Northwestern Improves to 5 – 8 in the Big Ten
Credit has to be given to the fans, as Welsh-Ryan Arena was at full capacity Saturday night for the Illinois Northwestern match up which had the 12th team in the Big Ten on the road against the 10th placed team. It would have been easy for fans of both teams to mail it in on a freezing night in February but they came out in droves to support their squads.
This match up has been very balanced as they have split the last 10 meeting and this will be the lone match up between these teams in the regular season. Both teams are coming off of road losses that were not even as close as the scores made them seem and it appears to fans that neither Big Ten team from Illinois will make March Madness. Tonight’s victory by Northwestern was more for state pride than anything else.
The first half was relatively uneventful as both teams combined for only 44 points and there was sloppy play in the first 5 minutes, which had Illinois up 6 – 2. Even with the poor offensive output in the first half, head coaches Chris Collins and John Groce had their teams playing with intensity and effort.
Illinois and Northwestern combined for 17 turnovers in the first half while shooting 17 – 52 from the floor. Northwestern was 2 – 11 from behind the arc and shot 1 – 4 from the free throw line but were only down 2 at half time, 23 – 21.
The Halftime Show: The Jesse White Tumblers excited the crowd as they flew through the air while jumping off a trampoline. The JWT always put on a great show and it was nice to see a group of individuals perform at their best.
The second half was an offensive explosion by both teams as each came out firing on all cylinders with NU’s sophomore guard Scottie Lindsey the focal point since he was wet from three. Lindsey scored 18 points and was 4 for 7 from three point land while adding 1 rebound, 2 assists and 2 blocks.
The lead switched hand multiple times in the second half as both teams could not pull away until Tre Demps found his stroke late in the second half. Down 1 with less than 8 minutes to play, Demps hit four straight threes to give his team a five point lead.
The Wildcats never looked back after that, finishing off the Fighting Illini at the free throw line. Demps finished with 18 points, and added 4 rebounds. Illinois made it interesting down the stretch but they could not get a shot off in the final seconds to tie the game.
The Wildcats hit the road next as they head to Purdue (tied for 4th in Big Ten) on Tuesday and Michigan (tied for 4th in Big Ten) on Feb. 24th with a contest against the Wolverines. The Wildcats will be back home to face Rutgers on Feb. 27th.