Rapid Recap: Northwestern 73, Illinois 60


Daily file photo by Katie Chen

Redshirt senior guard Chase Audige. Audige led Northwestern with a game-high 21 points in the Wildcats’ 73-60 win over Illinois.

Alex Cervantes, Senior Staffer

For the first time since 2019, Northwestern has defeated Illinois. In an inspired effort, the Wildcats protected home court in a 73-60 win over the Fighting Illini. Wednesday’s victory marks the first career win over Illinois for every current player on coach Chris Collins’ roster.

Fueled by redshirt senior guard Chase Audige’s energy on both ends of the floor, NU (11-3, 2-1 Big Ten) took hold of a first half lead after 12 minutes of action and never looked back. 

Audige picked off a pass and turned up court before being hacked by Illinois’ Terrence Shannon Jr., who was assessed a flagrant one foul for his pursuit. Audige buried the ensuing free throws and baseline jumper to take a four-point lead on one possession. A poster dunk from senior forward Robbie Beran sparked the white-out Welsh-Ryan crowd into a frenzy. The 7-0 spurt helped secure a 31-27 halftime lead for NU.

Illinois kicked it into high gear out of halftime though, igniting an 8-0 run over 90 seconds to force Collins into a timeout. The Cats missed their first eight shot attempts before a foul line jumper from graduate student forward Tydus Verhoeven broke the drought. 

Back-to-back-to-back triples from Audige, sophomore guard Brooks Barnhizer and junior guard Ty Berry reclaimed NU’s initial four-point advantage midway through the second half. The sequence was part of a 20-2 run that handed a double-digit lead that the Cats would never relinquish.

Here are three takeaways from NU’s clash with Illinois.


  1. Audige dazzles in Chicago-themed jerseys again

There must be something about NU’s pearly white Chicago-themed alternate jerseys that gets the best out of Audige — or maybe it’s facing in-state rivals. Either way, arguably Audige’s two most impressive games in 2022-23 came in the senior-designed uniforms.

When the jersey debuted in December, the New York native poured in 28 points and had five steals in a blowout victory over DePaul. Against Illinois, Audige put in an engaged performance on both ends of the floor posting 21 points, four steals and two rebounds on 5-of-14 shooting from the field.

While not the most efficient shooting night, Audige shouldered much of the offensive burden in the first half, totaling 13 points, including three triples. His efforts saw the Cats carry a 31-27 advantage into the intermission. 

Though he tallied just eight second half points on three shots, Audige’s game-high scoring total propelled NU to victory.

  1. Nicholson rebounds from tough Ohio State game

Three days removed from a scoreless output against the Buckeyes, junior center Matt Nicholson flipped the page against the Illini. 

Nicholson, despite snagging a career-high 13 rebounds against Ohio State, couldn’t get a single shot attempt to fall at the rim or charity stripe on Sunday night. Wednesday was a different story. 

Tasked with matchups against the Illini frontcourt of Dain Dainja and Coleman Hawkins, Nicholson held his own down low. He finished the game with seven points, six boards and two steals. 

Though his play has been a bit of a roller coaster at times this season, Nicholson’s emergence in conference play would be a welcomed ascension in this Cats frontcourt. 

  1. NU’s defense sparks back to life

Sunday’s result against Ohio State was nothing short of a resounding defeat. Through the opening 12 minutes of hoops, the Cats dug a deficit so deep it was impossible to climb out of. Such a dismal performance by a top-10 defensive unit nationally provided some concern ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Illinois. 

NU’s response was emphatic.

The Cats lived up to their analytical billing, putting together an impressive and cohesive defensive display across 40 minutes of action. NU frustrated the Illini in the halfcourt, jumping passing lanes and hounding ball handlers relentlessly. 

After Illinois jumped out to a five-point lead midway through the second half, the Cats locked in en route to a 20-2 run over five minutes. When the buzzer sounded, it was NU’s prolific defense that held a good Illinois offense to 15 points under their season average.

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Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

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