Purdue certainly didn’t want to thank Indiana on Saturday, after the Hoosiers handed the Boilermakers only their 2nd loss of the season.

But perhaps 1 is in order now, following IU’s win over Rutgers on Tuesday night at Assembly Hall. The Scarlet Knights’ loss dropped them into a tie with the Hoosiers for 2nd place in the Big Ten and helped Purdue re-establish a 3-game lead in the conference race.

And now only 7 games remain.

Purdue winning its league-best 25th Big Ten title seems nearly complete. The Boilermakers, at 11-2 in the league, have a 3-game lead on Rutgers and Indiana (both 8-5), then another half-game on the slew of competitors all tied at 7-5: Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan. Maryland and Michigan State are tied at 7-6.

Of Purdue’s remaining 7 games, 4 are at Mackey Arena, where the Boilermakers are 11-1 this season. But the 3 road games left will provide challenges, as Purdue is set to visit Northwestern on Sunday, then Maryland and Wisconsin.

Yet, a 3-game lead would be tough to overcome. Had Rutgers beaten Indiana — the Hoosiers won, 66-60, behind yet another big game from Trayce Jackson-Davis (20 points, 18 rebounds and 6 assists) — the Scarlet Knights might have an outside chance at catching Purdue. After a visit to Illinois on Saturday, Rutgers’ last 6 opponents provide a more-than-manageable slate. The combined Big Ten record of those 6 opponents is 29-44, with only Michigan and Northwestern being above .500 (and both of those games are at home).

But now Rutgers, or Indiana, would likely need to win out and get significant help to catch the Boilermakers.

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Illinois vs. Minnesota redo

Illinois will host Minnesota on Feb. 20, after the original game was postponed from Tuesday night due to COVID-19 protocols within the Gophers’ program.

It’s the 3rd game this season that has been rescheduled, after Northwestern was forced to push back 2 games because of its own COVID issues. The Wildcats managed the condensed schedule, winning 4 of 6 games during a 14-day stretch from Jan. 23 to Feb. 5. They’ve finally gotten a few days to prep for their game at Ohio State on Thursday night following their victory at Wisconsin on Sunday.

Illinois will face a tightened schedule now, too. During the 9-day period from Feb. 18-26, Illinois will play 4 games, playing at Indiana before facing the Gophers in the makeup game 2 days later, then hosting Northwestern and going to Ohio State.

Mag out

Rutgers suffered a loss on Tuesday night in Bloomington, but the bigger loss might have come hours earlier.

The Scarlet Knights announced that starting forward Mawot Mag is out for the season after tearing an ACL, leaving Rutgers without 1 of its most versatile players. Mag, a 6-foot-7 junior who averaged 7.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, was injured in the 1st half of Rutgers’ win over Michigan State on Saturday.

Against Indiana, he was replaced in the starting lineup by Aundre Hyatt, who had 9 points on 3-of-8 shooting (2 of 7 from 3-point range) against the Hoosiers. Oskar Palmquist saw increased minutes off the bench and made them productive, scoring 9 points on 3 3-pointers in 13 minutes.

“We’re going to miss Mawot greatly,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said in a statement. “He’s a high-energy player, a veteran presence and the ultimate glue guy. He’s one of our best team defenders and one of our best offensive rebounders. There’s not a better person in our program, and we can’t wait to see him back on the floor in front of Rutgers Nation.”

Others coming back soon?

Indiana hopes to get Xavier Johnson back on the court soon. And the same can be said for Luke Goode at Illinois.

Johnson, the Hoosiers’ starting point guard who broke his foot in mid-December, has been warming up in pregame with his teammates the past several outings but hasn’t yet seen game action. Coach Mike Woodson said it’s only a matter of time, but it could still be a few more games.

“It’s hard to say when he’s going to actually be back,” Woodson said before the Rutgers game. “If you ask Xavier, he thinks he can play tomorrow. Listen, I’ve been around basketball a long time. That’s impossible.”

Indiana did see the return of reserve Jordan Geronimo, who had been out several games with a calf strain. But he played only a little more than a minute against the Scarlet Knights as he eases back into the rotation.

Meanwhile, in Champaign, the Fighting Illini are hoping to see the season debut of Goode soon. After suffering a foot injury in Illinois’ closed-door scrimmage with Kansas in October, the sophomore forward began practicing again before Saturday’s game against Iowa, but he didn’t see action against the Hawkeyes.

Perhaps the extra time this week, with the postponement of the Minnesota game, will give Goode a chance to get into the game on Saturday against Rutgers. Goode, who was expected to compete for a starting position this season, gives the Illini another perimeter shooter to add to the rotation. And that’s needed, considering Illinois ranks only 10th in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage at 31.7.

“He’s a guy who has a special, special skill set in terms of his ability to shoot,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said last week. “He’s tough, he’s got size, but on the other hand, we’ve got to make sure he’s ready to go. He’s got to be on the level of everybody else we put him out there with. We know Luke will play hard, and we know he’s cerebral and picks up what we’re doing very well and stayed in touch with that aspect while he’s been out. We’ll see what that looks like.”