Rapid Recap: No. 5 Illinois 73, Northwestern 66

Chase+Audige+pulls+up+for+a+three.+The+sophomore+guard+scored+22+points+against+No.+5+Illinois+on+Tuesday.

Chase Audige pulls up for a three. The sophomore guard scored 22 points against No. 5 Illinois on Tuesday.

Gabriela Carroll, Web Editor


Men’s Basketball


It took 12 minutes of game time for Northwestern to score 11 points Wednesday against Illinois. For almost all of the first half, NU couldn’t even compete with the Fighting Illini. 

The Fighting Illini started off shooting 4-for-4 from three, and 85.7 percent from the field, while the Cats went over seven minutes without scoring a point. Junior guard Ryan Greer jumpstarted NU with a layup that ended the scoring drought, but the Cats would score only 26 points in a stifling first frame of play.

But Illinois’ own quiet shooting drought helped NU stay competitive. The Fighting Illini’s two stars, Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, combined for just seven points in the first half. A quick seven points from Chase Audige before the half pulled the Cats within 12.

In the second half, NU looked like a completely different team. Unlike the Cats’ last matchup against Illinois, where they forgot how to shoot in the second half, NU made four three pointers in the early minutes, bringing the Fighting Illini lead to as few as four points.

The Cats brought back their zone defense, which tripped up the Illinois offense. But Kofi Cockburn, who played just five minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, exploded in the second half, shooting 7-for-11 for 17 points and ten rebounds.

Despite the Illini pulling out to as much as a 12 point lead, NU stayed competitive, going on an 11-0 run to pull the game within one. Junior forward Pete Nance led the rally, with 12 points in the second half, shooting 4-for-5 from the field, including 2-for-3 from behind the arc. The Cats found their way back within a single point.

But in the final minutes, Ayo Dosunmu hit two clutch three point shots to put the game away. The Cats are now losers of 12 straight, a streak that has pushed them out of the national rankings and to the cellar of the Big Ten ranks.

Takeaways:

1. NU goes cold, then hot from three.

In the first half, the Cats didn’t make a single shot from behind the arc, going 0-for-10. NU’s shooting performance in the half as a whole was weak, shooting just 34.4 percent in the half. They picked things up in the second half, sinking 6-of-15, including a few clutch shots in the final minutes as part of a late comeback bid. 

2. Cats fall back into foul trouble

Both sophomore guard Boo Buie and sophomore forward Robbie Beran fouled out of the game, with Beran fouling out with eight minutes to go, and Buie joining him four minutes later. Illinois shot just 50 percent from the free throw line, keeping the score close despite the fouling. But with Buie and Beran on the bench, NU lost critical depth down the stretch. 

3. Chase Audige delivers in the final minutes, but can’t deliver the win.

In crucial moments, Audige is often the Cats’ go-to player. In one of his finest performances, he scored 17 points in the second half against Indiana to win NU the game. At the end of tonight’s game, Audige stepped up again in a big way.

The guard scored seven straight points at the end of the game, with two jumpers and a three-pointer to battle back from a big deficit. He scored 22 points, jump started the Cats’ run late in the first half, and kept hitting big shots in the second to keep NU in the game late. But ultimately, the Cats fell short, another loss in a season full of them.

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Twitter: @gablcarroll

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