The Big Ten had two games with postseason implications on Saturday. Rutgers went on the road to face Minnesota in the early game and Iowa hosted Penn State later on.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Minnesota Golden Gophers 68, Rutgers Scarlet Knights 65
The Gophers would have ordinarily been a decent favorite in this one heading into tip, but were coming off a COVID-19 pause and without several of the team’s most important players. As such, Rutgers was hoping to pull off the road upset. Both really need a win to improve their NCAA hopes.
The game itself was fantastic. It swung back and forth throughout and came down to the final seconds. Rutgers had multiple opportunities to grab the win, but couldn’t get it done, allowing Minnesota to escape with the win. Payton Willis led the way with 32 points, seven assists, and three rebounds. All four of Minnesota’s starters played at least 37 minutes, showcasing how shorthanded the team was heading into Saturday.
For Minnesota, this was a crucial win. The team had lost four straight heading into tip and was struggling to overcome a COVID-19 outbreak. Without getting hyperbolic, Minnesota was on the edge of seeing its season spiral. Instead, it got a valuable win for its NCAA resume and survived to fight another day. The Gophers can now prepare for a matchup against Ohio State at home on Thursday.
On the other side, Rutgers fans have to be crushed about this one. Not only because the game was so competitive, but primarily because the Scarlet Knights couldn’t close on a really winnable opportunity. You don’t get great road opportunities often in the Big Ten and Rutgers had one Saturday with a short-handed Minnesota. Rutgers will now have to hope to rebound against Maryland at home on Tuesday.
After a tough loss on the road to Rutgers, Iowa returned home on Saturday hoping to take care of business against Penn State. Fortunately for Hawkeye fans, that’s exactly what happened as Iowa scored an 17-point victory to improve to 14-5 overall and 4-4 in Big Ten play. Keegan Murray led the way with 15 points and eight rebounds. Penn State fell to 8-8 overall and 3-5 in Big Ten play with the loss.
Iowa will now enter the final week of January trying to finalize its NCAA Tournament resume with Purdue at home on Thursday and a return game against Penn State on the 31st. Penn State will get Indiana on the road on Wednesday before the rematch.