The Big Ten had four games on Sunday and three of them had massive ramifications for the Big Ten and the league’s NCAA Tournament hopes. Illinois faced Indiana at home, Ohio State hoped to beat arch-rival Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern faced off, and Minnesota traveled to face Wisconsin.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 23 Ohio State Buckeyes 77, No. 19 Michigan Wolverines 63
While this ended up being a 14-point win for the Buckeyes, the final score was a bit misleading here. Michigan and Ohio State exchanged for the lead throughout the first 30 minutes of the game and the Buckeyes didn’t really finish things off until a 13-2 run in the final four minutes of action. Duane Washington led the way with 20 points and Ohio State grabbed a 77-63 win over the Wolverines.
For Ohio State, this was a big win for a variety of reasons. To start, anytime you beat a rival, it’s always going to be sweet. And this win gave the Buckeyes a regular season sweep over the Wolverines for the first time since the 2010-’11 season. That’s obviously something Buckeye fans were happy to see.
However, this win also came without forward Kyle Young, who was really impactful in the first meeting between the two schools in Ann Arbor, and came in a much better played game than the first matchup. This felt like two quality units matching up and to win that with a shortened bench speaks volumes. It was a group effort for Ohio State, who improved to 20-9 overall with the win and will now prepare for a home game against Illinois next Thursday night.
For Michigan, this is the team’s second straight loss after putting together a five-game winning streak. The Wolverines haven’t been playing great defense over the last week and really need to improve on that end if the team is going to achieve big things in March. Michigan will return to action on Thursday at home against Nebraska.
-Illinois Fighting Illini 67, Indiana Hoosiers 66
This looked like a really intriguing game on paper and the matchup generally lived up to the hype. The game went back and forth throughout, until Illinois did just enough in the closing minutes to grab a narrow 67-66 win. The Illini are now 20-9 overall with the victory and undoubtedly in the NCAA Tournament with two regular season games remaining. That’s great news for fans and the team will return to action on Thursday on the road against a rolling Ohio State squad.
For Indiana, this is going to be a tough one to stomach. The Hoosiers yet again came up short on the road. Indiana fought well, but still couldn’t get the job done. Indiana is now 18-11 overall and has lost two in a row and seven of the team’s last 10 games. The Hoosiers are still probably on the right side of the bubble, but fans are beginning to sweat. Indiana will now prepare for Minnesota at home on Wednesday, which feels like a must win in a lot of ways. We’ll see if the team can get the job done.
-Northwestern Wildcats 81, Nebraska Cornhuskers 76
Obviously, it’s been a rough season for both Nebraska and Northwestern fans. Despite some mild preseason hopes, both have gotten beaten down in Big Ten play. The Huskers went into this game with a 2-15 record in the league and Northwestern had an even worse 1-16 record. However, somebody had to win this one and it ended up beating Northwestern, who finished off the season sweep of the Huskers.
Nebraska will hope to get back on track on Thursday on the road against Michigan, while Northwestern will hope to keep things rolling on Wednesday on the road against Wisconsin.
-Wisconsin Badgers 71, Minnesota Golden Gophers 69
Although Wisconsin has arguably been the Big Ten’s hottest team over the last month, things weren’t easy on Sunday evening. Wisconsin had to fight for every point against a tough Minnesota squad and needed some late heroics to score a 71-69 win. Brad Davison led the way with 20 points, seven rebounds, and fifth assists.
Wisconsin now sits at 19-10 overall and seems like a pretty safe bet to make this year’s NCAA Tournament. The Badgers have now won six in a row and seven of the team’s last eight games. And with Northwestern at home on Wednesday, it seems like Wisconsin could add at least one more regular season win onto that run.
Meanwhile, Minnesota fell to 13-15 overall with the loss and have now lost five of six. The Gophers now seem like one of the teams that will need to win the Big Ten Tournament to have any chance of making the NCAAs. The team will return to action on Wednesday on the road against Indiana.