The Big Ten had a pretty busy slate on Saturday, highlighted by a few marquee matchups and a key conference meeting between Illinois and Rutgers. The league ended up with a few surprising results.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Wisconsin Badgers 75, No. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles 64
This was the league’s biggest matchup of the day and likely the most significant game of the day anywhere in the country. It put a top five Marquette team on the road to face its in-state rival in a game that went down to the closing minutes. The environment was fantastic and Badger fans ended up rushing the court after the upset.
The key in this one was Wisconsin’s play in the backcourt. AJ Storr and Max Klesmit combined for 34 points and pushed the Badgers to 1.14 points per possession. Steven Crowl also had 16 points and eight rebounds. The offensive boards were also particularly helpful as the Badgers secured 15 in the win.
It’s hard to understate the significance of this win. The Eagles are a great team and relatively established, after already knocking off Kansas this season. This is going to be a really valuable win for the Badgers on Selection Sunday. It also keeps things rolling for Wisconsin after a hot close to November. Wisconsin has now won five straight.
The Badgers improved to 6-2 overall with the win. The team will open up conference play on the road against Michigan State on Tuesday. KenPom favors the Spartans, but only modestly. A win there would boost Wisconsin’s hopes even further.
-Illinois Fighting Illini 76, Rutgers Scarlet Knights 58
This projected as a pretty even game on paper. Illinois was above Rutgers in most of the statistical models, but the Scarlet Knights would get home court. The stakes were similarly high, as both were desperately looking for a quality win.
However, the game itself would prove one-sided. Illinois jumped out to a double-digit lead in the opening minutes and cruised to an easy win from there. Terrence Shannon was the star of the show, finishing with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists. Marcus Domask also had 15 points. Rutgers could never get its offense going, finishing with an underwhelming 0.83 points per possession. No Scarlet Knight finished with double-digits.
Illinois improved to 6-1 overall and 1-0 in Big Ten play with the win while Rutgers fell to 5-2 overall and 0-1 in league play with the loss. Illinois will now get a few days off before heading to New York to face a really good Florida Atlantic squad on Tuesday. A win there would be huge for the team’s resume. Rutgers will try and get back on track on the road against Wake Forest on Wednesday. The Scarlet Knights are underdogs in that one.
-Oregon Ducks 86, Michigan Wolverines 83 (OT)
Obviously, given this one ended in overtime, it was a competitive game that could have gone either way. The game went back and forth all afternoon. Unfortunately for Wolverine fans, the team simply fell short in the closing minutes as the Ducks hit a shot in the closing seconds to escape with the win. Dug McDaniel led the way in the losing effort with 33 points, four rebounds, and three assists.
Michigan fell to 4-4 overall with the loss and this felt like a major missed opportunity. The Wolverines played well enough to win and got a tremendous effort from McDaniel. However, the defense was horrific (allowing 1.23 points per possession), Michigan had 16 turnovers, and the team missed a handful of vital free throws. Juwan Howard and his staff will have to clean up things before the team returns to action on Tuesday at home against Indiana.
-Bucknell Bison 76, Penn State Nittany Lions 67
It’s hard to put into words how bad this was for Penn State. This wasn’t just a bad loss, it was absolutely horrific. The Bison entered this one ranked 330th on KenPom, which is pretty impressive considering there are only 362 teams. Bucknell is nowhere close to being a good team. Yet, they bested Penn State in this one and scored 1.17 points per possession in the win. It was an embarrassing performance for the Nittany Lions.
Realistically, this was probably the end of the line for Penn State’s season. That might sound dramatic for a game in early December, but it’s probably true. Even if the Nittany Lions turn things around, this is going to be a massive weight around their necks for the remainder of the season. It’s a tough setback for Mike Rhoades in his first season.
Penn State will return to action on the road against Maryland on Wednesday. KenPom projects the Nittany Lions as major underdogs.