Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Men’s Basketball: Illini play stifling defense in easy win

CHAMPAIGN, ILL – Illinois’ Rodney Alexander threw down an alley-oop over not one, but two Northwestern defenders. On the ensuing Illini possession, Alexander ooped again, firing up the Orange Crush and the rest of the orange-clad fans at Assembly Hall.

Alexander’s two dunks in 22 seconds helped spur a 12-0 Illini run midway through the first half, which proved to be too much for the Wildcats, who lost 70-37 to a previously struggling Illinois team.

NU (6-11, 0-7 in the Big Ten) equalled its lowest point total of the eight-season Bill Carmody era.

“We made the first basket,” Carmody said. “I don’t know how long it was, but when I looked up it seemed we had five points for two-thirds of the first half.”

After NU’s opening basket, a 3-pointer by freshman guard Michael Thompson, the team trailed for the final 37:51.

For the rest of the game the Cats had a tough time finding the bottom of the net. NU made only 13 field goals on 31-percent shooting.

“They shut us down,” junior guard Sterling Williams said. “They pressure the ball. Their defense was good throughout the game and our offense wasn’t good.”

Normally reliable offensive producers, sophomore forward Kevin Coble and junior guard Craig Moore were off their marks, combining for just eight points on 3-of-13 shooting.

“If they don’t score 30 between them it is trouble for us,” Carmody said. “Craig was missing the whole bit, but I’m sure some of those shots were under duress.”

Coble shot the ball just four times and Moore, who was just three days removed from scoring a career-high 28 points against Michigan State, shot just 13 percent from beyond the arc.

The Cats’ lone spark offensively was Thompson, who finished with 13 points and two assists and had the hard task of keeping slumping players involved in the offense.

“This always happens in practice,” Thompson said. “Guys miss their first couple of shots, but I still gotta have confidence in my guys.”

The Illini (10-11, 2-6) shot 54 percent from the floor, utilizing the deadly inside-outside tandem of Alexander and guard Trent Meachem.

Meachem scorched NU for 18 points and was lights-out from 3-point range, shooting 4 of 7.

The Illini’s offensive firepower forced the Cats into man-to-man defense, as they tried to keep Illinois’ lead from growing.

“I prefer to play man-to-man,” Carmody said, “but I don’t think we are fast enough. We’ve been switching and haven’t had to commit.”

But the Cats’ defensive woes were only part of the problem. The team made careless mistakes on offense, including stepping out of bounds twice, leading to 15 turnovers. Carmody said he would like to have eight turnovers in the whole game and that the team can’t win by giving the ball away the way it has in conference play.

Those turnovers and much of the poor shooting can be attributed to an Illini defense that harassed the Cats all night, especially along the perimeter.

“We were changing our defensive principles,” Illinois forward Shaun Pruitt said. “Brian Randle did a good job on Kevin Coble, Moore and Michael Thompson.”

Even when the Cats made it to the free-throw line and had no one except for the raucous Illinois student section to defend them, they shot only 43 percent.

NU, which hasn’t used more than 10 players in a game all season, resorted to using 13 and went without any of its starters in the final three minutes.

But even after a poor shooting night and another loss to a conference foe, the team is still optimistic it can get a mark in the win column.

“We just need to fight and work hard and push each other each and every day at practice,” Thompson said. “We think we can upset a team and win a couple of games.”

Reach Brian Regan at [email protected].

—–Photobucket

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Men’s Basketball: Illini play stifling defense in easy win