The Big Ten had a loaded Saturday slate with five games that all had some NCAA Tournament relevance. The biggest featured Indiana on the road battling Purdue and Michigan State hosting Illinois.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Michigan State Spartans 88, No. 10 Illinois Fighting Illini 80
Overt the last few years, this has been one of the more entertaining matchups across the Big Ten. These have been two of the most consistent programs in the region and the games typically had Big Ten title implications. And while this year’s game was a tad diminished with Michigan State’s underwhelming play, Illinois entered Saturday in the heart of the Big Ten title race and the Spartans needed a win to feel good about their NCAA chances.
The game itself was fantastic. It was back-and-forth for the entirety of the first half with neither side taking control. As the second half opened, Illinois pulled ahead. However, Michigan State had a monster close to the game and was able to secure the win. Malik Hall and AJ Hoggard were the key players in the win, combining for 45 points. Tyson Walker also had 19 points.
Michigan State improved to 15-9 overall and 7-6 in Big Ten play with the win, but it’s the NCAA implications that were the most significant. The Spartans were in decent position to get a bid even before this game. However, scoring a win against a top 10 opponent changes the dynamic completely. The team’s metrics took a serious jump and any projections now have the team comfortably in the field. We probably can’t refer to the Spartans as a “lock” yet, but we’re not too far removed.
On the other side, Illinois fell to 17-6 overall and 8-4 in Big Ten play with the loss. Unfortunately for Illinois fans, the loss puts the team on the edge of the Big Ten title race. Purdue is now two full games ahead of Illinois, which is going to be a tough hill to overcome with just eight regular season games remaining. The title pursuit isn’t over, it’s just on the edge of reasonableness.
Michigan State will hope to keep things rolling on the road against Penn State on Wednesday. Illinois will get Michigan at home on Tuesday.
-Nebraska Cornhuskers 79, Michigan Wolverines 59
This was a complete and utter butt kicking. Nebraska blasted Michigan right out of the gates, jumping out to a 30-point lead with over five minutes left in the first half. The Wolverines cut it down to around 15 points in the second half, but it was never competitive. Keisei Tominaga finished with 19 points in the win.
Nebraska improved to 17-8 overall and 7-7 in Big Ten play with the win while Michigan fell to 8-16 overall and 3-10 in Big Ten play with the loss. The Huskers will now get a week off before facing Penn State at home on Saturday. Michigan will try and bounce back on the road against Illinois on Tuesday.
-Ohio State Buckeyes 79, Maryland Terrapins 75 (2OT)
This was an ugly, but competitive game. Both teams seemed like they were trying to give it away for large segments of the second half and overtime. Ultimately, Ohio State had just enough to get the win. Bruce Thornton led the way with 24 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Roddy Gayle also had 17 points.
Ohio State improved to 14-10 overall and 4-9 in Big Ten play with the win while Maryland fell to 13-11 overall and 5-8 in Big Ten play with the loss. The Buckeyes will now prepare for a road trip to face a reeling Wisconsin squad on Tuesday. Maryland gets Iowa at home on Wednesday.
-No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers 79, Indiana Hoosiers 59
The Hoosiers hung around in this one for a good 10 minutes or so, but it was over after that, with Purdue cruising to a 20-point win. Zach Edey dominated with 26 points, 13 rebounds, and four assists. He also hit a three-pointer, which was a rarity. Braden Smith also had 19 points in the win.
Purdue improved to 22-2 overall and 11-2 in Big Ten play with the win while Indiana fell to 14-10 overall and 6-7 in Big Ten play with the loss. The Boilers have now won eight straight and are closing in on the Big Ten regular season title. Purdue will return to action on Thursday at home against Minnesota. Indiana gets Northwestern at home on the 18th.
-Rutgers Scarlet Knights 78, No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers 56
After Wednesday night’s loss to Michigan, Badger fans were hoping Wisconsin would bounce back with a road win over Rutgers. However, the Scarlet Knights had other thoughts, as Rutgers not only won, but scored a 22-point win. Clifford Omoruyi led the way with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Jeremiah Williams also had 18 points and seven assists.
Rutgers improved to 13-10 overall and 5-7 in Big Ten play with the win while Wisconsin fell to 16-8 overall and 8-5 in Big Ten play with the loss. The Scarlet Knights will hope to keep things rolling with Northwestern at home on Thursday. Wisconsin will get Ohio State at home on Tuesday.