The Big Ten had three intriguing games on Saturday, highlighted by a showdown between Illinois and Michigan State in East Lansing. The other two games featured Iowa and Ohio State facing off and Minnesota hosting Northwestern.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 12 Illinois Fighting Illini 79, No. 19 Michigan State Spartans 74
Heading into tip, this felt like it was going to be one of the Big Ten’s best games of the season. Both teams were playing for the Big Ten title, they had played a great game earlier in the season in Champaign, and both were desperate for wins after tough losses on the road earlier in the week. It felt like it was going to be a blood bath.
All told, it would end up that way.
While Illinois controlled early, Michigan State came thundering back in the closing minutes, turning what looked like a blowout into a tight game. Unfortunately for Spartan fans, Illinois made just enough plays down the stretch to grab the win. Jacob Grandison led the way with 24 points, five assists, and five rebounds. Illinois eventually grabbed a 79-74 win.
For Illinois, this was a big one. It not only added a great win to the team’s resume, but also kept them atop the Big Ten standings, which is even more important to fans right now. It also removes a massive remaining obstacle from Illinois’ schedule, as the team now only has four games left with three at home. There’s still a scenario where Illinois misses out on the Big Ten title, but it’s not looking likely.
On the other side, this is going to be a tough one for Spartan fans to stomach. Losing the game is one thing, but to come all the way back and fall short? That’s a tough pill to swallow, especially after a putrid loss to Penn State earlier this week as well. Michigan State is now officially on a skid, having lost four of the team’s last five games. All told, the team is just 4-6 over its last 10 games. Not a great sign as we move toward March.
Illinois will return to action on Thursday at home against Ohio State. Meanwhile, Michigan State will prepare for a road game against Iowa on Tuesday.
-Iowa Hawkeyes 75, No. 18 Ohio State Buckeyes 62
This was one of the more bizarre results of the season. Ohio State entered this game coming off two straight wins over Michigan and Minnesota while Iowa was coming off one of its worst games of the season against Michigan at home on Tuesday. This felt like a comfortable Buckeye win. Instead, Iowa would score a 13-point win. Ohio State had no answer for Keegan Murray all night, allowing him to go for 24 points on 17 attempts.
Iowa improved to 18-8 overall and 8-7 in Big Ten play with the win while Ohio State fell to 16-7 overall and 9-5 in Big Ten play with the loss. The Hawkeyes will hope to keep things going against Michigan State at home on Tuesday. Ohio State will hope to bounce back against Indiana at home on Monday.
-Minnesota Golden Gophers 77, Northwestern Wildcats 60
This was one of the more overlooked games of the day, but featured two teams hoping to build momentum for the postseason. Ultimately, Minnesota scored a comfortable 17-point win thanks to 24 points from Luke Loewe and 21 points from Jamison Battle. Minnesota will now prepare for a home game against Wisconsin on Wednesday. Northwestern will get Nebraska at home on Tuesday.