The Big Ten had two games on Wednesday and both had serious Big Ten title implications. Purdue went on the road to face Minnesota and Illinois hosted Wisconsin.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 18 Illinois Fighting Illini 80, No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers 67
This looked like an incredible matchup heading into tip. Both teams were sitting near the top of the Big Ten and had momentum, each having won two straight. It seemed like one of those colossal meetings where the Big Ten title might be decided.
Early on, the game lived up to that billing. The two teams battled back and forth and Illinois went into halftime with a narrow four-point lead. However, Wisconsin could never find an answer to Kofi Cockburn and found itself massively outplayed in the second half. Cockburn finished with an incredible 37 points and 12 rebounds in arguably the best game of his career. Jacob Grandison also had 14 points.
For Illinois, it’s hard to understate the significance of this win. The team improved to 16-5 overall and 9-2 in Big Ten play with the win and now sits alone atop the Big Ten standings more than halfway through the conference season. There’s still a long way to go, but that’s a great place to be moving into February. Even just win the games you should and Illinois will be in position to grab the conference title.
On the other side, Wisconsin fell to 17-4 overall and 8-3 in Big Ten play with the loss. The Badgers also remain alive for the Big Ten title. However, this loss will leave a mark. The team now needs help to get back in the running and has a pretty challenging slate to close the regular season.
Illinois will now prepare for a vital road game against Indiana on Saturday. Wisconsin will hope to rebound at home against Penn State on Saturday.
-No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers 88, Minnesota Golden Gophers 73
This projected as a potential upset opportunity for the Gophers, but Minnesota found itself unable to capitalize, falling by 15 points at home against the Boilers. Jaden Ivey led the way for Purdue with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. Purdue improved to 19-3 overall and 8-3 in Big Ten play with the win while Minnesota fell to 11-8 overall and 2-8 in Big Ten play with the loss.
For Purdue, the win allowed the Boilermakers to keep pace in the Big Ten standings. The team will now prepare for a home game against Michigan on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Gophers, the loss just adds another hurdle to the team’s postseason hopes. Minnesota will hope to bounce back against Iowa on the road on Sunday.