The Big Ten had two intriguing games on the slate on Wednesday. Indiana traveled to face Penn State in the early game and Northwestern hosted Rutgers later on.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Rutgers Scarlet Knights 65, Northwestern Wildcats 62
While this matchup didn’t have any marquee brands involved, it did involve two rapidly rising teams in a key game in the Big Ten standings. Both teams have been rolling in recent weeks, so it figured to be an intriguing game for fans to gauge who had the edge.
All told, the game would end in thrilling fashion.
While Rutgers took the lead early and into halftime, Northwestern kept things close throughout the evening. The Wildcats relied heavily on Boo Buie, who finished with 13 points and seven assists. However, it was Rutgers who got the final laugh as the Scarlet Knights hit a massive bucket in the closing minutes to grab the win. Cam Spencer led the way with 23 points, four rebounds, and two assists.
The win pushed Rutgers to 12-5 overall and 4-2 in Big Ten play. It was the team’s sixth win in seven games dating back to a win over Wake Forest in mid-December. It’s all been a rapid rise for the program, as the Scarlet Knights have elevated up the Big Ten standings and now appear poised for another NCAA Tournament bid and much more.
On the other side, Northwestern fell to 12-4 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten play with the loss. It was just the team’s second loss in nine games. Obviously, going down in the closing seconds has to sting. However, fans should take solace in how well the team played beforehand. Northwestern is a legit team that fell a bit short against a quality opponent.
Moving forward, Rutgers will now prepare for Ohio State at home on Sunday in what figures to be one of the league’s biggest games of the season to date. Northwestern will get Michigan on the road on Sunday.
This one projected to be an exciting matchup on paper, but didn’t live up to the hype, as Indiana fell on its face in Bryce Jordan. Penn State eventually cruised to an 85-66 win, absolutely shredding Indiana’s once renowned defense. The Nittany Lions finished with 1.31 points per possession, led by 25 points from Seth Lundy. Penn State improved to 12-5 overall and 3-3 in Big Ten play with the win while Indiana fell to 10-6 overall and 1-4 in Big Ten play with the loss.
The major story out of this one was Indiana’s continued struggles. The preseason Big Ten favorite continues to struggle and it’s difficult to see how Mike Woodson is going to get the team out of this tailspin. The Hoosiers have now lost three straight, five of the team’s last seven games, and eight of the team’s last nine games. Indiana is just 1-6 against top 100 opponents in December and January. And with more challenging games ahead, things could really get rough.
Penn State will hope to keep things rolling on the road against Wisconsin next Tuesday. Indiana will hope to rebound against Wisconsin at home on Saturday in what feels like a must win.