No Vedran, No Win NU 47 ILL 63

Beating Illinois on the road is hard enough, but Northwestern travelled to Assembly Hall Wedensday, knowing that the Big 10's leading scorer would be riding the bench. The game was even closer than the score, as the NU Wildcats kept coming back on the Illini until the "hope offense" cut in.

The Cats did keep clawing back...
At the half, the Northwestern Wildcats were down 27-20 in a game played at NU's pace. The other Illinois guard, Rich AP - John DixonMcBride was the leading scorer with 12, Mohamed Hachad [right] was the Cat's leader with 11, and Vedran Vukusic was on the bench in street clothes.

Even without Vukusic, the main reason for the low scoring was NU's defense.
I didn't start in the 1-3-1, and then when I went to that, that caused some problems early.

They got used to it after a while but it definitely caused them some problems ... you know they weren't getting the good shots early, so

I liked the fact that it seemed we were just a little bit short of the necessary stuff you need to win on the road.
AP John DixonBut NU came out after the half and engineered a 9-2 run, to get the score tied at 29 all at the media timeout.

When they came out fo the timeout, with 15 minutes left, Dee Brown [left] got hot, hitting back to back 3 pointers and a free throw to pull Illinois ahead 36-29.
As good players do, the kid hit some big threes, that changed everything.
Even though Illinois' James Augustine suddenly seemed to be able to dunk at will, NU wasn't done. AP-John DixonThe Cats still played some decent defense, diving for balls [Vince Scott makes some linebacker moves on Rich McBride - right], and continued to try to get back into the game

Evan Seacat made a pair of Free Throws, then Tim Doyle got a 3 point play off a jumper and a foul to bet the Cats within 10. Craig Moore hit for a 3 pointer [assisted by Seacat] to cut the margin to 7.

Another layup from Dee Brown and the score was back to a 9 point margin.

But after Vince Scott hit two 3 pointers with 8 minutes left, it was all Illinois.
I know we got worn down, I had guys going in and out, and give them credit. If you don't score a basket the last 8 minutes, their defense is doing something.

They were attacking us pretty well, and when you get a little tired on offense, you start to throw "lazy" passes and they took advantage of all that stuff.

With the score 48-45, the Illini went on a 15-2 run, as the Cats appeared to run out of gas. Suddenly free throws stopped falling, and the Illini could make the steals and the game was essentially over.

One bright spot was the play of Mohamed Hachad, who stepped up to score 17, on 6 of 11 shooting [3 of 4 from the arc]. The other was Vince Scott, who hit for 11 on 3 of 4, with all 3 baskets going for 3 points.
A lot of our offense depends on a center who can make a shot.

Sometimes, they left him open and he knocked down a couple but, he looked like he's a little worn out.
Dave noted the game in Evanston, where the Cats got down to Illinois by 26 points, and Carmody said that coming back from 26 was easy. Tonight NU came back from closer margins several times.
7:50 to go and you have the ball and you're down 2, it looks like you're doing what you wanted to do, ... and so its completely different.

I thought our guys worked hard tonight.
And why wasn't Vedran in the game?
He had some pain in his back and it wasn't from practice or anything...and so I'm sure we're going to start doing some tests and find out - he might wake up and feel fine - but backs are tricky things.

He really can't move right now. [but] He's day to day.
Next are the Buckeyes, at their house. Ohio State lost to Wisconsin on the road last night, 78-73 in a game where the Bucks had led for most of the game.

With or without Vukusic, the Cats hope to continue to play a slow down, tight defense. They'll need it against the "bombs away' Buckeyes.

Bill Carmody's Post Game comments [in italics] are taken from the WGN Post Game Show with Dave Eanet & Bob Hildebrand and may have been edited for clarity.
Official Statistics from nusports.com


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Story (c) 2006 by PurpleWildcats.com/Purple Reign
Interview comments (c) 2006 by  WGN Radio

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