Northwestern 49, No. 23 Illinois 43 — FINAL
EVANSTON — When the Top 25 polls come out on Monday, Illinois will be nowhere to be found, not even in the "Others receiving votes" category. Not after a loss to the lowly Wildcats on Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
It was a struggle from beginning to end for the Illini (13-4, 2-2 Big Ten) who shot 28.1 percent from the floor and 21.1 percent from long range.
Tracy Abrams led Illinois with 13 points, but he was the only Illini to reach double figures in their lowest scoring output of the season.
Rayvonte Rice (eight points) failed to reach double figures for the first time in his Illinois career.
Northwestern (8-9, 1-3) got a team-high 13 points from Drew Crawford while Tre Demps and JerShon Cobb each scored 11.
More later on HQ.
Northwestern 27, No. 23 Illinois 27 — 11:30 second half
Back-to-back threes from Jon Ekey and Tracy Abrams have infused some life into the Illini, who at one point were shooting 18 percent from the floor.
Kendrick Nunn added a layup on a fast break to make it an 8-0 run and tie the game here just shy of the midway point in the half.
Abrams has been the leader, he's remaind steady, continued attacking and finally got something to go to provide a lift. He's a tough kid and he's really improved offensively.
Jon Ekey caught an alley-oop pass from Joseph Bertrand and the crowd went wild. Purple fans and orange fans together. They're just glad to see a ball go through the net. It's been that ugly here tonight.
Then Chris Collins killed all that energy by calling a timeout.
Tracy Abrams made a nice move getting to the basket early in the half. It went halfway down and then bounced out. That's just the way it goes here tonight.
The Northwestern fans got a bit vocal early in the half. They had a spirited "Let's go, Cats!" chant, they faked coating down the shot clock when Illinois had the ball and they went nuts when Sanjay Lumkpin beat the shot clock on an out-of-bounds play.
They also thought the Illini were getting the benefit of the whistle early in the half.
Illinois went six minutes without coring spanning the last two minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second frame.
Former Illini Sam Maniscalco is here. He's just been shaking his head a lot.
A young woman named Kishauna Hampton was honored during the under-16 timeout. Kishauna served in the Army in Iraq. She's from Harvey, graduated from Thornton. Loudest ovation of the night.
Northwestern 22, No. 23 Illinois 15 — HALFTIME
In the first halves of each of the last two games, the Illini have scored a total of 40 points. It's really been a struggled on that end of the floor of late. Even when they create opportunities, they're missing good looks. The 15 first-half points were a season low for John Groce's club.
Joseph Bertrand got a runner to drop after it bounced off the back of the rim and above the backboard. It didn't count, a fraction of a second too late. It's been that kind of run for the Illini the last two games.
I'm really interested to hear what the conversation inside the halftime locker room is right now. It can't be a real chipper one.
Alex Olah hit a three-pointer, then celebrated as if the shot clinched an NCAA tournament berth for the 'Cats.
He was 1 for 6 from long range entering the game.
Illinois, on the other hand, continues to miss layups and tip dunks. It's really amazing what's happened with that the last game and a half.
Again, this has really been an offensive struggle for Illinois. The Illini probably won't be ranked tomorrow, no matter what happens here the rest of the night.
The Illini shot 6 for 31 (19.4 percent) in the half and 0 for 8 from three. I don't have a calculator, but I think that's 0 percent.
Northwestern shot 8 for 23 (34.8 percent) from the floor and 3 for 12 (25 percent) from long range.
Illinois was led by Tracy Abrams' six points. Rice had three. Northwestern got seven points from JerShon Cobb and five from Drew Crawford.
Illinois won the rebounding battle 22-20, eight of those coming on the offensive glass. Jon Ekey has six rebounds.
The sound system here is not very good. And they played Brett Dawson's favorite song "Sandstorm."
The later played one of my favorite songs (for real) "Chelsea Dagger." reminded me to look up the Blackhawks' score. They've been in a bit of a funk, too.
Northwestern 11, No. 23 Illinois 8 — 10:37 first half
The Illini having trouble getting anything going offensively. A couple of times they've been forced to fire something up late in the shot clock. They're not beating anyone off the dribble.
Rayvonte Rice missed an open layup on Illinois' first attempt of the game, continuing the trend that killed the Illini at Wisconsin.
Nnanna Egwu made Illinois' first bucket of the night. People have been on him. I feel like he'll have a big night.
Sanjay Lumpkin busted his face on the floor diving for a loose ball with Joseph Bertrand. Bertrand drew a foul on him. Tough deal for Lumpkin.
Little kid wearing an Indiana jersey was trying to score one of the free t-shirts the cheerleaders were tossing into the crowd. He gets no love from anyone here. The orange folks don't like him and the purple folks don't either.
Egwu set about six ball screens on one possession. He rolled open a few times, but no one saw him. He later got hit with a three-second violation.
Maverick Morgan knocked down a shot jumper on his first offensive possession. He's got a real nice touch around the basket.
I just noticed from way up here in the cheap seats, Jim Burr is one of your officials tonight.
They just had the tricycle race. No Orange Krush members were involved in this one. That was more entertaining than this game's been so far. The teams are a combined 7 for 23 from the floor right now.
No. 23 Illinois (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten) at Northwestern (7-9, 0-3) — TIPOFF (BTN)
Mike LaTulip didn't make the trip up here with the team. He suffered a concussion at the end of the Wisconsin game. Athletic trainer Paul Schmidt and the Illinois coaches didn't want to put him on a bus and mess with anything. It's unsure how long Mike will be sidelined.
Big Illinois media contingent here tonight. Mark Tupper (Decatur Herald and Review), Herb Gould (Chicago Sun-Times), Chad Dare (Danville Commercial News), Fletcher Page and Taylor Rooks (Scout.com), Jeremy Werner (ESPN Radio-CU), Rob McColley (Smile Politely) and Aaron Bennett (WCIA) are here. The Chicago Tribune is triple-teaming it. Shannon Ryan, Teddy Greenstein and David Haugh are all here. Dan Roan, formerly of WCIA, currently of WGN, is also here.
Stephen Bardo just showed up, too.
Illinois goes with the familiar lineup of Tracy Abrams, Rayvonte Rice, Joseph Bertrand, Jon Ekey and Nnanna Egwu.
Northwestern will go with JerShon Cobb at the point, Kale Abrahamson, Sanjay Lumpkin, Dew Crawford and Alex Olah.
Northwestern fan sitting near me printed out the game notes, has a bunch of stuff highlighted and he's studying it like he's going to be quizzed on it at the start of the game. Dedication.
It's Cricket Wireless night here. They've got a little Cricket blimp thing flying around.
Loud ovations for all Illinois players during introductions. Loudest for Rayvonte Rice.
No. 23 Illinois (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten) at Northwestern (7-9, 0-3) — 6:30 p.m. BTN
Found out a little while ago that Northwestern point guard Dave Sobolewski won't play tonight. He's got a concussion and his absence is indefinite. Sobolewski has had a rough season by his standards to this point.
He was AAU teammates with Tracy Abrams and Nnanna Egwu with the Illinois Wolves. Sobolewski and Egwu hugged and shared a few laughs when Egwu took the floor. Sobolewski is wearing a dark suit.
Northwestern freshmen Sanjay Lumpkin and Nathan Taphorn were on the floor more than two hours before the game going through a serious presume workout with one of the assistant coaches. It reminded me of the workouts the Illinois transfers go through prior to games. Not sure if this is a regular thing for them, but they must be in good shape if they can do that and then play in a game.
I spy a fan wearing orange and blue striped overalls with an orange shirt underneath. I'm going to go ahead and assume he's here to cheer for Illinois.
The folks entering Welsh-Ryan early are mainly wearing orange. I was told there were still about 800 tickets available two hours before tipoff. I'd imagine those will be gobbled up.
I mentioned the Northwestern uniforms. The players designed them, they're pretty excited about them. After his early presume warmup, Drew Crawford asked an arena employee what he thought of the shorts. The person approved.
Northwestern play-by-play man Dave Eanet joined Steve Kelly, Loren Tate and me on the presume radio show. Dave can't figure out this Northwestern team either.
By the way, congrats to Steve Kelly. We had our News-Gazette Employee Appreciation party in Urbana last night and Steve was recognized as an Employee of the Year. Very well-deserved. He works his butt off.
Nice hand for the Illini as they took the court about 35 minutes prior to tipoff. A lot of the players are wearing their bright orange and blue Kevin Durant Illinois Edition sneakers. Good-looking shoe.
How's the Broncos-Chargers game going? I bet Mike Thomas is keeping tabs on that one.
No. 23 Illinois (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten) at Northwestern (7-9, 0-3) — 6:30 p.m. BTN
Good evening from
Chicago Evanston where the Illini will look to bounce back from Wednesday's debacle at Wisconsin against Chris Collins' Wildcats.
I asked John Groce what went wrong, particularly on the defensive end for the Illini in that game against the Badgers where they allowed 95 points. He didn't hesitate when he said "They (Wisconsin) played terrific, that was probably the biggest thing."
He's right, but there were also some mistakes Illinois made on the defensive end that led to it allowing the most points under Groce. Bad offensive possessions also aided the Badgers. The days of practice leading up to tonight's game have been more physical and geared toward ironing things out on the defensive end.
"We got away from what we're usually doing a little bit so we've really been focusing on that," Joseph Bertrand said. "I think we did a good job in the game before. I don't know what happened in the Wisconsin game, it just wasn't there."
The Illini also didn't seem too fazed by the lopsided loss.
"It was a learning process. Games like that happen," Bertrand said. "When you lose like that all you can do is learn from it, go back, watch the tape and see what went wrong and try to correct it."
I rode up to Evanston today with Brian Barnhart. We were among the first people inside the arena. We came in through a side door and no one bothered us at all. Ed Bond was over at Mustard's Last Stand. No surprise there. Ed probably ate everything they had over there, the dude can put away some food.
You know how Wisconsin went on that 20-0 run the other night to put that one away? Barnhart reminded me in the car on the way up here that Illinois went on a 26-0 run in the game here last year to put that one well out of reach.
Expect a bunch of Illinois fans here today. You'll remember the Orange Krush infiltrated Welsh-Ryan last year and even participated in some promotional games during timeouts posing as NU students.
NU is averaging 6,178 here in the arena that holds 8,117. There will be orange here.
Illinois is wearing orange tonight. Northwestern is wearing their special grays.