The Big Ten had a great slate of games on Thursday night, featuring four games and four top 10 teams in action. Michigan hosted Iowa in a top 10 matchup, Nebraska traveled to face Illinois, Michigan State hosted Ohio State, and Minnesota and Northwestern faced off.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 3 Michigan Wolverines 79, No. 9 Iowa Hawkeyes 57
With Iowa’s recent uptick on defense, it felt like this could be quite a battle on Thursday night. And while the first half was competitive, Michigan ran away with things in the second half thanks to some great play from Hunter Dickinson and Franz Wagner. Michigan’s defense also had quite a showing, holding a loaded Iowa offense to 57 points. Luka Garza was also held to just 16 points and an 83 offensive rating.
For Michigan, the win pushed the team to 17-1 overall, 12-1 in Big Ten play, and on the verge of locking up a one seed, assuming the team hasn’t done it already. The win also puts Michigan even closer to winning its first Big Ten title since 2014, with the team now only needing two more wins to lock things up. The Wolverines look like serious contenders to win it all this season after winning six straight, including four against top 20 opponents.
Iowa fell to 17-7 overall and 11-6 in Big Ten play with Thursday’s loss. It was easily the team’s worst loss of the season and the first time the Hawkeyes have looked uncompetitive all year. Multiple Iowa players also got banged up in the team, raising concerns about how the team will respond to the loss. Jack Nunge was on crutches and Joe Wieskamp had a few tough plays. It wasn’t a fun night in Iowa City.
Michigan will now prepare for a road trip to face Indiana on Saturday. Iowa will hope to bounce back with Ohio State on the road on Sunday.
-No. 5 Illinois Fighting Illini 86, Nebraska Cornhuskers 70
This wasn’t supposed to be an intriguing game, but after Ayo Dosunmu went down with injury, things suddenly became far more interesting. However, those concerns proved unfounded as Illinois cruised to a 16-point win over Nebraska to improve to 17-6 overall and 13-4 in Big Ten play. Illinois will now face Wisconsin on the road on Saturday. Nebraska will hope to bounce back against Minnesota at home on Saturday.
-Michigan State Spartans 71, No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes 67
This one ended controversially, but Michigan State ended up upsetting Ohio State with a 71-67 win. While the Buckeyes were favored before tip, things looked far more competitive given Michigan State’s performances against Indiana and Illinois in recent days. Aaron Henry had another great night, finishing with 18 points, four rebounds, and four assists.
It’s hard to understate the importance of this win for Michigan State. The team was teetering on the NCAA bubble heading into Thursday night, but now finds itself having a pretty realistic shot of making the cut. TRank has the Spartans as the fourth team out of the field right now and with a 32.7 percent chance of making the cut. Even a split over the team’s final four games might be enough to get the job done. We’ll see if the Spartans can pull off another magical run in March.
Michigan State will now prepare for a crucial game against Maryland on the road on Sunday, while Ohio State will get Iowa at home on Sunday.
-Northwestern Wildcats 67, Minnesota Golden Gophers 59
The Gophers have been in free fall in recent weeks and this ended up being just another a continuation of those struggles. Minnesota controlled the first half, but fell apart later on, allowing Northwestern to take control and grab the win. The victory snapped a 13-game losing streak for the Wildcats. Boo Buie finished with 25 points in the win. Northwestern will hope to keep things going next Wednesday at home against Maryland.
For Minnesota, this is an absolutely brutal loss. The team was on the NCAA bubble heading into Thursday night and now finds itself with some serious work to do with time running out. And things certainly don’t seem to be trending in the right direction. Minnesota has now lost four straight and seven of the team’s last nine games. The Gophers will hope to get back on track against Nebraska on the road on Saturday. A loss there would almost certainly kill the team’s NCAA hopes and potentially Richard Pitino’s tenure as well.