The 2022 Big Ten Tournament tipped off on Wednesday with two intriguing matchups between desperate teams hoping to keep their seasons alive. Nebraska faced off against Northwestern early on and then Minnesota and Penn State battled later on.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
A few weeks ago, this result wouldn’t have been surprising. Nebraska was amid one of its worst season in recent memory and Northwestern still had some faint hopes of putting together a postseason roster. However, Northwestern then nosedived while Nebraska finished the regular season with three straight wins, including two ranked road wins. Perhaps the Huskers could carry that success into a magical Big Ten Tournament run.
Unfortunately for Husker fans, that wouldn’t be the case.
While Nebraska controlled the game early on and seemed to be pulling away after halftime, the wheels came off late, allowing Northwestern to grab the win. Boo Buie led the way with 16 points and three assists. Pete Nance also had 14 points.
For Northwestern, the win keeps the team’s season alive and pushed the Wildcats to 15-15 overall. It also pushes Northwestern into Thursday’s slate and a matchup against Iowa. The Wildcats only faced the Hawkeyes once during the regular season, which came on February 28th. It was a lopsided win for Iowa. Wildcat fans will be hoping for a different result this time around.
On the other side, Nebraska’s season ends with the loss. Despite some modest preseason hopes, Nebraska simply couldn’t deliver on that optimism, finishing the season at 10-22 overall. And even if the last week of the regular season was exciting, it was the footnote on a horrendous year for Fred Hoiberg and company.
The program has already announced Hoiberg’s return for next season, so fans will be hoping things improve. The primary focus on the moment will be on players like Bryce McGowens, who will have some decisions to make in the coming weeks. Husker fans will hope he and others return to Lincoln.
-Penn State Nittany Lions 60, Minnesota Golden Gophers 50
Like the game above, this is another one that likely would have gone differently had it been played earlier in the season. However, this one took place on Wednesday and Penn State took advantage of a reeling Gopher squad, grabbing a 60-50 win. Jalen Pickett led the way with 22 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Sam Sessoms also finished with 14 points.
The win pushed Penn State to 13-16 overall and into the Thursday slate of games against Ohio State. The Nittany Lions project as significant underdogs in that game, especially considering Penn State lost both of its regular season meetings with Ohio State. However, the Buckeyes have been struggling lately, so perhaps Penn State can take advantage.
On the other side, Minnesota’s season comes to an end with the loss in one of the more unusual seasons you’ll ever see. The Gophers were universally panned coming into the season, with most expecting last (or close to last) Big Ten finishes. However, Minnesota surprised out of the gate, jumping out to a 10-1 start. And even if most were a bit skeptical of that record thanks to a weak slate of opening opponents, there were enough quality wins in there to have some faith in the Gophers.
Unfortunately, things fell apart after that. Minnesota followed up that 10-1 start with a 3-16 performance to end the season, including six losses at home and losses to underwhelming Nebraska, Northwestern, and Penn State teams. Fans will hope Ben Johnson can build off what happened in the early months of this season in the coming months and bring a better roster back to Minneapolis.