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3/3 Big Ten Recap: Illinois Avoids Upset Bid

Recap all the Big Ten action from Thursday.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten had three games on Thursday night and all had significant postseason implications. Illinois hosted Penn State early on, Michigan State traveled to face Ohio State, and Michigan battled with Iowa.

Let’s take a look at what happened.

Game of the Night:

-No. 20 Illinois Fighting Illini 60, Penn State Nittany Lions 55

While I didn’t expect to be writing about this game as the league’s Game of the Night for Thursday, it’s well justified. Despite a significant spread and and teams coming off divergent results last weekend (Illinois won at Michigan while Penn State lost to Nebraska), this one ended up going down to the wire, with Illinois barely avoiding a huge upset at home. Da’Monte Williams led the way with 14 points, three rebounds, and two assists.

For Illinois, the win pushed the team to 21-8 overall and 14-5 in Big Ten play. It also kept the team’s faint Big Ten title hopes alive. Illinois will need another win and a Wisconsin loss over the weekend to get there, but crazier things have happened. We’ll have to see if the team can close out the regular season with a win against Iowa at home on Sunday.

On the other side, Penn State fell to 12-15 overall and 7-12 in Big Ten play with the loss. It was a genuine heart breaker, as the team looked poised to grab the road win several times. The Nittany Lions will hope to rebound on the road against Rutgers on Sunday.

The Rest:

-No. 24 Iowa Hawkeyes 82, Michigan Wolverines 71

Heading into tip, this looked like it was going to be one of those early March battles that set the stage for special things in March. Iowa entered having won seven of its last eight and Michigan was coming off a blowout win against Michigan State on Tuesday. Add in that Iowa’s sole loss over the last month had been against the Wolverines in Iowa City and things looked really intriguing.

Unfortunately for Wolverine fans, the game wouldn’t live up to its billing, as Iowa cruised to a double-digit victory. Michigan made things semi-interesting in the second half, but the Hawkeyes remained in total control. Keegan Murray led the way with 23 points and seven rebounds. Iowa improved to 22-8 overall and 12-7 in Big Ten play with the win while Michigan fell to 16-13 overall and 10-9 in Big Ten play with the loss.

Iowa will hope to continue its hot play over the weekend on the road against Illinois on Sunday while Michigan will hope to bounce back against arch-rival Ohio State on the road on Sunday. The Wolverines desperately need the win to help their NCAA chances.

-No. 23 Ohio State Buckeyes 80, Michigan State Spartans 69

This was yet another game that looked good on paper, but didn’t live up to the hype. Ohio State grabbed an early lead and never looked back. Malaki Branham led the way with 22 points. It marked Michigan State’s second straight loss and the latest in a building list of missteps. All told, Michigan State is just 2-7 over its last nine games. Not exactly what you looked to see out of a team heading toward Selection Sunday. On the other side, Ohio State improved to 19-9 overall and 12-7 in Big Ten play with the win.

The Buckeyes will now prepare to close out the regular season at home against arch-rival Michigan while Michigan State will hope to get back on track against Maryland on Sunday.