If there was anything colder than the Chicago winds on Wednesday night, it had to be the shooting of the Fighting Illini. Illinois shot 37% from the field, including 26% from behind the three-point arc, and fell to Northwestern 70-60 at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston.
Illinois (10-4 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) not only shot poorly from the field, but the Illini shot an anemic 40% from the charity stripe.
The Illini guards were complacent to sit outside the arc and launch. Illinois put up an alarming 31 three-pointers, with only 8 of those shots finding the bottom of the basket.
Northwestern (7-7, 2-1) beat the Illini for the first time since 1999 and the first time at home since 1994. Davor Duvancic was the high scorer for the Wildcats with 22 points. Jitim Young contributed 15 points and 10 rebounds to the Northwestern cause. T.J. Parker added 13 points and 5 assists.
After the first twenty minutes, the Illini were sitting pretty with a nine-point lead. Things went south for the orange and blue when they came out of the locker room. After a strong performance from long distance in the first half, Illinois lost their shooting touch after the break. Illinois shot 21% from the field in the second half. When shots did not fall, the Illini kept gunning and were never able to answer the high-energy home squad.
Dee Brown was the leading scorer for the Illini with 19 points on 7 of 18 shooting, including 5 of 12 from three-point land. Deron Williams added 15 points for Illinois. Williams handed out 5 assists.
Sophomore forward James Augustine was the only Illini who stepped up and played a complete game. Augustine recorded a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds. The big man also blocked 2 shots.
Luther Head and Richard McBride were both 0 for 6 from long distance.
Illinois only had 5 turnovers, which is usually a sign of victory. However, the Wildcats only turned the ball over 3 times and the Illini only had 1 steal.
The Fighting Illini players appear to be on a different page than head coach Bruce Weber. All parties involved might want to band together over the next two days before their contest against Iowa on Saturday morning at the Assembly Hall.