The Big Ten had four games on Wednesday, which seems like the highest total for the league since early December. And while none of the matchups looked particularly interesting on paper, two of them ended up being competitive.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 24 Wisconsin Badgers 89, Illinois State Redbirds 85 (OT)
This is something I wrote about earlier this month, but things haven’t been going all that great for the Badgers over the last few weeks. While Wisconsin has generally been winning games, it hasn’t looked as sharp as it did early in the season. The loss to Ohio State was particularly rough and the Badgers needed some miraculous play down the stretch to avoid home losses to Indiana and Nicholls State.
That trend continued on Wednesday night.
For 40 minutes, Wisconsin played evenly with Illinois State. The Redbirds played really well offensively, finishing with 1.21 points per possession. Four players scored in double-digits and generally scorched what was presumed to be a pretty good Wisconsin defense. The Badgers were eventually able to avoid the upset, but needed an extra session to do it.
Obviously, it’s hard to feel great about this performance for the Badgers. This is a game Wisconsin should have won comfortably, even if the team is dealing with time off. Allowing two mediocre teams like Nicholls State and Illinois State to hang around isn’t encouraging. We’ll see if Greg Gard can get things fixed in the coming days. Otherwise, things could get rough as Wisconsin goes on the road to face Purdue next Monday.
-Iowa Hawkeyes 92, Western Illinois Leathernecks 71
For the eighth time (already) this season, Iowa hosted a team ranked outside the top 160 on KenPom and came away with a win. Western Illinois arrived as a considerable underdog and could do little to slow Iowa’s high-powered offensive attack. Keegan Murray led the way with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists. He continues to play at an All-American level.
Iowa will now enter the restart of Big Ten play at 10-3 overall. The Hawkeyes will open up things at home against Maryland on Monday. It’s a huge game for both sides.
-No. 10 Michigan State Spartans 81, High Point Panthers 68
Due to COVID-19 issues, Michigan State played this one down a number of key players, including two starters. That led to a slow start out of the gate and some significant struggles in slowing down High Point’s offense. Ultimately, Michigan State settled down and got the win, but it was certainly much closer than fans would have liked to see. The Spartans trailed at half and needed 24 points from Gabe Brown to get the win.
Michigan State improved to 11-2 overall with the win and will now prepare for a challenging road trip to Northwestern on Sunday. The Wildcats have vastly exceeded expectations so far and have certainly circled the game on the calendar. It should be a fun one.
-No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers 104, Nicholls State Colonels 90
There isn’t much to take away from this one. Purdue hosted a drastically overmatched opponent at home and came away with a comfortable 104-90 win. Zach Edey finished with 21 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Purdue improved to 12-1 overall with the win and will return to action on Monday at home against Wisconsin.