Rapid Recap: Illinois 81, Northwestern 76


Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Vic Law losses the ball. Northwestern had six first-half turnovers.

Andrew Golden and Peter Warren

Men’s Basketball

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The theme for Northwestern’s game against Illinois on Sunday was double figures.

For the Wildcats, four players reached double-digit scoring — senior center Dererk Pardon, graduate guard Ryan Taylor, junior forward A.J. Turner and freshman forward Miller Kopp.

But even with a well-distributed attack, NU (12-17, 3-15 Big Ten) fell to the Fighting Illini (11-18, 7-11), 81-76, the Cats 10th loss away from home this year. The defeat also means that NU’s losing streak has now reached 10 games.

Pardon hit the first shot of the game, but the Cats lead would not be for long. Illinois went on a 16-2 run following the bucket by Pardon to get out to a large advantage.

For most of the first half, NU was unable to make shots consistently, finishing the first period shooting 30 percent, including a miniscule 7 percent from three-point land. Both Kopp and Taylor were 0-for-5 from the field in the first half.

The Cats had a chance at the end of the half, but senior forward Vic Law’s inbounds pass was stolen and NU entered the locker room down 39-27.

When the second half began, the Cats started off on a run, with baskets by Law, Taylor and Pardon closing the gap to three points a little over five minutes into the half.

Following a media timeout at 13:58, coach Chris Collins sat Law, Pardon and Turner for a quick breather on the bench with the score at 48-43. When they returned just over a minute later, it was 55-45 with Kipper Nichols at the free-throw line, about to complete an “and-1.”

With the three upperclassmen returning, NU was able to bring the deficit back within six points twice, but were unable to claw its way back to within a basket until with 28 seconds left the in game. By that point, the Cats were in foul-mode, and Illinois was able to hit its free throws to keep their in-state rivals at bay.

Andres Feliz led the way for the Fighting Illini with a career-high 26 points. Fellow backcourt mates Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier also scored in double figures, with Dosunmu dropping 12 points and Frazier adding 11 points.


1. Slow start dooms NU. The first seven minutes of the game were awful for the Cats. Other than Pardon, no one could hit a shot for NU, despite the fact they were getting good looks. On the other end, the Fighting Illini were hot from beyond the arc. In the first seven minutes, Illinois was 4-for-5 from three with Dosunmu hitting a pair. Feliz also had five points in the first few minutes as the Illinois led 19-6 at the 13-minute mark. Going down by such a large margin is never a good sign, and Sunday’s deficit was a prime example. For the rest of the half, the Cats played the Fighting Illini to a much closer battle. But the early deficit meant NU had to go on a prolonged scoring run at some point. For a team that has struggled all year to score, that was an extremely difficult ask.

2. The Cats coming out firing to start the second half. After the first half put NU in the deep hole early in the first half, the beginning of the second half was a complete juxtaposition. The Cats were down 39-27 at the start of the second half, but quickly made it a game. Senior Vic Law hit an early jump shot to start the scoring in the second half. After an Illini miss on the other end, graduate guard Ryan Taylor hit a three and senior forward Dererk Pardon added a layup to cut Illinois’ lead to just six.

For the first time all game, NU showed a spark on the offense side of the ball. The Cats shot 28.1 in the first half, but their run in the second half set the stage for the rest of the game. NU shot the ball significantly better moving forward, Taylor made three shots from behind the arc, freshman forward Miller Kopp added a spark and the Cats were able to keep themselves in the game after showing no signs of the first 20 minutes.

3. Ryan Taylor shoots the lights out in the second half. Coming into the game on Sunday, Taylor hadn’t made more than two three-pointers since he made four on the road against Rutgers on Jan. 18. He came out of his slump Sunday against state-rival Illinois, particularly in the second half. After failing to score in the first half, Taylor had gone over 30 minutes of game play without scoring a single point. But in the second half, he had the hot hand and NU got back into the ball game.

Taylor was perfect on all five of his shots in the second half, hitting three shots from behind the arc. The graduate guard found himself open quite frequently in the second half and didn’t miss his opportunities. As a team, the Cats shot 6-14 from three, but Taylor served as a catalyst for NU. After hitting all of his three-pointers, Taylor added a layup late in the second half and a mid-range jump shot as the Cats tried to battle back. He finished with 13 points but, unfortunately, his hot hand wasn’t enough to counteract NU’s poor shooting in the first half.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @andrewcgolden

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @thepeterwarren