The Big Ten had three games on Tuesday night and all three had Big Ten title implications. Ohio State hosted Purdue in the early game, Maryland went on the road to face Michigan in the second game, and Illinois hosted Penn State in the late game.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Purdue Boilermakers 67, No. 15 Ohio State Buckeyes 65
While most attention has been around Iowa and Michigan the last few weeks, two teams quietly ascending up the standings were Ohio State and Purdue. Each had improved to 5-3 in Big Ten play and were legitimately right on the edge of being in the title discussion. It made Tuesday’s meeting even more important, as a win would propel someone near the top of the conference standings, at least for a few days.
The game itself was highly competitive. And while Ohio State controlled most of the early play, Purdue was able to keep things close enough to be within striking distance until just under 10 minutes to go when the Boilermakers made their push. Purdue hit a few big buckets and eventually grabbed a narrow 67-65 road victory over the Buckeyes.
For Purdue, it’s hard to understate the importance of this win. Beating Ohio State on the road is a statement in itself, but Tuesday could drastically change the outlook for the team’s season. Purdue now sits at 11-5 overall, 6-3 in Big Ten play, and truly on the verge of becoming a major player for the Big Ten title. If you don’t believe me, just look at the team’s next four games:
Purdue’s Next Four Games (KenPom Odds To Win):
- 1/22 - Michigan (40%)
- 1/30 - Minnesota (57%)
- 2/2 - at Maryland (52%)
- 2/6 - Northwestern (74%)
The game against the Wolverines looks daunting, but Purdue’s one upset away from being in great position to win its next four games. And a win over Michigan would mean a “double whammy” for the Boilermakers, pushing the team up the standings and knocking down someone above them. We’ll have to wait and see if the team can capitalize.
For Ohio State, this will be a tough one to stomach. The Buckeyes controlled much of the game, led with about six minutes remaining, and still came up short. The absence of CJ Walker will certainly make many wonder whether Ohio State would have won if the team had been at full strength. Fans will hope the Buckeyes can rebound on Saturday on the road against Wisconsin. It certainly won’t be easy.
-No. 22 Illinois Fighting Illini 79, Penn State Nittany Lions 65
After two disappointing outings, Illinois finally got back on track on Tuesday with a win over the Nittany Lions. Kofi Cockburn dominated all night, finishing with an impressive 21 points and 12 rebounds. The win pushed Illinois to 10-5 overall and 6-3 in Big Ten play while Penn State dropped to 3-6 overall and 0-5 in league play.
Illinois will now prepare for a showdown against Iowa at home on Friday. At this point, it’s hard to view that as anything other than an elimination game for Illinois’ Big Ten title hopes. Win and you’re still a factor. Lose and it’s probably over. Meanwhile, Penn State will look to bounce back at home on Thursday against Rutgers.
-No. 7 Michigan Wolverines 87, Maryland Terrapins 63
While Michigan won the first meeting between the two in College Park, most thought this game could be pretty competitive after the Wolverines fell on the road against Minnesota last weekend. However, that wouldn’t end up being the case, as Michigan cruised to a 24-point victory that was over well before the closing buzzer. It was a nice bounce back for the Wolverines and pushed the team to 12-1 overall and 7-1 in Big Ten play. The loss dropped Maryland to 8-7 overall and 2-6 in Big Ten play.
Both teams will now prepare for challenging games this weekend. Michigan will go on the road to face Purdue on Friday while Maryland will face Minnesota on the road on Saturday.