The Big Ten had two games on Thursday. Both figured to be important for the league’s postseason hopes.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Minnesota Golden Gophers 73, Michigan Wolverines 71
This one looked relatively even on paper and played out that way. It was decided by a few buckets in the closing minutes and swung back and forth for large segments of the second half. However, Minnesota did just enough to escape with the road win. The Gophers were led by Elijah Hawkins, who finished with 14 points and seven assists. Mike Mitchell also had 18 points in the win.
Minnesota improved to 11-3 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten play with the win. The Gophers are pretty hot right now, having now quietly won six straight and risen 34 spots on KenPom over the last month. The team still hasn’t beaten a great opponent, but now has wins against two top 70 opponents, which is a start. If Minnesota can simply keep taking care of business in the winnable games, it has a serious shot at a postseason bid.
On the other side, Michigan fell to 6-8 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play with the loss. This is likely the program’s worst start since the 2009-’10 season, when Michigan limped to a 15-17 overall record in John Beilein’s third season at the helm. Simply stated, the Wolverines are in a tough spot right now and desperately need to get back on track soon, particularly with a loaded schedule awaiting in late January.
The Gophers will return to action on Sunday at home against Maryland. Michigan will hope to rebound against Penn State in Philadelphia on Sunday.
-Michigan State Spartans 92, Penn State Nittany Lions 61
The Spartans were certainly favored in this one heading into tip, but few expected the team would run away in a game this lopsided. Penn State found itself down double-digits in the opening minutes and things only got worse from there en route to a 31-point loss. Malik Hall led the way for the Spartans with 24 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Tyson Walker also had 22 points.
Michigan State improved to 9-5 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play with the win while Penn State fell to 7-7 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play with the loss. The Spartans return to action on Sunday on the road against Northwestern. Penn State gets Michigan in Philly on Sunday.