FINAL: Northwestern 68, UI 54
Reggie Hearn scored 20 points and Northwestern built an early lead using 3-point shooting to hand No. 23 Illinois its third straight loss, 68-54 on Thursday night. Illinois has lost five of seven after starting 12-0.
The Wildcats (11-7, 2-3 Big Ten) were 8 of 15 from three-point range but hit five of those shots in the first half to build a 36-21 lead.
The cold-shooting Illini (14-5, 1-4) closed within 48-39 on a free throw by Brandon Paul with 4:36 to play. Illinois would get no closer.
Jared Swopshire had 12 points and six rebounds for Northwestern, while Alex Marcotullio scored 12 points and Dave Sobolewski added 10.
Paul had 21 points for Illinois, which shot 38 percent from the field, including 15 percent from 3-point range.
Swopshire 4-7 2-4 12, Abrahamson 1-2 0-0 2, Olah 1-5 0-0 2, Sobolewski 2-6 5-7 10, Hearn 4-7 9-10 20, Marcotullio 3-4 4-4 12, Turner 0-1 0-0 0, Demps 2-4 6-6 10, Montgomery III 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-36 26-31 68.
McLaurin 2-4 2-3 6, Egwu 2-5 0-0 4, Richardson 2-9 2-2 7, Paul 9-17 1-3 21, Abrams 3-9 4-7 10, Bertrand 0-1 0-0 0, LaTulip 0-0 0-0 0, Shaw 0-0 0-0 0, Griffey 1-4 4-5 6. Totals 19-49 13-20 54.
Halftime—Northwestern 36-21. 3-Point Goals—Northwestern 8-15 (Hearn 3-5, Marcotullio 2-3, Swopshire 2-3, Sobolewski 1-2, Abrahamson 0-1, Demps 0-1), Illinois 3-20 (Paul 2-7, Richardson 1-6, Bertrand 0-1, Griffey 0-3, Abrams 0-3). Fouled Out—Egwu, Sobolewski, Turner. Rebounds—Northwestern 24 (Swopshire 6), Illinois 30 (Griffey 6). Assists—Northwestern 10 (Sobolewski 6), Illinois 6 (Abrams 4). Total Fouls—Northwestern 19, Illinois 26. Technicals—Egwu, Illinois Bench. A—16,618.
Northwestern 45, No. 23 Illinois 30 — 11:38 second half
John Groce doing his best to fire the team up. He went crazy and threw a fist pump on the first possession of the half when Sam McLaurin hit a bucket and got fouled.
Someone has to provide energy.
Larry Scirotto says he warned Nnanna Egwu three times about the delay of games, though we never saw an official one to the bench.
Illinois was hit with a technical.
The crowd is trying to get into it, but the team hasn’t given them a chance to fully get riled up.
Brandon Paul’s three to bring it to within 38-28, got them going.
The Krush debuted the Big Heads. I saw McCauley Culkin, John Groce, Dee Brown, Stephen Bardo, Lou Henson and Deron Williams.
Abrams got upset with Jim Burr after a call. Groce told Burr it was a good call.
A fan just told Griffey “Shoot the thing when you’re open!”
Groce, however, is not a fan of Glenn Mayborg tonight.
Illinois is subbing liberally tonight. They’re calling for “fresh bodies.”
Fans hitting Soboleski with an “airball” chant every time he touches it.
Haven’t seen Myke Henry tonight. Think he’s in the doghouse.
Northwestern 36, No. 23 Illinois 21 — Halftime
Maybe the trick is to leave Northwestern wide open from behind the three-point line. The ‘Cats made their first four with hands in the face. Alex Marcotullio was left wide open and he missed.
Mike Shaw picked up a pair of quick fouls and was relegated to the bench with 10:25 left.
At one point Illinois had five field goals and six turnovers.
Mike LaTulip checked in at the under-8 timeout for the Illini. Coaches are trying a little bit of everything to get these guys out of their funk.
Groce was about to lose his cool after an out-of-bounds call was incorrectly awarded to Northwestern. Larry Scirotto calmed him down and the call was reversed.
Tyler Girffey replaced Sam McLaurin at the 5-minute mark and made a nice play on the offensive end when the Illini desperately needed one, going high for an offensive rebound, getting the putback and getting fouled. He converted the three-point play.
The Illinois coaches are hot at the officials for missing two moving screens on Northwestern on the same possession.
Seconds later, Nnanna Egwu was called for an illegal screen.
Groce let the officials hear about it going into the under-4 timeout.
Griffey had another nice play later in the half, putting the ball on the deck and drawing a foul.
The Illinois coaches thought Brandon Paul got fouled before he was called for his charge.
Really hate to compare this team to last year’s, but it’s hard not to at this point.
The boo birds are out here at the Assembly Hall.
Illinois shot 8 for 24 (33.3 percent) for the half and 1 for 7 (14.3 percent) from three. They missed the last six.
NU was 13 for 24 (54.2 percent) from the floor and 5 for 7 from three (71.4 percent).
Illinois turned it over 10 times. The Wildcats had half that.
Brandon Paul’s eight points lead Illinois. Griffey and Richardson each have five.
NU got 10 from Reggie Hearn and seven from Sobolewski.
Northwestern 18, No. 23 Illinois 11 — 11:47 first half
On Illinois’ first possession of the game, Nnanna Egwu got the ball in the post. He misse a short hook, but they’ll need more of that.
McLaurin started out guarding Jared Swopshire. Illinois went after the Louisville transfer last spring.
Northwestern bagged a pair of early threes. Illinois has really struggled defending the three in Big Ten play.
D.J. hit his first three, usually a good sign, then shot an airball a few minutes later from deep.
Tyler Griffey was the first Illini player off the bench. Joseph Bertrand was right behind him.
Glenn Mayborg is the third official along with Burr and Scirotto.
Griffey had a strong defensive rebound his first possession of the game on defense. That’s one of the big things they’re looking for from him.
“Ball pressure, ball pressure!” is what the Illinois coaches are yelling on the defensive end.
Northwestern made its first four three-pointers. If that keeps up, this will be a long night for the home team.
NU is 6 for 10 overall to start.
The Illini are 5 for 10, but only 1 for 4 from long range after D.J. hit the first three of the game.
Mike Shaw checked in about seven minutes in. Coach said he would get another opportunity tonight after Saturday’s effort.
Northwestern (10-7, 1-3) at No. 23 Illinois (14-4, 1-3) — Tipoff (BTN)
The new Justin Timberlake song “Suit & Tie” was played during the pregame. Brandon Paul almost lost his mind. He’s a fan of the song.
Three basketballs got stuck in the net on the Illinois end of the floor during warm-ups. Paul picked up a young fan, maybe 4 years old, and let him knock the balls out of the net. Probably the thrill of that kid’s life.
Jim Burr and Larry Scirotto are two of your officials tonight. Not sure who the third is.
Sam McLaurin is featured on tonight’s poster.
A Northwestern player is wearing a yarmulke. “How does he keep that thing stuck to his head? That’s what I want to know.” — Loren Tate.
Mike Latulip, D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul all hit halfcourt shots in warm-ups. LaTulip did so with Myke Henry’s hands in his face.
Your starting lineup tonight for the Illini: Pay attention — Tracy Abrams, D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul, Sam McLaurin and Nnanna Egwu.
McLaurin for Griffey.
Northwestern (10-7, 1-3) at No. 23 Illinois (14-4, 1-3) — 30 minutes before tipoff (BTN)
This is the first game with the students in class since Eastern Kentucky game back on Dec. 16.
The Orange Krush students rushed to their seats once the doors opened. Tonight is a sellout and the students will definitely help the atmosphere.
The Illinois Wolves’ AAU program will be well-represented tonight. Illinois’ Nnanna Egwu, Tracy Abrams and Joseph Bertrand are alums of Mike Mullins’ program.
Northwestern’s David Sobolewski also played for the club.
Mullins told me last week he will be in attendance tonight for the game.
Former Illini big man Robert Archibald is in town and is expected to be in the crowd tonight. The 6-foot-10 Archibald recently retired after 10 years of pro ball in the NBA and overseas. Arch was at the game in his hometown of St. Louis against Missouri and he made it to the United Center for the Auburn game.
He’s a fan of blossoming big man Nnanna Egwu.
“It's great to see. A kid like that who starts later, his progression is only going to continue to get better the more experience he gets,” Archibald said. “Physically he has all the tools. He's a blank slate, even at this point. Other guys are getting close to as good as they're going to be, whereas he isn't a finished product, he still has a ton of room.”
We had special assistant to the head coach Brandon Miller on the pregame show with us. Best quote from Brandon: “Let’s just say the players are glad today’s a game day and not another practice.” The staff really got after them the past few days since the Wisconsin game.
Don’t be surprised to see one change in the starting lineup tonight. Once I know more, I’ll relay it to you good people.
Former Illinois manager Matt McCumber, who did great work with the Final Four team is a good friend of mine. He retweeted a tweet from a gambling website today that said “Illinois G Kevin Berardini is questionable for tonight’s game.” I told Kevin and the coaches about that a little bit ago. They all got a good chuckle out of that.
I’m sure Kevin’s availability moved the line.
Former Illinois assistant Mark Coomes just stopped by. He’s the nephew of Lou Henson. Good people.
Northwestern (10-7, 1-3) at No. 23 Illinois (14-4, 1-3) — 60 minutes before tipoff (BTN)
Northwestern won here last year. That’s not something that’s happened very often. The Wildcats have won just twice in the last 30 trips to this building. I don’t expect Chicago’s Big Ten team will win here tonight, but you all are well aware of how spot on I’ve been predicting games in recent weeks. It has not been good.
The ‘Cats expected to be better this season, but with Drew Crawford out for the season with a shoulder injury and JerShon Cobb suspended for the season, they’ve struggled. Crawford, who shared Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors with Illinois’ D.J. Richardson, and Cobb can really score. Without them, Northwestern hasn’t been able to consistently put points on the board.
Reggie Hearn has done his best to fill the void, along with freshman Tre Demps.
“Hearn has stepped up his scoring quite a bit. He and the kid Demps who comes off the bench are really wired to score,” Groce said, “They can do it within their offense, from what I've seen on film, and they can do it outside of the offense. They can break off and make plays and that defines them and makes them, in my mind, guys that are good scorers.”
D.J. Richardson and Crawford spent a moment together catching up at halfcourt during pregame warm-ups. Crawford is wearing an elaborate sling on his right arm.
The thing that does make NU tough to defend when they get going, is the precision with which they run their Princeton offense.
“They play the right way on offense, it's fun to watch how well they execute, how hard they cut and how they move the ball,” Groce said.
Did you hear about the brawl at the Simeon-Morgan park game last night? Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin said Illini signees Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate started it. Who knows. Here’s some video from the incident.
It got uglier as a 17-year-old Morgan Park student was shot and killed in the parking lot outside following the game at Chicago State.
Here’s a very good column written by the Southtown Star’s Pat Disabato about the sad situation.
Illinois assistant coach Paris Parham was at the game.
Northwestern (10-7, 1-3) at No. 23 Illinois (14-4, 1-3) — 90 minutes before tipoff (BTN)
Good evening and welcome to another Live Report ahead of tonight’s Big Ten contest between in-state rivals.
The Illini are looking to get back on track after losing back-to-back games for the first time this season. Saturday’s loss at Wisconsin was one to be forgotten. It was ugly.
As far as the team losing confidence, John Groce isn’t trying to hear that. He got a little animated yesterday when the topic was brought up.
“I'm tired of that deal. I said today to the staff, that's out, I'm tired of that deal,” he said. “Ten to 15 years from now, if they think they're not going to get hit in the mouth in life, we're teaching them the wrong things in life at the University of Illinois.
“That deal of fragile, confidence, all that stuff, here pretty soon they're going to have to deal with their kid being sick. Here pretty soon they're going to have to deal with a family emergency, that stuff happens. You have to deal with it. Life hits you in the mouth, this stuff's not easy, what we're doing's not easy, life's not easy.
“We have to figure it out, that's on us. We have absolutely no excuses, we have to man up and play. We have to fight. We've done that the majority of the year and that's the expectation that we've got to have.”
Based on the emails and questions I’m asked when I’m out around town, plenty of Illinois fans are worried about the team’s confidence. The big fear is that what happened last year, with essentially the same group of players, is going to happen again.
Personally, I don’t see the same thing happening, too much positive energy inside the program from the top trickling down to the players. They are going to lose games, but nothing anywhere near the scope of what happened last season.
I’ve been asked about lineup changes a lot, too. Don’t expect anything in that regard. Groce and Co. are not panicking.
“We've got to do what we do, we've got to do it better. There's no need to wholesale change anything, we know what we need to do,” he said. “The mental part is so important. It's huge. Any team that I've been around, when guys' minds are right, it's a huge deal. We've had our mid right the majority of the year.”
Myke Henry was the first Illini to take the floor tonight. He was later joined by Mike LaTulip and then Devin Langford and Devin’s sideburns.
There’s also a young photographer attempting to touch the rim. He failed miserably. He’s also about 5-foot-5.
I’m getting ready to hop on the pregame show with Steve Kelly and Loren Tate. I’ll be back with another update when I’m done there.