The Big Ten opened up conference play on Friday with two intriguing matchups. Illinois hosted Rutgers in the early game and undefeated Iowa and Purdue squads tangled in the late game. All four teams made last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers 77, Iowa Hawkeyes 70
While some overlooked this one, it had all the makings of a massive showdown. The teams entered with a combined 14-0 record, had elite offenses, and plenty of star power. Additionally, Purdue started with one of the most impressive opening stretches in the country. The late injury to Keegan Murray took some of the air out of the balloon, but there was still a lot to like about this one before tip.
And the game itself largely lived up to the hype. Purdue took control early on and maintained some distance, but Iowa was always able to keep it close enough to be competitive. Patrick McCaffery led the way for the Hawkeyes with 15 points, five rebounds, and three assists. However, Purdue proved to be too much thanks to 19 points from Jaden Ivey. The sophomore guard continues to impress.
For Purdue, this was a massive win. Not only because it came against a quality opponent, but also because it sets the Boilermakers up for a potential number one ranking on Monday morning with Duke’s loss earlier this week. The team now sits at 8-0 overall with four wins against top 40 opponents. It’s been a remarkable start and Purdue isn’t done yet. The team looks well set to stay unbeaten into January (and maybe even beyond). Purdue will return to action on Thursday on the road against Rutgers.
On the other side, Iowa fell to 7-1 with the loss. However, the team performed well without Murray and will have a chance to rebound with Illinois at home on Monday. A win there would build a lot of confidence in the Hawkeyes moving forward.
-Illinois Fighting Illini 86, Rutgers Scarlet Knights 51
Heading into this one, both teams arrived with some frustration. Illinois had struggled to match its sizable preseason expectations and Rutgers had already lost three games, including a horrid home loss to Lafayette. This felt like an opportunity for both sides to show they had overcome their earlier struggles.
And when all was said and done, one team did.
Unfortunately for Scarlet Knight fans, it sure wasn’t Rutgers.
From the onset, this was a lopsided affair. Illinois jumped out to a double-digit lead early in the first half and never looked back. Alfonso Plummer led the way with 24 points and Kofi Cockburn finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds. All told, Illinois grabbed an 86-51 win.
Illinois improved to 6-2 with the win and Rutgers fell to 4-4 with the loss. Illinois will now head on the road for a key matchup against Iowa on Monday night, while the Scarlet Knights will try and regroup against Purdue at home next Thursday.