Men’s Basketball: Illinois blows out Northwestern to end Wildcats’ winning streak

Jesse Kramer, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

Northwestern fell victim to a hot-shooting Illinois squad Saturday at the State Farm Center, as the team’s four-game winning streak came to an arresting close in an 86-60 defeat.

The Fighting Illini, who entered on a three-game losing streak in which they had averaged 0.93 points per possession, got on an offensive roll from the opening minutes against the Wildcats’ 2-3 zone. The Cats never posed much of a threat in the blowout loss.

“They had an amazing amount of energy, pop, fight and hunger,” coach Chris Collins said of the Fighting Illini on WGN Radio. “They were ready for a big time game, and they had the will. I just didn’t feel we had the same fight that they had.”

Illinois made a 3-pointer on each of its first four possessions, opening up a 12-2 lead. Misses on the Fighting Illini’s next four attempts from long range made it seem as though the home team would come back down to earth.

But another shooting barrage in the final minutes of the first half pushed Illinois’ lead to as many as 25 points in the opening period.

“We were trying to initially trap that short corner,” Collins said on WGN. “I thought they did a great job of finding shooters out of it, and then we backed off. I thought we were just a step slow in our rotations, and I didn’t think we were as active as we had been defensively with our hands or feet, with our minds. Our talk wasn’t quite there.”

NU made an early second half run to cut Illinois’ advantage down to 17 points, but that was the closest the Cats could get.

The Fighting Illini finished with 1.37 points per possession as five players scored in double figures, led by Rayvonte Rice with 19 points. They also had an effective field-goal percentage of 59.6 percent as a team thanks to 14 triples.

“Give them tremendous credit,” Collins said. “I thought they were crisp, I thought they were fresh. They had energy, they brought the fight to us, and they deserve what they got tonight.”

NU received 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting from junior center Alex Olah.

Freshman guard Bryant McIntosh tallied 13 points and four assists while senior guard Dave Sobolewski added 11 points off the bench.

NU now turns the page to Tuesday’s matchup with Michigan, the final home game of the regular season.  The Cats are still in the running for a bye in the Big Ten Tournament, but they will have to win at least one of their final two games to jump ahead of the 10th place Minnesota Golden Gophers.

After a thorough shellacking on the road, though, Collins was more than happy to focus on the road ahead.

“These things happen from time to time,” Collins said on WGN. “They’re not fun, but they happen to everybody. It wasn’t there for us tonight. We’ve got to get back and get our legs back get ready for a good Michigan team Tuesday night.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @Jesse_Kramer