The Big Ten had two games on Wednesday night, highlighted by a matchup between Michigan and Rutgers for NCAA Tournament positioning in Ann Arbor. Additionally, Wisconsin also went on the road to face arch-rival Minnesota.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Michigan Wolverines 71, Rutgers Scarlet Knights 62
Heading into tip, this one figured to have plenty of drama on and off the court. The teams not only entered with significant Tourney implications on the line, but Michigan was also reeling after Sunday’s incident involving Juwan Howard striking a Wisconsin assistant coach, which resulted in the suspension of Howard and two key role players in Moussa Diabate and Terrence Williams. Assistant coach Phil Martelli was tapped as Howard’s temporary replacement with nobody being quite sure about what to expect moving forward.
The game itself proved highly competitive in the first half. Michigan grabbed an early lead, but was never able to distance itself from the Scarlet Knights in the opening 20 minutes. Every time the Wolverines would hit a big shot, Rutgers would respond accordingly. However, Michigan was finally able to get some space in the second half thanks to a few big buckets from Caleb Houstan and Kobe Bufkin and eventually grabbed a pivotal 71-62 win.
Obviously, this was a big one for the Wolverines for a variety of reasons. Michigan not only needed this one to put some distance between itself and Sunday’s ugliness, but it also desperately needed this game for its NCAA resume. Michigan continues to sit squarely on the bubble and needs every win it can get, especially against other bubble teams at home. This one pushed the Wolverines to 15-11 overall, 9-7 in Big Ten play, and on the right side of things for the time being.
For Rutgers, this will be a tough one to stomach. The Scarlet Knights didn’t play well, but this looked like a great opportunity to get a resume-building road win against a short-handed Michigan team. Instead, Rutgers fell to 16-11 overall and 10-7 in Big Ten play with the loss. The team is now going to have a ton of pressure heading into its final three games.
Moving forward, Michigan will now prepare for Illinois at home on Sunday while Rutgers will get Wisconsin at home on Saturday. Both present as marquee opportunities.
-No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers 68, Minnesota Golden Gophers 67
This looked like a potential trap game heading into tip and very much felt that way in the closing minutes, as Wisconsin desperately tried to fight off the Gophers. However, the Badgers were able to get the job done thanks in large part to 20 points from Steven Crowl.
Wisconsin improved to 22-5 overall and 13-4 in Big Ten play with the win while Minnesota fell to 13-13 overall and 4-13 in Big Ten play with the loss. The Badgers will now prepare for Rutgers on the road on Saturday while Minnesota gets Indiana at home on Sunday.