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1/29 Big Ten Recap: Illinois Avoids Upset

Recap all the Big Ten action from Saturday.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten had a loaded slate on Saturday that included four games and two ranked teams in action. Michigan traveled to face Michigan State, Northwestern hosted Illinois, Indiana battled Maryland on the road, and Nebraska hosted Rutgers.

Let’s take a look at what happened.

Game of the Night:

-No. 24 Illinois Fighting Illini 59, Northwestern Wildcats 56

When fans learned Kofi Cockburn would return for Illinois on Saturday, there weren’t many who thought this would be a close game. However, Northwestern had other thoughts. Illinois would end up escaping, but it wouldn’t be easy, as the team needed some late game heroics to avoid a loss. Kofi Cockburn led the way with 22 points and nine rebounds.

Illinois improved to 15-5 overall and 8-2 in Big Ten play with the win and kept its place atop the Big Ten standings as a result. The team will now prepare for arguably its most important three-game stretch of the season with the following:

  • 2/2 - Wisconsin
  • 2/5 - at Indiana
  • 2/8 - at Purdue

Go 2-1 or better in those games and the Big Ten title will be sitting on a silver platter. Of course, that’ll be easier said than done. All of those games look challenging.

On the other side, Northwestern fell to 9-10 overall and 2-8 in Big Ten play with the loss. The Wildcats have now lost four straight and eight of the team’s last nine games. And most of those have come in brutal fashion, with just a possession or two deciding the outcome. Northwestern will hope to get back on track on Tuesday at home against Rutgers.

The Rest:

-Indiana Hoosiers 68, Maryland Terrapins 55

Both these teams entered Saturday’s game with some serious postseason goals on the line. Indiana was looking to get a win to polish off its NCAA resume while Maryland was trying to add another upset to resurrect its goals. All told, Indiana was able to get an impressive road win led by 18 points from Race Thompson.

Indiana will now prepare for a massive game against Illinois at home on Saturday. The Terps will hope to get back on track against Michigan State on Tuesday.

-No. 10 Michigan State Spartans 83, Michigan Wolverines 67

Michigan State entered this one as a solid favorite, but there was some intrigue after the Wolverines had shown considerably improved play in recent weeks. Unfortunately for Michigan fans, the team could only hang for a half. After that, Michigan State cruised to a blowout victory of its in-state rivalry. AJ Hoggard led the way with 11 points and 10 assists.

The Spartans improved to 16-4 overall and 7-2 in Big Ten play with the win while Michigan fell to 10-8 overall and 4-4 in Big Ten play with the loss. The Spartans will return to action on Tuesday on the road against Maryland. Michigan will hope to rebound at home against Nebraska on Tuesday night.

-Rutgers Scarlet Knights 63, Nebraska Cornhuskers 61

This very nearly turned into one of Rutgers’ worst losses of the season. However, the Scarlet Knights got just enough key plays down the stretch to avoid the upset. Mawot Mag led the way with 13 points and seven rebounds. Rutgers improved to 12-8 overall and 6-4 in Big Ten play with the win while Nebraska fell to 6-15 overall and 0-10 in Big Ten play.

Rutgers will now prepare for a road trip to Northwestern on Tuesday. Nebraska will hope to get back on track on Tuesday on the road against Michigan.