However, the second half was a different story, as Mirkovic was scoreless and Curletti had just one free throw. Defensively, both big men struggled, as they couldn't keep the Illini out of the lane.
That's been the story recently — a solid half and a terrible one — and the frontcourt must find more consistency to be able to compete in the Big Ten.
The backcourt had the same problem as the frontcourt — a strong first half and a very bad second half.
The Cats shot 46.7 percent from the floor in the first half, but just 24 percent in the second half. Leading scorer John Shurna had 17 points in the first half, but just three in the second half — a three-pointer with less than a minute left.
Shurna has to be involved for the entire game in NU wants a chance to win, and he's disappeared at times throughout the season. Other top scorer Drew Crawford was average, with nine points.
Northwestern was clearly up to play the Illini, controlling the tempo and playing with an emotional edge early on.
However, Illinois went on a very late first-half run to grab some momentum that it carried out of halftime and NU couldn't grab any momentum back until the final minute.
More questionable, though, are some gameplan decisions in the second half. There were times where Luka Mirkovic was handling the ball from beyond the arc — that should never happen. Because they weren't getting as much production inside, the Cats resorted to shooting threes, which is an inconsistent strategy that didn't pay off.
NU's coaches need to find a way to get something happening inside, because resorting to swinging the ball around beyond the arc isn't working.