The Big Ten had three games on Wednesday night, including a marquee showdown between Illinois and Missouri. Additionally, Indiana, Minnesota, and Nebraska also hosted mid-major opponents before their respective Christmas breaks.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
Since Brad Underwood’s arrival in Champaign, there’s been a lot to like for Illinois fans. He’s returned the program to national relevance, won last year’s Big Ten Tournament, and is recruiting at a nationally elite level. Illinois is also putting plenty of players into the pros.
Unfortunately, one spot where Illinois has fallen flat is against Missouri. Even when Illinois has been favored, the game has been more difficult than many would have projected, including a stunning loss last year. This all made for quite a showdown on Wednesday night between two teams desperate for a win. Illinois needed the win to move past its recent struggles with the Tigers, while Missouri was looking to build its resume.
The game itself would end up relatively one-sided. Illinois jumped out to a 27-12 lead early on and cruised from there. Kofi Cockburn led the way with 25 points and 14 rebounds. Alfonso Plummer also had a nice outing with 22 points. The team’s defense also held up well, holding Missouri to 0.89 points per possession.
With the win, Illinois improved to 9-3 overall heading into the team’s final non-conference game of the regular season against Florida A&M next Wednesday. The team remains red hot, having won seven of the team’s last eight games. And considering the only loss was a competitive game against Arizona, it’s hard to complain much.
-Indiana Hoosiers 79, Northern Kentucky Norse 61
After beating Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic last weekend, Indiana entered this one with some momentum. And fortunately for Hoosier fans, the game didn’t have much suspense. Indiana cruised to an easy 18-point victory thanks to 21 points from Trayce Jackson-Davis. The Hoosiers are now 10-2 overall and remain undefeated at home. Indiana will close out non-con play next Wednesday at home against UNC Asheville.
-Minnesota Golden Gophers 72, Green Bay Phoenix 56
This was a lopsided matchup on paper and played out the same way on the court. Minnesota scored an easy win against one of the nation’s weakest teams to improve to 10-1 overall on the season. The Gophers have likewise won three straight. Minnesota will close out play this year at home against Alcorn State on the 29th.
-Nebraska Cornhuskers 88, Kennesaw State Owls 74
It’s been a horrific last few weeks for Nebraska’s program. The Huskers took a promising 5-2 start and nosedived, losing five straight and falling to 5-7 overall. Fortunately for Husker fans, that pain ended on Wednesday night as Nebraska was able to grab an 88-74 win at home. Four Huskers scored double-digits, including 18 points for Keisei Tominaga.
Nebraska will now get a week off before opening up play in 2022 at home against Ohio State on January 2nd. It almost feels like a “last stand” of sorts, though that’s probably a bit hyperbolic. We’ll have to wait and see what happens there.