The Big Ten had a loaded slate on Saturday with eight teams in action. Illinois faced off against Arizona and Nebraska played Auburn while Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin all continued conference play.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 21 Ohio State Buckeyes 73, No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers 55
While this one ended up being uncompetitive at the end, it truly was a great game with some impressive play from both sides. Ohio State came out with plenty of intensity and Wisconsin kept things close early before the Buckeyes proved to be too much. EJ Liddell led the way with 28 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. This performance likely established him as the early frontrunner for Big Ten Player of the Year.
For Ohio State, this is an absolutely massive win. Not only because Wisconsin was a good team coming off some solid wins itself, but the Buckeyes really needed to overcome their recent troubles with the Badgers. It was also a team effort. The team’s defense was fantastic from the opening tip and held Wisconsin to just 0.77 points per possession. It’s hard to ask for much more than that against a ranked team. Ohio State now sits at 8-2 overall and will get a week off before facing Kentucky next Saturday.
On the other side, Wisconsin fell to 8-2 with the loss and really has some questions to answer. While Jonathan Davis has been great this year, Saturday showed he can only do so much for the Badgers. The team needs to find offensive contributors alongside Davis if it hopes to win games at the highest level. Wisconsin will look to address some of those issues when it returns to play on Wednesday at home against Nicholls State.
-No. 17 Arizona Wildcats 83, Illinois Fighting Illini 79
Illinois really played pretty well in this one. The team had two players go off for 25 points and finished at 1.05 points per possession against a great defensive unit. Unfortunately, Arizona was even better. The Wildcats are playing like Final Four contenders right now and have an incredible eight-man rotation. It was simply too much for Illinois.
With the loss, Illinois fell to 7-3 overall. The team will now get a week off before facing St. Francis (PA) at home next Saturday.
-Minnesota Golden Gophers 75, Michigan Wolverines 65
Depending on your perspective, this was one of the more surprising games of Saturday as Minnesota went on the road and manhandled Michigan. The Gophers absolutely outplayed the Wolverines and deserved this win. And Jamison Battle led the way, finishing with 27 points and seven rebounds. Michigan simply had no answer for him and the Wolverines continue to struggle from deep, shooting an abysmal 3-for-18 (.167) from three-point range.
Minnesota improved to 8-1 overall and 1-1 in Big Ten play with the win while Michigan fell to a surprising 6-4 overall and 1-1 in Big Ten play with the loss. The Gophers will return to action on Tuesday at home against Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Michigan will hope to bounce back at home against Southern Utah on Saturday.
-No. 19 Michigan State Spartans 80, Penn State Nittany Lions 64
This was a solid performance for Michigan State. While the final score suggests the Spartans cruised to a win, Penn State made Michigan State earn its keep with some good defensive play and some great early shot selection. However, Michigan State was simply too much in transition and in the paint for the Nittany Lions. Marcus Bingham led the way with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Michigan State improved to 9-2 overall and 2-0 in Big Ten play with the win while Penn State fell to 5-5 overall and 0-2 in Big Ten play. The Spartans will get more than a week off before facing Oakland in Detroit on the 21st. Penn State will face VCU on the road on Saturday.
-No. 18 Auburn Tigers 99, Nebraska Cornhuskers 68
Yeah, that was an absolute butt kicking from opening tip. Nebraska really didn’t even play that poorly. Unfortunately for Husker fans, the team simply doesn’t have the guys to hang with an opponent like Auburn. The Huskers fell to 5-6 with the loss and have now lost four straight. Nebraska will return to action on the 19th at home against Kansas State.