Live! At Northwestern

Live! At Northwestern

FINAL: Illinois 62, Northwestern 41.

EVANSTON — Hard to tell who had more fun inside Welsh-Ryan Arena, John Groce's surging Illini or the Orange Krush.

D.J. Richardson scored 18 points and Tracy Abrams added 13 as the Illini ended a two-game losing streak to Northwestern.

The Illini (19-8, 6-7 Big Ten) have won four straight and have a chance to climb back into the AP Top 25 when the poll is released Monday.

Reggie Hearn led Northwestern with 11 points. The Wildcats (13-13, 4-9) have lost three straight and five of their last six.

Illinois scored the first 16 points of the second half after ending the first half on a 10-0 run. Richardson’s layup extended Illinois’ lead to 45-15 with 13:53 remaining. James Montgomery scored Northwestern’s first points of the half on a layup with 13:26 left.

Northwestern shot 25 percent from the field and Illinois shot 43.6 percent.

Illinois avenged a 68-54 home loss to Northwestern on Jan. 17.

During their winning streak, the Illini have also beaten top-ranked Indiana, then-No. 18 Minnesota and Purdue.

McLaurin 2-5 2-2 6, Egwu 1-3 2-4 4, Richardson 8-15 0-2 18,  Bertrand 2-3 0-0 4, Paul 2-6 3-4 8, LaTulip 0-2 0-0 0,  Abrams 5-8 0-0 13, Shaw 0-1 0-0 0, Henry 0-2 0-0 0, Langford 0-0 0-2 0,  Djimde 1-1 0-0 2, Berardini 0-0 0-0 0, Griffey 3-9 1-1 7. Totals 24-55 8-15 62.
Turner 0-2 0-0 0, Abrahamson 2-6 0-0 6, Hearn 3-11 5-5 11,  Demps 3-11 1-1 8, Sobolewski 0-6 0-0 0, Jimenez 0-0 1-2 1,  Montgomery III 1-3 0-0 2, Olah 0-2 5-7 5, Marcotullio 3-7 0-0 8,  Cerina 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 12-48 12-15 41.
Halftime—Illinois 29-15. 3-Point Goals—Illinois 6-20 (Abrams 3-5,  Richardson 2-7, Paul 1-4, LaTulip 0-1, Henry 0-1, Griffey 0-2),  Northwestern 5-27 (Marcotullio 2-5, Abrahamson 2-6, Demps 1-5, Turner  0-1, Montgomery III 0-1, Hearn 0-4, Sobolewski 0-5). Fouled Out—Egwu.  Rebounds—Illinois 39 (Richardson 8), Northwestern 33 (Turner 7).  Assists—Illinois 13 (Paul 5), Northwestern 9 (Abrahamson 3). Total  Fouls—Illinois 21, Northwestern 10. A—8,117.

Plenty of details to come on HQ.

Illinois 49, Northwestern 20 — 8:37 second half

You think John Groce is comfortable right now? He punched the scorer’s table when Abram’s alley-oop pass to Myke Henry resulted in a miss.

He won’t allow these guys to let up and they’re starting to understand that.

Illinois went on a 26-0 run spanning both halves to take  a30-point lead.

Northwestern didn’t score for mealy 11 minutes of action.

A very impressive defensive showing for Illinois.

I just got a Tweet asking if Bill Carmody was looking through the want ads on the Northwestern bench. You have to think Jim Phillips won’t stand for this much longer. In defense of Carmody, his roster has bene destroyed this year.

The I-L-L, I-N-I chant is in full force here at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

A young Northwestern fan did a shooting promotion during a timeout. He did well and the Orange Krush chanted “Scholarship, Scholarship” at him. Only eight scholarship players suited up for the ‘Cats today, maybe they can use him.

Brandon Paul still needs three more points for 1,500 in his career. He had three assists early in the second half and looked the part of a distributor.

Illinois 29, Northwestern 15 — Halftime

Once again, Tracy Abrams has responded well to not starting. The sophomore guard has 11 points at the half for the Illini to go along with three assists and no turnovers.

For the second Sunday in a row, D.J. Richardson drilled a three at the halftime buzzer to give the Illini a serious jolt going into the locker room.

Sam McLaurin got away with a couple of travels on that play where he found a wide-open Richardson.

The Illini have missed at least a half dozen layups today, imagine what the lead would be otherwise.

The Illini allowed a season-low 15 points in the half. Eastern Kentucky had 20 back in December.

The Northwestern zone gave the Illini fits for a while. They settled for jumpers while Nnanna Egwu was working inside to get open for them. They missed him a few times.

The threes seem to go down more often when they work inside-out.

A Northwestern student — an actual one — was selected to shoot a halfcourt shot at the under-8 timeout for $50,000. He missed it and the Krush chanted “Air-Ball” at him.

ESPN’s Mike Wilbon was honored during the under-4 timeout. Wilbon is a Chicago native and Northwestern alum.

The Northwestern football team’s leadership council was announced during the same timeout. Wilbon shook all their hands. They had their Gator Bowl trophy with them

The Northwestern fans in attendance gave them a standing ovation.

Illinois shot 11 for 30 (36.7 percent) from the floor and 4 for 12 from three (33.3 percent).

Abrams leads with 11 points. Richardson added seven and leads the team with six rebounds.

Northwestern shot 5 for 23 (21.7 percent) from the floor and 2 for 13 (15.4 percent) from behind the three-point line.

Alex Marcotullio leads the ‘Cats with eight off the bench and Reggie Hearn had six.

Illinois turned it over twice, Northwestern six. Illinois outrebounded the ‘Cats 21-18.

Illinois 14, Northwestern 5 — 11:19 first half

Northwestern’s tallest starter was 6-foot-8 Mike Turner. Illinois made two post entry passes on the first possession. The first was to 6-11 Nnanna Egwu, the othr was to 6-8 Sam McLaurin, who finished with a nice move.

I’d say the split here is 50-50. It gets really loud when Illinois does something good.

The Northwestern students have some of those big heads. One that I can see is of Seth Meyers. The “Saturday Night Live” star is a Northwestern alum. I like Meyers. He played a show at the Assembly Hall last semester and I’m told it was poorly attended. That’s too bad.

Tracy Abrams and Tyler Griffey were Illinois’ first subs, checking in before the first timeout.

Northwestern 7-footer Alex Olah checked in  after Illinois took a 7-0 lead after a nice fastbreak layup from Abrams to Paul.

Big high-five from John Groce to Brandon Paul when BP checked out of the game for a breather.

Dave Sobolewski had his hand covering former AAU teammate Tracy Abrams’ face when Tracy drilled a three at the end of a shot clock.

The Wildcats can’t hit a shot. They’vealready blown one wide-open layup and they’re shooting 16.7 percent (2 for 12) and 1 for 7 from long range (14.3 percent).

Three members of the Krush took part in a timeout promotion wearing purple t-shirts and when it was over, they revealed their orange. The place went nuts. Illinois is owning the arena and the game.

Illinois (18-8, 5-7) at Northwestern (13-12, 4-8) — Tipoff (BTN)

In case you hadn’t figured it out, the Orange Krush is here. About 150 members of the Illinois student cheering section made the trip up from Champaign this morning.

They stopped in Manteno to pick up Wischnowsky, who I mentioned earlier. They made a stop at Illinois bar Joe’s on Weed and had lunch there with the Chicago Illini Club.

Then they went on a tour of the Northwestern campus where many of them bought purple t-shirts to wear as a disguise upon entering the arena.

They all shed the purple at tip.

They secured tickets by telling the Northwestern ticket office they were a group of State Farm agents from around the Big Ten who were in Chicago for a get-together of sorts.

When Northwestern took the floor, there was a smattering of applause and some boos from the sizeable Illinois contingent here.

The applause was much louder when Illinois took the floor.

Illinois will go with , Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, Joseph Bertrand, Sam McLaurin and Nnanna Egwu in the starting lineup today.

There was a loud cheer in the arena when the Illini took the court. This one should have the feel of a really good high school sectional game, like it usually does.

There’s a banner staring me in the face that reads “7 NIT appearances” for men’s basketball.

Jim Burr, Lamont Simpson and Bo Boroski are your officials today.

Illinois (18-8, 5-7) at Northwestern (13-12, 4-8) — 30 minutes before tipoff (BTN)

NBA referee Danny Crawford is in attendance today. He is the father of Northwester star Drew Crawford, who is out for the season while recovering from a shoulder injury.

Drew Crawford, who shared Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors with D.J. Richardson in 2010, will be back for a fifth year next season.

He was on the floor before the game passing to his teammates and dancing.

A loss today would be damaging to Illinois’ NCAA tournament resume, especially considering it already has a loss to Northwestern at home. As it stands right now, the Illini are comfortably in the field of 68 and will remain there so long as they don’t slip up against the Wildcats, Penn State or Nebraska.

By the way, the Nittany Lions played really well in a loss at Michigan earlier today.

A mock selection exercise with 20 media members supervised by NCAA selection committee members had Illinois as a No. 5 seed on Friday.

Joe Lunardi had the Illini as a 10 seed in Friday’s updated bracket on There seems to be a wide range of opinions when it comes to Illinois.’s Adam Hoge was one of the members at the mock selection. He says Illinois’ win at Gonzaga was considered by most members on the crew to be the  best nonconference win in the entire country this season.

Just ran into Illinois alum Dave Wischnowsky a little while ago. Dave writes columns for He’s here today on a special assignment.

There’s a man here who looks like Michael Wilbon, the Northwestern alum who co-hosts ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption”. Someone asked to take a photo with him. It was not Wilbon.

As I predicted, there is a lot of orange in this building already. Expect to hear plenty of cheering for the visiting team today.

Illinois will wear blue today, by the way.

Illinois (18-8, 5-7) at Northwestern (13-12, 4-8) — 60 minutes before tipoff (BTN)

Northwestern big man Alex Olah is expected to be in action tonight after missing time with a concussion. The 7-footer’s presence brings Northwestern’s total of available scholarship players to eight.

Brandon Paul is mixing it up with his shoe game today. BP3 is wearing CP3’s shoe (Chris Paul).

A trend with John Groce-coached teams is they seem to improve as the season progresses. It happened at Ohio, most notably last season when the Bobcats won 10 of their last 12 and came within a couple of free throws of reaching the Elite Eight.

Illinois looks right now as if it’s getting better at the right time.

“There’s no guarantee that’s going to happen. I feel like we’ve been getting a lot better. Since the Nebraska game I feel like we’ve been getting a lot better in a lot of different areas and I think the biggest thing is our guys are trusting the system more and one another more and starting to understand more of what we’re asking them,” Groce said. “I do feel like if you said to me ‘Do you feel like right now you’re playing the best you’ve played this particular year?’ I think we are. I still think we’ve got room for improvement.”

As well as Illinois has played in the last week and a half, Groce says his team has bene far from perfect, even in beating Purdue by 20 Wednesday.

That can be an encouraging sign.

“We had several defensive errors and had defensive miscues on things we were running in the Purdue game, more than we had in the Minnesota or Indiana game,” he said. “We took a look at those and I think our guys are obviously disappointed on a couple of them, want to clean a couple of those us. I don’t think by any means we’ve reached our fullest potential yet and that’s what’s kind of the fun part of this deal is continuing to build and getting a little bit every day and I think this team has done that.”

Another thing to be optimistic about: Brandon Paul has scored a total of 13 points the last two games and Illinois hasn’t missed a beat.

Paul scored a season-low three points against Purdue and is nine points shy of 1,500 for his career.

Mike LaTulip just greeted an old friend. The Illinois freshman is from nearby Arlington Heights. Brandon Paul’s hometown of Gurnee is also nearby and of course all the Chicago guys are close to home, too.

Be back soon.

Illinois (18-8, 5-7) at Northwestern (13-12, 4-8) — 90 minutes before tipoff (BTN)

Good afternoon/evening from Welsh-Ryan Arena where I get the feeling there might be more orange in here tonight that purple. Just a hunch.

On paper, this should be an easy win for the Surgin’ Illini, but we all know better than to count our chickens with this team, right?

For starters, the Wildcats are down to seven available scholarship players, but they gave Ohio State all it could handle Thursday night in Columbus.

“It’s unbelievable watching the tape,” Groce said. “I was really impressed with the way they executed, they made 11 threes, had other guys step up. Their system is so rock solid, they just fill another guy or two in there and they keep running their system and they run it very well. They’re very precise, they take care of the ball. They can sometimes muddy the game up and then make it a game where there’s very few possessions and every one of them becomes very valuable.

Their zone was really good and I thought they executed really well offensively.”

So, it might not be a walk in the park, but I’d expect Illinois to win here today despite the fact Northwestern took it to Illinois exactly one month ago today in Champaign.

“I think we’re a better team than we were when we played in Game 1,” Groce said.

After all, it’s been 47 years since Northwestern defeated Illinois twice in the same season. The last time that happened Loren Tate was 34 years old. That’s a long time.

The biggest difference with this Illinois team is they seem to be having a little more fun these days and enjoying one another’s company. Winning helps, but having fun also helps winning.

“It’s always fun, we’re getting a lot of good wins playing together on the road and at home,” Joseph Bertrand said. “We’re just looking forward to this next game and having even more fun.”

Said Sam McLaurin: “Around here, Coach always says you have to be the same when you’re winning and losing and that’s one thing that’s gotten us out of those hard times. Practice is the same when we were losing as it is when we’re winning. His demeanor has been the same, he tells us when we’re doing well and when we’re doing bad and I think that’s a big part of us coming through.”

Chicago traffic is a bear. It took me a long time to get here, sorry for the delay.

I got here just as the Illinois bus was pulling up. The Big Ten Network cameras trailed D.J. Richardson as he got off the bus. He's the Illinois top dog these days and deservedly so.

I'll be back once we get settled here.

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Illini1973 wrote on February 17, 2013 at 7:02 pm
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How much fun is this?!!