Tuesday, Iowa came into this one ready to play and took care of business throughout. The game was over with a few minutes remaining and pushed Iowa to 20-9 overall and 11-7 in Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes will hope to keep things rolling next Tuesday at home against Purdue.
On the other side, the loss marked another tough blow to a reeling Penn State squad. After reaching 20-5 overall, Penn State has now lost three of its four games and dropped from 11th to 20th on KenPom. If the Nittany Lions are going to get a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, it’s going to need to win out starting with Michigan State at home on Tuesday.