HQ forecast: UI 72, Northwestern 62

HQ forecast: UI 72, Northwestern 62

Beat writer Marcus Jackson, who is predicting like the Illini played at Wisconsin, vows to get back to his winning ways:

at No. 23 Illinois
7:15 p.m. today


Illinois (14-4, 1-3 Big Ten)
P    Name    Yr.    Ht.    PPG
G    Tracy Abrams    So.    6-1    12.1
G    D.J. Richardson    Sr.    6-3    11.1
G    Brandon Paul    Sr.    6-4    18.1
F    Tyler Griffey    Sr.    6-9    7.8
C    Nnanna Egwu    So.    6-11    6.3
FYI: Fresh off a 16-point performance against Wisconsin, in which he made a three-pointer for the 24th straight game, Richardson is averaging 13.0 points in the last three games.
G    Joseph Bertrand    Jr.    6-6    9.6
F    Sam McLaurin    Sr.    6-8    3.6
F    Myke Henry    So.    6-6    3.3

Northwestern (10-7, 1-3 Big Ten)
P    Name    Yr.    Ht.    PPG
G    David Sobolewski    So.    6-1    11.5
G    Reggie Hearn    Sr.    6-4    13.7
F    Kale Abrahamson    Fr.    6-7    5.4
F    Jared Swopshire    Sr.    6-8    8.9
C    Alex Olah    Fr.    7-0    6.5
FYI: Sobolewski, a Naperville product, leads the Wildcats in scoring (12.3 points per game) and assists (5.0) in four Big Ten games.
G    Alex Marcotullio    Sr.    6-3    3.9
G    Tre Demps    Fr.    6-2    6.4
F    Mike Turner    Fr.    6-8    2.3


Site: The Assembly Hall (16,618) Champaign

TV: BTN — Dave Revsine (play-by-play) and former Ohio State All-American Jim Jackson (analyst) have the call.

Radio: Brian Barnhart (play-by-play) and former Illini Jerry Hester (expert analysis) have the call on the Illini Sports Network on WDWS 1400-AM, WDAN 1490-AM, WHMS 97.5-FM, WDNL 102.1-FM and WPXN 104.9-FM.

Series: Illinois leads 129-37. Last meeting — Northwestern 74, Illinois 70, Feb. 5, 2012.

FYI: Northwestern’s win last year in Champaign snapped a nine-game losing skid at the Assembly Hall, where Illinois has won 28 of the last 30 in the series.

Marcus Jackson’s Storylines

What got lost in Illinois’ torrid start offensively this season was how well it defended. Only twice in the first 12 games did an opponent score more than 65 points. It’s happened five times in the last six games, and the three-point shot has killed the Illini. After making seven treys in the first two Big Ten games, Wisconsin torched Illinois for 10 three-pointers Saturday. Northwestern averages eight triples per game, a cause for concern. “We haven’t defended the three very well, got to have more of a sense of urgency,” Groce said.

After a 1-for-11 showing in Saturday’s loss at Wisconsin, Brandon Paul is looking to get back on track. The Wooden Award candidate was limited to single digits in scoring for the first time this season against the Badgers in his worst game of the year. “I got to the rim pretty much at will. A couple of times it rimmed out and I let it affect my game, and I can’t let that happen,” he said. It’s not just Paul; Groce said everyone has to elevate his game after Saturday’s debacle. “They can play better, they have played better and I’m confident that they will play better,” he said.

After a standout effort in an otherwise-dreadful day for Illinois on Saturday, Mike Shaw should see plenty of action in the rotation against the Wildcats. The sophomore forward played a season-high 19 minutes against the Badgers after averaging less than two minutes in the nine games he had appeared in to that point. “I thought he practiced well after he got back from Christmas. He’s been fairly consistent, probably just needed an opportunity, but we were playing pretty well and the rotation was pretty iron-clad at that point because we were in a flow as a team,” Groce said. “He stayed with it; I’ll give him credit. A lot of guys wouldn’t have been ready in the situation when we threw him in the game on Saturday. By no means am I saying he was perfect, but he played hard. He competed; he fought. He played with a sense of urgency that all of us have to play with.”

Illinois 72, Northwestern 62

One of the things about the Princeton offense that Northwestern runs is that it involves so much movement that if a defender isn’t doing what he’s supposed to do, all of a sudden he gets beat for a backdoor dunk. “We’re competing against a very precise offense. You watch them on film, how hard they cut, how well they screen, how well they move the basketball,” Groce said. “Some possessions, there’s some possessions where I rewind it to watch it just because I like watching it.” The Illinois players can’t afford to get caught watching or it’ll be a long night of backdoor buckets for the ‘Cats. The Illini responded after giving a subpar effort against Purdue with a win against Ohio State. They’re hoping for a similar showing after Saturday’s disappointment. (N-G record: 11-7)

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illinirev wrote on January 17, 2013 at 11:01 am

This one is not going to be close.  The NW offense may give trouble to younger teams but not to this team.  They've seen it too many times to be fooled.  If the Illini play with effort, they win easily.  I think they come out with great passion in all areas of the game.

NW cannot score 62 points agianst Illinois unless somebody goes all Joe Coleman on them, and that guy isn't on the NW roster.

Illinois - 75

NW - 57

aaeismacgychel wrote on January 17, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Must win game for sure even if it is early in the season. Absolutely have to have this one and the one on the road at Nebraska for any real hope at making the tourney. Lose one of these and to get to .500 in the B10, Illinois would have to be flawless in the games they'll be favored in and pick up an upset. Gotta have this game, and hopefully Illinois comes out with the energy needed to pick up the win. Losing a laugher in Madison won't keep a team out of the dance. Losing a home game against Northwestern though almost assures it, unless you pull off some late season magic. Let's get it done. And as always, GO ILLINI!