Evanston, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - In the Top 25 for the first time this
season, the 23rd-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini hit the road for a Big Ten
battle with the Northwestern Wildcats at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday evening.
John Groce's Illini are an impressive 13-3 on the year. Illinois opened the
Big Ten slate with two straight wins, but struggled last week with a 95-70
loss at No. 4 Wisconsin. The loss ended a longer four-game win streak for the
Illini, who are just 1-2 in true road games this season.
Chris Collins' first season in Evanston hasn't exactly gotten off to a rousing
start. The Wildcats have had some problems with consistency and the result is
a less than stellar 7-9 overall record. Northwestern is still searching for
its first league win on the campaign, losing three straight Big Ten matchups
entering this contest, including a 93-67 rout at the hands of nationally-
ranked Iowa on Thursday.
Illinois has dominated this series, with a 130-38 all-time advantage between
these instate rivals, including a 60-24 edge in games played in Evanston.
The Illini didn't perform well in their first game as a ranked team, as they
were simply overpowered by the Badgers last week. Illinois struggled big time
in the first half, shooting an ugly 27 percent from the floor and was doubled
up by Wisconsin on the scoreboard at the half (50-25). Overall, the Illini
finished with a .316 shooting efficiency in the lopsided loss. Rayvonte Rice
led all scorers with 19 points. Joseph Bertrand was a close second on the team
with 18 points. Nnanna Egwu added just four points to the cause, but did grab
a team-high 10 rebounds.
Illinois isn't an offensive juggernaut, posting modest numbers at that end of
the floor with 72.1 ppg on .429 shooting. However, the team does have a
prolific scorer in Rice, who leads the way in both the scoring column (18.8
ppg) and on the boards (6.0 rpg). Tracy Abrams and Bertrand are complementary
scorers with 12.6 and 11.4 ppg, respectively.
The Wildcats' woes have come offensively this season, as they are averaging
just 64.6 ppg this year. That number has been even worse in league play, with
Northwestern averaging a mere 55.7 ppg against Big Ten opponents, while
allowing over 81. Drew Crawford leads the way as both NU's top scorer (15.7
ppg) and rebounder (6.9 rpg). JerShon Cobb is the only other double-figure
scorer on the roster (12.0 ppg), although Tre Demps (9.9 ppg) and Alex Olah
(9.1 ppg) aren't far off the mark.
Northwestern got off to a slow start and the Hawkeyes took advantage, steadily
increasing their lead as the game wore on and finishing off the Wildcats in
what turned out to be a lopsided affair. Iowa outrebounded Northwestern 41-28
and outshot the visiting Wildcats, 56.9 percent to 39 percent. Cobb led NU
with 18 points in the loss. Crawford chipped in with 12.
The Sports Network