The Big Ten had two crucial games on Thursday night, with Rutgers going on the road to face Penn State and Iowa hosting Indiana. The first two teams were desperate for a win after some recent struggles and the Hawkeyes were hoping to keep pace with Michigan in the Big Ten title race with a home win.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Indiana Hoosiers 81, No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes 69
Sometimes, there are upsets you see coming. Something about the teams, location, or timing implies weird things are going to happen. It’s just the nature of college sports. You put a team on the road in the right setting and magic happens.
But Thursday night’s game was not among those.
In perhaps the most surprising outcome of Big Ten play so far this season, Indiana went into Iowa City and scored an 81-69 win over the Hawkeyes. Indiana’s defense shut down a prolific Iowa offense in the second half and made players like Jordan Bohannon and Luka Garza look average. It was an incredible showing for the Hoosiers and unquestionably the best win of Archie Miller’s tenure in Bloomington.
For Indiana, it’s hard to undersell the significance of this win. Not only because it gives the team a marquee victory on its resume for Selection Sunday, but what it could do to the team’s psyche moving forward. Indiana has really struggled against marquee opponents under Miller and beating one on the road like this is going to do big things for the team’s confidence moving forward. One win becomes two and suddenly the remaining slate doesn’t look quite as daunting. Indiana is set to return to action on Sunday at home against Rutgers.
Unfortunately, things don’t look so rosy on the other side. Iowa entered this game atop the Big Ten standings, but now finds itself a full game back from Michigan with plenty of questions to answer about things moving forward. Perhaps Iowa was looking ahead or underestimated Indiana, it’s hard to say. However, the team that showed up on Thursday isn’t good enough to achieve Iowa’s lofty goals this year. Fans are going to have to hope the Hawkeyes can bounce back next Friday on the road against Illinois.
-Penn State Nittany Lions 75, Rutgers Scarlet Knights 67
While Penn State deserves some credit for scoring its first Big Ten win of the season, Thursday night was more of an indictment of Rutgers than anything else. After the great finish to last season and the fast start this year, most were feeling pretty good about the Scarlet Knights and where things were headed for March. But Thursday marked the culmination of a slide that started in late December. It was a tough blow that won’t be easy to overcome for the Scarlet Knights.
It’s one thing for Rutgers to lose to teams like Iowa and Wisconsin, but there’s no excusing what happened on Thursday night. The Scarlet Knights were thoroughly outplayed and the team’s stars did little to stem the tide. Geo Baker and Montez Mathis finished with offensive ratings below 100 and the team’s offense only produced 0.96 points per possession. That’s simply not going to cut it in a league like the Big Ten.
There’s still time for Rutgers to get things turned around, but it’s not exactly going to be easy. The team is just 7-6 overall and has a really challenging slate ahead, starting with Indiana on the road on Sunday, Michigan State at home on Thursday, and Northwestern on the road next weekend. It’s officially time to hit the panic button on the Scarlet Knights.
As for Penn State, this was a long time coming. The Nittany Lions have played well enough to win a lot of games this season, but kept falling short. Fans will hope this can spur a nice turnaround. The team gets Northwestern at home on Saturday. Penn State is favored heading into tip.