The Big Ten had a loaded slate on Saturday, featuring four teams with serious NCAA Tournament hopes and three teams in top 25 consideration. Illinois hosted Wisconsin in the early game, Northwestern traveled to face Purdue after that, and Michigan State hosted Nebraska as the Huskers came off a COVID-19 related pause.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 12 Illinois Fighting Illini 75, No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers 60
If one were to look back at the last month or so of conference play, they’d probably enter this game thinking Illinois would come out on top. The Illini have been playing really good basketball as of late, while Wisconsin has really struggled against quality opponents. It seemed like a classic game of teams heading in different directions.
And generally speaking, those predictions held up.
Wisconsin was more competitive than the final score suggested in this one, but Illinois remained in control for the entire afternoon thanks in large part to the quality play of Kofi Cockburn. The big man finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds in the win. Ayo Dosunmu also had 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists. It was quite a showing for the two.
The win pushed Illinois to 13-5 overall, 9-3 in Big Ten play, and squarely into the Big Ten title race. The Illini have now won four in a row and are clearly positioned as Michigan’s biggest competition for this year’s Big Ten crown. Whether we get to see the full conference race play out remains to be seen, but Illinois deserves a spot at the table. The two teams were scheduled to face off next Thursday before the game was postponed. It is unclear when Illinois will play next.
Wisconsin fell to 14-6 overall and 8-5 in Big Ten play with the loss. It was stunningly the team’s fourth loss in the last eight games and its fifth in its last 11 outings. The Badgers have played a tough schedule, but the team is clearly in free fall right now. The Big Ten title now seems out of reach. Fans will hope the team can bounce back next Thursday on the road against Nebraska.
-Michigan State Spartans 66, Nebraska Cornhuskers 56
While this wasn’t a particularly well played game, Michigan State was able to take care of business at home against an overmatched Nebraska squad. It was Nebraska’s first game back after nearly a month off from a COVID-19 related pause. The win pushed the Spartans to 9-7 overall and 3-7 in Big Ten play. Nebraska fell to 4-9 overall and 0-6 in Big Ten play.
Michigan State will now prepare for a key game against Penn State at home on Tuesday. Like this one, it feels like a must win for the Spartans. Nebraska will try and get back on track on Monday on the road against Minnesota.
-Purdue Boilermakers 75, Northwestern Wildcats 70
This game ended up closer than Boilermaker fans would have liked, but the result was as expected, with Purdue coming out on top. The win pushed Purdue to 13-7 overall and 8-5 in Big Ten play and the loss dropped the Wildcats to 6-10 overall and 3-9 in Big Ten play. Jaden Ivey led the way with 20 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.
Purdue will hope to keep things rolling on Thursday on the road against Minnesota. Meanwhile, Northwestern will try and snap its nine-game losing streak at home against Indiana on Wednesday.