The Big Ten had an epic night of action on Thursday with three games featuring ranked teams, including multiple going on the road. Iowa went on the road to face Maryland, Wisconsin hosted Indiana, and Illinois and Northwestern matched up in a rivalry battle.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers 80, Indiana Hoosiers 73 (2OT)
Most expected Wisconsin to come out on top in this one, but few thought it would require two overtimes to get the job done. However, that’s exactly what happened. The game swung back and forth in the closing minutes of regulation and overtime until Wisconsin pulled away in the second overtime to grab an 80-73 win.
The biggest star of the evening was D’Mitrik Trice, who finished with an impressive 21 points, seven assists, and three rebounds in 47 (!!!) minutes of action. Trace Jackson-Davison was also great for Indiana, finishing with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists. Unfortunately for Indiana, the team just couldn’t get quite enough offensive production to come out on top.
For Wisconsin, the team improved to 10-2 overall and 4-1 in Big Ten play with the win. The Badgers will now get the weekend off before a monster showdown against undefeated Michigan on the road on Tuesday. It figures to be the biggest game of conference play for the Big Ten to date. Buckle up.
On the other side, Indiana fell to 7-5 overall and 2-3 in league play with the loss. The Hoosiers have lost three of the team’s last five games and really need a good finish to January to stay on track for the postseason. Indiana will get Nebraska on the road on Sunday as the team seeks its first road win of the season.
-No. 12 Illinois Fighting Illini 81, Northwestern Wildcats 56
Over the last decade or so covering college athletics, I’ve had the pleasure to watch hundreds of college basketball games. However, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one like this. Despite leading 43-28 at halftime and playing at home, Northwestern ended up losing on Thursday night by 25 points to the Illini. It was an unbelievable showing for Illinois in the second half, outscoring Northwestern by a 53-13 (!!!) margin.
The win pushed Illinois to 9-3 overall and 5-1 in Big Ten play. Normally, I would put something in here about Illinois struggling out of the gate and the team working on improving its starts, but it’s hard to complain about a 25-point conference road win. It was just a bizarre game. Fans should be happy and move on, as you might not see another game like this in Champaign for a decade or two. Illinois will return to action on Sunday at home against Maryland.
With the loss, Northwestern dropped to 6-4 overall and 3-3 in Big Ten play. The Wildcats are now on a three-game skid since knocking off Ohio State on Boxing Day. Fortunately, things will get easier (at least on paper) next week as Northwestern goes on the road to face Ohio State. Expect a highly motivated Buckeye squad.
-No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes 89, Maryland Terrapins 67
This was the least dramatic game of the night as Iowa cruised to a convincing win over Maryland. Luka Garza led the way with 25 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Iowa improved to 10-2 overall and 4-1 in Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes will return to action on Sunday at home against Minnesota and looking to avenge the team’s loss to the Gophers on Christmas Day last month.
Unfortunately for Maryland, Thursday marked the team’s third straight loss, fourth loss in five games, and sixth loss in eight games. All three of the team’s recent losses have come by double-digits. Thursday’s loss dropped Maryland to 6-6 overall and just 1-5 in Big Ten play. Time appears to be running out for the Terps. We’ll see if the team can rebound on Sunday on the road against Illinois.