In today’s Illini Tale of the Tape, it’s the 105th season opener of Big Ten Basketball as the Northwestern Wildcats travel to Champaign to take on the struggling Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois has just lost its nine-year hold on the Braggin’ Rights and already has four non-conference losses.
Northwestern has just cracked the top 25 for the first time in 41 years.
And Jim Burr is in the building.
Oh, how you can cut the tension with a knife.
Where I Was for This Game: Worrying from home, knowing that the Illini couldn’t afford any upset home losses in the Big Ten while already having four non-conference losses and Gonzaga coming up at the United Center in a few days.
What I Remember from This Game:
● Northwestern going off from three early and often, as the Princeton offense caused problems for Illinois’ suspect perimeter and dribble contain defense. Northwestern will shoot 47 threes in the game, hitting 16 of them (34%).
● Mike Tisdale having a big-time scoring game (30+ points).
● Northwestern guarding Tisdale at times with 5’10’’ guard Michael “Juice” Thompson, who actually had some success pushing Tisdale out of the lane.
● Surviving in overtime (it wasn’t pretty but a win’s a win). I forgot how Illinois almost blew this game big time at the end. If this game showed me anything, it’s that this Illinois team didn’t react well to any prosperity (see the end of the game).
● Thinking afterwards that Northwestern was going to make the NCAA Tournament (Ok, next year is going to the year, right Cubs fans?).
● Really being impressed with Northwestern’s John Shurna (he may not look like he can play, but he certainly can). With him, Thompson and Kevin Coble next year, Northwestern will seriously have a great chance to make the NCAA Tournament next season for the first time in school history.
● Also liking Northwestern freshman Drew Crawford, who was a great recruiting score for Northwestern and has the potential to be a first-team All Big Ten player in a couple of seasons.
What Surprised Me/Stood Out During a Second Viewing:
● Forgot that Northwestern was ranked in the AP Top 25 heading into this game. The last time Northwestern was ranked in the AP Top 25? January 14, 1969.
● Coming into this game, Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody was 20 games under .500 (130-150) during his 10 seasons in Evanston.
● Northwestern’s 10-1 start was the best start in the Carmody era and the program’s best start since the 1982-1983 season.
● Entering the game, Northwestern led the nation in assists for every made basket, with 8.6 assists per every 10 made baskets.
● How’s this for disparity: Illinois was 7-0 at home coming into this game, with averages of 85.6 points per game and 52.1% shooting. On road/neutral courts, the Illini were 1-4 with averages of 67.4 ppg and 42.8% shooting.
● With this win, Illinois had won 20 of 22 from Northwestern, including an improbable comeback in Evanston in the 2008-2009 season when McCamey hit a jumper with a couple of seconds left.
Alright. Let’s do this thing.
Northwestern Wildcats (10-1) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (8-4)
Here are Northwestern’s starters as the Big Ten opens its 105th season of basketball.
G Michael Thompson (Junior), G Jeremy Nash (Senior), G Drew Crawford (Freshman), F John Shurna (Sophomore), C Luka Mirkovic (Sophomore), Head Coach: Bill Carmody.
In case you forgot at the time, no more Alex Legion, who announced that he was transferring from the school days after the Missouri loss.
Wayne Larrivee and Kendall Gill with the call. Gill says Illinois needs to get off to a fast start and exploit the size advantage in the post, while Northwestern needs to hit shots and put pressure on Illinois’ backcourt, which has been turnover prone of late (see the Missouri game). Larrivee provides insight that Weber has been contemplating a lineup change, thinking of putting Cole in but hesitant about losing his energy off the bench.
● Illinois Offense: Down 14-8 at under 16. Illinois has been doing a patient job of finding Tisdale early. When they haven’t, the offense hasn’t been pretty.
Lead 16-15 at under 12, with a 10-2 run key to taking the lead. Showing great discipline in terms of getting the ball inside to Tisdale. Illinois has made 6 of its last 12 shots after starting 1-for-4.
Down 23-22 at under 8. Offense was a bit sloppy and not as patient in this segment.
Down 35-31 at under 4. This game is becoming a battle of NU’s three-point shot and Illinois’ interior game. Doing a good job of getting Tisdale the ball, who is 8-for-10 for 16 points. Illinois had been good with ball, but three turnovers in that spurt hurt, including a Jordan turnover at half court. The Illini are getting easy buckets inside when working the ball, and must continue to go to this game (even as NU tries to tempt them into quick shots).
Down 42-33 at the half. Illinois only hit 1-of-4 shots against the 1-3-1 in this segment while NU got hot on the other end (and Illinois fell asleep). Got to convert on easy opportunities in second half.
Down 47-41 at the under-16. Nice job of trying to get Richardson and Davis going. Good ball movement has led to some easy buckets.
Trailing 57-56 at the under-12, Illinois has seized momentum, with the freshman (Paul and Richardson) providing huge sparks. Illinois has matched NU from three thus far in the second half (3-for-4 vs. 3-for-8) after NU made 10 more threes in the first half. Illinois is doing a really nice job of moving the ball against Northwestern’s 1-3-1 defense.
Up 60-57 at the under-8. Sans a few mental blocks, Davis has been very aggressive on offense this half. For the most part, I love the way Illinois is moving the ball against the 1-3-1, and they’re making a conscious effort to get the ball inside, especially with Thompson guarding the likes of Tisdale and Davis. Illinois is in the bonus the rest of the way, so it’ll be important to continue to go inside.
Up 69-63 at under 4. Out of the under-8, Gill said that execution would decide this game, and Illinois is really picking apart the NU 1-3-1 with great ball movement. They’re getting the ball into the middle of the zone and hitting guys down low. Illinois looks like it is ready to put this game away. Time to close out by continuing to be patient and work the ball for good shots. Here’s a great stat: Illinois has assisted on 18 of its 26 makes so far; NU on 17 of its 21 makes.
We’re going to overtime as Illinois is shell shocked when Carmody throws some man-to-man at them out of the under 4. The Illini offense is sluggish. The only points come from the free throw line in this segment as the Illini were thankfully in the bonus. Illinois almost gives this game away with a couple of seconds left and the game tied at 74. The unlikely Richardson is left with the ball, which is stripped by Thompson, who misses a half-court heave that does not hit rim but was just off target. Illinois needs to regroup fast, or they’re going to let this one slip away. In fact, the Illini are lucky this game is in overtime at this point. Gill hits it on the head: Illinois needs to regain composure and get the ball inside.
In the overtime, Illinois is saved by Tisdale (four points) and Davis (six points). Illinois is thanking the heavens that NU went back to the 1-3-1 in overtime. Illinois is able to salt this away late at the line for an 89-83 stomach-churning win.
● Illinois Defense: Trail 14-8 at the under 16. Northwestern already has 4 threes. NU averages 9.5 threes per game, and is nearly halfway there just 4 minutes into the game. Illinois is struggling to guard the frequent screening and movement in the Princeton offense.
Illinois up 16-15 at the under 12. Defense has picked its activity up a bit, and Northwestern missed 6 straight threes in that segment. The Wildcats are getting open looks, but having to work much harder to get them.
Down 23-22 at under 8. Northwestern is 6-for-15 from three thus far. The Cats have to be happy considering that their leading scorer Thompson has yet to scratch. Illinois’ defense was alright in this segment; problem has been a lack of patience on other ends at times.
Trail 35-31 at under 4. Northwestern had missed 8 of its last 9 shots before going on a 12-4 run. Shurna with 9 points in this spurt, and NU with 3 threes. The three is a great equalizer for NU thus far in the first half. Some mental breakdowns (Cole fouling Shurna from behind the three-point line, Jordan turning the ball over at half court and allowing penetration by Thompson) have hurt the Illini. Need to tighten it up in final minutes before halftime. Northwestern is 9-for-20 from three.
Down 42-33 at half as Illinois has several breakdowns in the last minute, leading to open NU threes. Stat of the first half: Northwestern with 33 points from behind the arc, Illinois with 3. That’s 11 threes to 1 three. Illinois must do a better job of staying on their men, not getting caught under screens, containing the penetration and closing out/running out on the three in the second half if they are to win.
Down 47-41 at under-16. Northwestern has hit one three, missed an open three (Nash) and passed up on another one (Crawford). The Illini effort has been a little better, but a few breakdowns (D.J. getting caught under screen for Thompson three, Mirkovic outhustling the Illini for layup) have resulted in NU’s second-half buckets.
Down 57-56 at the under-12. Illinois has picked up its intensity defensively, with Paul providing a spark. NU looks a bit uncomfortable as Illinois has extended its defense against the three. A few mental breakdowns is the reason NU is still clinging to a one-point lead, though the Illini have seized momentum.
Up 60-57 at under-8. NU does not score during this period of play, which began around the 10 minutes mark. The Wildcats are living by the jump shot and dying by it right now. NU looks like they have heavy legs as the Cats are 6-for-21 from the field and 3-for-12 from three in the second half. NU is getting some open looks but not hitting them, and Illinois is generally doing a good job of limiting their possessions to one shot. Illinois is not the greatest defensive team around, but playing with more urgency this half. Got to keep it up though, after a silly Davis foul on a Shurna three.
Illinois leads 69-63 at under-4 as Northwestern has gone cold and missed 8 of its last 9 shots. The Illini have given up a few offensive boards here, but are really playing with focus and determination. Now’s the time to put this game away. Can they do it?
The answer is a resounding no, as Northwestern plays the final four minutes with more urgency than the Illini, which resorts to making several mental mistakes. NU breaks down the Illini consistently and attacks the boards (getting five offensive rebounds in the final minutes) to tie this game at 74 and send it to overtime. NU actually steals the ball and fires a half court heave at the buzzer. Thankfully, it misses, or Illinois would have never lived down such a loss.
In overtime, Illinois’ offense (specifically Davis and Tisdale) carry the way, but NU doesn’t go away. NU has a chance to tie the game on a three with 24 seconds, but Richardson makes a good closeout. Illinois is able to extend the lead at the line, and Cole plays good perimeter defense at the end. Illinois is able to survive despite another game full of breakdowns. If it is not yet clear through 13 games, this is not one of Weber’s better defensive teams at Illinois.
● Bruce Weber: Is reportedly contemplating lineup changes already. Good scouting and game plan offensively, as Illinois has gone inside to Tisdale three times for three scores. Defensively, the Illini look confused guarding the Princeton offense, specifically in terms of how to take on screens and recover to the shooter.
Good execution of game plan focusing on pounding the ball inside. Defense has been better leading to under 12, but Illinois can’t slack with Northwestern willing to chuck them up. Weber has been more judicious with his bench, not bringing Keller and Jordan in until 12 minutes.
Good 20 second timeout just before the under-8 as the game has gotten sloppy and too helter skelter for Illinois. Nice time to tell his team to work the ball inside and not settle for quick shots.
While down 35-31 at under 4, I like Weber’s game plan of feedin g the post and making Northwestern work on defense, with the idea that NU will start missing a lot of jacked-up threes. Granted, this assumes that an Illini team that has been shaky on perimeter and containment defense early in the season is able to do a good job defensively in these areas. If it weren’t for some mental breakdowns and bad turnovers (a common trait of this team), Illinois would likely be up a couple of points. With that said, a couple of Illini threes (from the inside outside game) would be nice to see, to make up for the disparity in points scored off three-point field goals.
The one flaw in this game plan, Illinois’ difficulty containing the ball and guarding the three, is exposed in the last minute as NU takes a 42-33 lead. Some key mental breakdowns defensively and missed opportunities offensively hurt the Illini, and make a game that has featured 8 changes and actually been close look as if Northwestern has dominated. Weber will need to stress continued patience on offense and better focus and effort on defense in the second half. Also needs to find someone who can slow down Shurna.
Weber starts Cole for Paul in the second half, with Cole guarding Shurna. Gill makes a good point about the Illini needing to extend the defense and take away the three, even if that means letting NU get some interior touches. Illinois does exactly that, and NU gets some looks in the lane. Mirkovic hits one and misses one, but I think Illinois will live with Mirkovic on the interior rather than NU bombing from the outside. (Mirkovic will end up shooting 3-for-13 from the field).
Out of under-16, Weber comes in with his original starting five. Brings Paul back in several minutes later, and gets a very nice spark from the freshman, who is active on defense and hits a couple of threes. Shortening his rotation here, with Keller not seeing time yet. It’s important for Weber to get his team to remember Tisdale out there as Illinois is down 57-56.
His game plan of being patient and moving the ball inside is seemingly wearing out NU at the under-8 with Illinois up 3. Must continue to stress post touches here.
Weber’s strengths as an Xs and Os coach has really been apparent here as Illinois has had the NU 1-3-1 zone for lunch. Now can he get his team to close this game out with a 6-point lead and under-4 minutes to go.
At 2:28, takes a timeout as NU comes out with more aggression, cutting a six-point deficit to 2 (69-67). Good timeout to instruct his young Illini on how to attack the man, which certainly was a good coaching move by Carmody in that it threw off the Illini. Out of the timeout, Illinois looks uncertain against the man but gets bailed out when Mirkovic commits a blocking foul on McCamey. Goes offense for defense after Tisdale free throws at 1:17. Brings Jordan in for McCamey, but it doesn’t work, as Jordan loses track of Crawford and the NU freshman dunks in a miss at 1:10 for a 72-70 game. Weber quickly gets McCamey back in after the Crawford dunk, thankfully due to a referee’s whistle after the play.
Takes a timeout at 17 seconds when Mirkovic tips in his own miss (off a missed Shurna three) to tie the game at 74. Uses another timeout 7 seconds later when Illinois looks frazzled in the half court, with the ball in Richardson’s not McCamey’s hands. Illinois’ final shot leaves a lot to be desired as Richardson is the one with the ball. Richardson gets the ball stripped in the front court by Thompson, who misses a half-court heave at the buzzer. Illinois is lucky this game is in overtime. Poor execution in the last four minutes by Illinois, and not a good job by Weber in getting his team to adjust to the man and failing to get a shot off at the end of regulation (something that would happen several times this season). When NU is on defense with seven seconds left and gets the final shot, that’s not good.
In overtime, Weber does a good job of getting the Illini to go down to Davis, calling the ISO play several times and getting scores out of it. His decision to throw off NU and go to a 2-3 zone leads to a Shurna layup and fouls out Tisdale (there’s a reason Weber doesn’t like the zone). Overall, though, Illinois does a nice job executing against the 1-3-1 in overtime and most of second half. The Illini were thrown off by the man, though, and it almost caught them late.
Overall: Very good game plan and execution in getting Tisdale a lot of touches. Nice adjustment at halftime against the NU Princeton offense, by starting the perimeter defense higher. The last four minutes of regulation were a roller coaster, and the inability to get a final shot off would be a problem all year. Still, a good recovery in overtime and nice job of taking advantage of Illinois’ size.
● Demetri McCamey: Tries to get on the break and has a layup blocked by Crawford at 19:04 of first half. Kind of overdribbled himself into that block. McCamey was like a bull in a china shop there. At 18:11, gets caught helping Paul on a cutting Crawford, leaving Nash open for three and a 6-2 NU lead. Looks like McCamey and Paul both fell asleep there, Paul in letting Crawford getting behind him and McCamey in not closing out. No communication between the two to switch. Gets his first bucket at 15:39 on a nice push and pull up. Good steal on a Crawford back cut, and then pushes the ball up court before being fouled, leading to the under 16.
Out of under 16, McCamey hits two free throws for a 14-10 NU lead. Gets caught in the lane and too far off on his man on NU’s first possession, but Crawford misses the three. Misses a quick pull up at 14:10. Too quick there – Illinois needs to be patient. Gill hits it on the head: as a point guard, McCamey needs to pull that ball back out and go to what’s working, Tisdale. Anyways, makes a nice find to Davis at 13:42 for a fast break dunk and 14-14 game. Another good job of keeping his head up as he feeds Tisdale at 13:24 on a break – Tisdale is fouled before he gets his shot up.
Questionable decision making at 10:05 when he tries to force a lob pass to Keller for a dunk. There was a narrow space there – needed to make an almost-perfect pass, which his wasn’t. After missing a quick three a possession earlier, hits a tough layup at 7:39 to give Illinois a 22-21 lead. Got caught up in the air, but did a nice job of adjusting the ball to his left hand to make the difficult shot. Illinois takes a timeout after the play. Bad luck at 7:22 as he accidentally tips in a Shurna miss. Went up to the get ball with one hand when it bounced off and banked in. Credit goes to Crawford there. A lesson in the importance of grabbing the ball with two hands.
A beautiful assist on a Cole layup at 4:17. Did a great job of catching a cross-court pass from Tisdale, breaking down the defense with a stutter dribble, getting into the lane and then looking off the defense to hit the streaking Cole. Beautiful lob to Tisdale at 2:59 for an easy layup and a 35-31 game. McCamey with some great decision making and execution as of late. Good find of Jordan on the break during Illinois’ next possession, but Jordan is unable to hit the jumper inside the three-point line. Loses track of Marcotullio at 2:13, leading to a breakdown in the lane and a foul on Tisdale, his second.
Loses Marcotullio at 46 seconds, leading to a three and 39-33 NU lead. Was sagging too far off of Marcotullio when an NU screen came, thus leaving him pinned under it.
Gets lucky on second defensive possession of the second half, as he gets behind a screen, leaving Crawford open for a three at the top of the key. However, Crawford does not take the shot. After NU goes up 10 with a Thompson three, takes a horribly forced layup at 17:57. Luckily, Davis hits the offensive board and tips the ball in for a 45-37 game.
Gets lucky at 14:27 on an NU inbound play in which Shurna misses an open shot. Brandon Paul got back screened there by McCamey’s man, and McCamey failed to switch or at least bump Shurna off the screen. Follows up on next possession with a lob pass to Tisdale or Paul (they both were there) that got deflected. Poor spacing by the Illini at 13:53. Great find on the secondary break at 13:32, feeding Davis for an open dunk that is missed. Gets replaced by Jordan around the 13-minute mark.
Good hustle at 9:57 to track down a soft pass from Richardson and prevent an NU break and easy layup. Beautiful find and one-handed dish from the top of the key to Davis on the block for a dunk at 7:34 and a 60-57 Illinois lead.
Misses a three against 1-3-1 at 6:08. Shot wasn’t there but Tisdale gets board. Would have liked to see more patience there, but McCamey (along with Richardson) have been doing a really nice job moving the ball at the top of the 1-3-1. Gets destroyed by a Rawley screen at 5:37, leading to a Marcotullio three and a 63-62 NU lead. Couldn’t get around Rawley there. Nice backdoor layup at 5:20 puts Illinois up 64-63. A good find by Mike Davis, and a great job by McCamey of getting behind the weak side of the zone.
At 3:06, loses complete sight of Crawford, who back cuts from the top of the key and gets an easy layup for a 69-65 Illinois lead. McCamey fell asleep there, something that tends to happen a lot with him on defense. Hits one of two free throws at 1:54 to extend the Illinois lead to 70-67. Good job of McCamey driving with the shock clock down, getting into lane and drawing a foul on Mirkovic, who was just a second late. McCamey gives up the baseline at 1:40, committing a blocking foul on Crawford, who hits one of two free throws to put the game to 70-68. Gets lucky at 31.8 seconds when he makes a difficult pass to Tisdale as Illinois is struggling against the man. Luckily, Tisdale catches the up-for-grabs ball and is fouled by Mirkovic. Very sloppy pass by McCamey with the game tied there.
At 3:31 of overtime, is slow to close out at top of key on Crawford, who makes him pay with a three that cuts Illinois’ lead to 78-77. Good finds of Davis on two straight buckets in overtime. Replaced with Jordan at 1:01 for defensive purposes, and shuffles back in later for offense.
Overall, McCamey logs an impressive 39 minutes, where he didn’t score much (9 points) but distributed (8 assists). The most impressive thing: only 2 turnovers in that stretch. Defensively, he struggled.
● Brandon Paul: Air balls a three on the first possession after having to force a shot with the shot clock under-5. Slow on a closeout to Crawford at 18:52 leads to a 3-0 NU lead. Misses a quick three at 17:54. Too quick of a shot in the offense there. Out-of-control drive at 16:42 leads to a forced and missed layup. Struggling early. I would expect Jeff Jordan or Bill Cole really soon. Cole is actually at the scorer’s table.
Bad gamble during a Shurna pass at 9:28 allows Shurna to get behind him and kick out to Alex Marcotullio for a three and 21-18 NU lead. Sits for most of first half.
Does not start the second half, as Cole is inserted for defense. Gets Cole at 16:56 and makes a great assist to Davis for a layup at 16:12 and a 47-41 game. Good job of Paul finding Davis open in the seam and delivering a strong pass.
Out of under 16, brings great energy and his best focus of the game. Nearly picks up a charging foul on the dribbling Shurna at 14:17. Was a half-second too slow there, but a good job of sliding his feet. Fantastic job at 13:37 of running Shurna off the three-point line. Shurna had to rush the three, which was badly missed. Catches a really tough break at 12:37 as he apparently is in position for a charging foul against Thompson, who blew by Jordan again. Great help defense by Paul is negated by a blocking foul. Off of next inbound, Shurna beats Paul off the drive for a tough mid-range baseline jumper and a 55-50 NU lead. Not deterred, Paul responds with a three-pointer against the 1-3-1 at the top of the key to cut the score to 55-53 at 11:55. Thirty five seconds later, Paul buries a corner three (nice ball movement again) for a 56-55 Illinois lead.
Misses a bit of a rushed three at 9:09 off a nice curl play. Paul began on the baseline and eventually got to the top of the key. His feet were set, just didn’t hit.
Doesn’t get back into the game until 2:27 in overtime, replacing Tisdale (who’s fouled out with 31 points). Commits a bad blocking foul on Nash at 46.9 seconds. Nash hits one of two free throws and Illinois clings to an 86-83 lead. Gets fouled with 9.5 seconds left after a missed Marcotullio three and hits two free throws to put the game away at 89-83.
Overall, played like a freshman in an ineffective first half but gave a huge spark in the second half, especially defensively. His final stats of 8 points and 1 assist in 18 minutes don’t reflect his contributions in second half. Obviously, needs to be more consistent.
● D.J. Richardson: Good poise and composure early, assisting on both of Tisdale’s early field goals in the post.
Hoists up a quick three at 12:32. Even if that went in, it would have been too quick of a shot. The key for Illinois is to be patient and work the ball against Northwestern’s defense, which can’t consistently guard for 35 seconds. Comes back and hits a transition floater at 12:02 for a 16-15 Illinois lead.
Bad turnover at 5:38, trying to thread the ball through NU’s defense. A good job of recovering there to force a difficult miss by Crawford on the break.
Misses a bit of a rushed three with 24 seconds left. Was open and looked to be fouled on the play. Allows dribble penetration by Thompson at the end of the half, who kicks out to Nash for a three at the buzzer, to send NU into the half with a 42-33 lead.
Needing to make up for the disparity in three-point shooting, Richardson gets a nice corner look at 18:52 but misses. He then misses an open mid-range jumper at 18:12. Richardson is struggling to get going. Even worse, in between possessions, he gets caught behind an NU dribble screen, leading to Thompson’s first field goal (a three) and a 45-35 NU lead at 17:57. Gets reamed out by Weber when he holds the ball for too long at 16:56. Follows up by hitting a corner jumper (off a nice curl inbound play) to cut the game to 47-39 at 16:52. Commits a blocking foul on Thompson at 15:56, leading to the under-16. Weber wanted a travel, and it looked like Thompson did take an extra step.
Catches a break at 14:56 when he allows Thompson dribble penetration that leads to an open Crawford three that is missed. Responds on the next Illini offensive possession with a three of his own, as Illinois does a good job of moving the ball against the 1-3-1. Illinois down 50-47, sparked by a 10-3 run. Illinois again with good ball movement against the 1-3-1 as Richardson is fouled by Crawford on an open three with 12:45 to go. He hits all three free throws to cut the game to 53-50 NU. Loses Thompson on a back cut at 11 minutes as NU takes a 57-56 lead after two straight threes from Paul.
Catches a break at 9:57 when his soft cross-court pass to McCamey is nearly stolen by Crawford. Good hustle by McCamey to keep that ball with Illinois. Rushes and misses an ensuing three.
Freaking beautiful use of the dribble and pass to Tisdale at 3:36 for a dunk and foul. Much hasn’t been written about D.J. since 9:57, but he has been doing a great job (with McCamey) of moving the ball against the 1-3-1.
Makes a freshman mistake with 59 seconds left. Illinois clings to a 2-point lead when NU goes man-to-man full court and then traps McCamey, who finds Cole. Once Cole gets the ball across half court, he finds an open Richardson. Instead of pulling the ball out, Richardson takes an open mid-range jumper that is missed and allows Thompson to push out. NU doesn’t score on several chances but retains possession when the ball is knocked away. While Richardson was open, the smarter play would have been to pull the ball out and run some clock.
Richardson fails to get his body into Mirkovic down low with 17 seconds left, as the NU center tips in his own miss off a missed Shurna three to tie the game at 74.
With 1:01 left in overtime and the shot clock down (as Illinois’ offense looks stagnant), Richardson gets fouled on a three. He makes 2-of-3 free throws to give Illinois an 86-82 lead. Good close out on a Marcotullio missed three with 24.8 seconds left that would have tied the game.
Overall, had an up-and-down 41 minutes but still logged 41 minutes, showing Weber’s faith in Richardson’s ability to do the little things (now compare this to Paul at this time). 12 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 turnovers on the night.
● Mike Davis: Gives up dribble drive to Shurna on first possession, allowing the lane to break down. Davis grabs the rebound when Mirkovic misses a point-blank layup. Good recovery by the Illini down low. Gets caught on a down screen at 17:34, leading to a Shurna three and 9-2 deficit. A possession later, goes under a ball screen rather than over it, leaving Shurna free for another three and a 12-4 NU lead. Davis with tough match ups tonight against more perimeter-oriented players than his usual post competition.
Gets his first shot attempt, a dunk, at 13:42 on a nice feed from McCamey. A good job of Davis getting down the floor after Tisdale secured the defensive rebound. Davis has been doing a quiet but steady job on the defensive glass and as a post feeder early in this game. At 13:09, has a interior shot against Crawford partially blocked. Good high low action by Illinois there. Davis needs to be stronger there with his shot/that play was reminiscent of the Georgia game when Travis Leslie blocked him late in the game’s final minute. Misses a wide open baseline jumper at 11:19. Good look, weird rotation there.
Good work on the offensive boards at 5:14 following a missed Tisdale shot. Streaked in from the perimeter to crash the board and draw an NU foul. Not getting many looks offensively, but has about 5 rebounds thus far.
Nice flash in the middle of NU 1-3-1 zone and jumper at 1:48 to cut the NU lead to 36-33. Misses another open jumper in the middle of the 1-3-1 at 1:04.
Hits a quick baseline one-hand push shot at 19:34 of the second half to make it 42-35 NU. Good job of Illinois continuing to go inside, but this time to Davis, who had only a couple of looks and just four points in the first half. Good activity on the offensive boards at 17:37, following up on a forced McCamey layup and tipping the ball in for a 45-37 game. After clearing a defensive board, scores a layup on the other end at 16:12, following a nice find from Paul. Illinois down 47-41 as Davis has a quick six points and several rebounds in the first four minutes of the second half.
Immediately falls asleep out of the under-16. Caught with his hands on hips as Nash goes to corner and hits a three off inbound play. The shot clock was down, and Davis didn’t know where Nash was until it was too late (NU now leads 50-41 on another mental breakdown). Incredibly misses an open dunk at 13:32 as he was filling the lane on transition. That would have been a monster play, with Illini already with the momentum. Carmody takes a timeout anyways after this play, as NU looks uncomfortable.
Out of under-8, Davis clears the board after an NU miss. Careless turnover at 8:26 as he tries to make a cross-court pass against the 1-3-1. The pass is too high and hot to handle for McCamey, who was hung out to dry there by Davis. Hits the front and back end of a one-and-one at 8:04 after Mirkovic went over the back. Illinois has piled up some fouls on NU in the second half and now leads 58-57. Throws down a violent two-hand jam with 7:34 to go as McCamey made a beautiful pass from the top of the key. Commits a silly foul at 7:16, fouling Shurna on a three-point attempt to take the game to the under-8 with Illinois up 60-57.
Shurna hits all three free throws out of the under-8 to tie the game at 60. Davis air balls an open jumper from the wing at 7 minutes as NU brought full-court pressure. Going back to the Missouri game, Davis must have 3 or 4 open air balls in the last two games. This air ball was off a jumper created by the dribble, something that Davis (usually a set shooter) is not used to. At 5:52, makes a gorgeous find in the middle of the 1-3-1 zone as Davis hits Tisdale down low. Tisdale makes both free throws to put Illinois up 62-60. In reviewing these games, I have been impressed with Davis’ ability to pass the ball out of the middle of the zone. Davis shows this ability again at 5:20 when he feeds McCamey out of the middle of the zone for a backdoor layup and 64-63 Illinois lead.
Good find by Davis at 1:18 as NU has gone to man and cut the game to 70-68. With the 6’5’’ Crawford guarding Tisdale, Davis gets Tisdale the ball, and the Illinois big man is fouled.
Starts overtime with a big offensive rebound of McCamey miss and a stick back for a 76-74 Illinois lead. Davis then grabs a defensive board on a missed NU 3 at 4:04. At 3:20, Weber is heard screaming “ISO”, which results in a Davis pin down on the baseline and open look (after a great feed from McCamey). Davis scores an easy layup and Illinois is up 80-77. Good job by Illinois of making most of size advantage there as Davis is being guarded by perimeter players. At 2:05, Weber calls “ISO” again and the Illini hit Davis inside. He makes a tough half-hook in the lane for an 84-80 lead. Clutch shot.
Overall, finishes with 20 points and 17 rebounds in 42 minutes. Really was the key in overtime. Great energy on the boards. A few mental gaffes here and there, but he did a respectable job guarding smaller players and a great job of using his size. 9-for-14 shooting. Really wanted the victory in overtime and made sure Illinois wasn’t going to lose.
● Mike Tisdale: Gets an interior touch on third possession and hits a beautiful fade to the baseline. Nice drop stop move there to make it 3-2 NU, and a good job of getting the ball inside to Tisdale, who needs more touches in the post. Another effective play at 17:18, as Illinois makes a conscious effort to go to Tisdale, who hits a baseline hook from the right block. Tisdale scores again with a half hook on the right block, as Illinois trails 12-6 at 16:21. Good defense on the next possession as Tisdale steps into the cutting lane of Shurna and deflects the ball to Davis, who turns it over trying to hit McCamey on the break. Mirkovic beats Tisdale to the middle for a bank shot at 15:45 and a 14-6 NU lead. Gave up the middle there and struggled sliding his feet and preventing Mirkovic from getting the advantage there.
Make that four touches and four scores for Tisdale at the 14:40 mark. Davis finds him on the left block, and Tisdale makes a beautiful shoulder/ball fake to the baseline before going middle for a half hook. Tisdale with 8 points on 4-for-4 shooting as Illinois trails 14-12. Good post defense and movement of feet at 12:46 as Tisdale is called for a questionable shooting foul against Evan Rawley, who makes one of two free throws for a 15-14 NU lead.
Back in after under-12, dunks the ball and is fouled on a nice set up from Jordan. Good job by Tisdale of attacking the rim, something he didn’t always do against Missouri. Misses the free throw as the game is tied at 18 with 10:32 to go. Nice job at 10:11 of stuffing an NU back cut, this time on a pass to Thompson. Steal results in Illinois break, where McCamey can’t hit Keller on a lob. Nice hands at 8:42 as he catches an interior feed from Keller and lays the ball in for a 21-20 NU lead.
Actually misses a baseline hook at 5:14 following a nice lob pass from McCamey. Misses another drop-step hook at 4:51 as Rawley’s size was a problem, pushing Tisdale off the block and forcing a more difficult shot. Even with these recent misses, at least Illinois is feeding Tisdale the ball. Strong catch and finish at 3:47 cuts the NU lead to 30-29. Strong interior pass from Davis again. Another good catch and finish at 2:59 off a lob pass from McCamey to make it 35-31. Tisdale showed his soft hands there.
Illinois has extended the defense at the three-point line at the start of the second half, leaving some interior stuff open for NU. Tisdale plays good post position defense on Mirkovic, forcing a miss at 19 minutes. Nice post defense at 17:13 as he blocks a Shurna shot in close. However, the surrounding Illini players get outhustled as Mirkovic gets the loose ball and lays the ball in for a 47-37 lead.
After under-12, shows good pursuit of the orange after a Paul missed three. Tisdale puts in the miss and is fouled. He makes the free throw for a 3-point-play and 50-44 game. Acrobatic put-back and some emotion from Tisdale after the score. Good to see. Called for an offensive foul at 10:40 (he swatted Thompson away like a fly) to lead to under-12. Tisdale with three fouls.
More good offensive board work at 9:42 when he rebounds a missed Richardson three. Tisdale rushes the put back, which is blocked by Mirkovic. There may have been a foul there, but the off-balance Tisdale would have been better off to get his feet set and then try to slam the ball down. On next possession, Illinois finally exploits the fact that NU is guarding Tisdale with Thompson. Richardson throws a beautiful, over-the-top pass against the 1-3-1, and Tisdale is fouled by Thompson on the ground. Tisdale has a word for Crawford after the play, who gave him a bit of a forearm shiver in the back. Nice to see Tisdale be a little nasty. Great box out on Mirkovic at 7:49 following a Marcotullio miss allows Illinois to secure the board.
Shortly out of under-8, makes a great block of Nash out of bounds at 6:43 after Illinois allowed dribble penetration. Great help defense there. Tisdale is active and all over the place, as he grabs an offensive board at 6:08 following a missed McCamey three against the 1-3-1. Later on in the possession, Tisdale is fouled under the basket after Davis delivered a beautiful pass in the 1-3-1 zone. Tisdale hits both free throws to give Illinois a 62-60 lead with 5:52 to go. Poor job 15 seconds later when he fails to show on a screen by Rawley (who destroyed McCamey with that pick). Marcotullio hits a three as a result and Illinois trails 63-62. Tisdale needed to step out there to veer Marcotullio. McCamey and Tisdale needed better communication between the two on that screen. Gets a dunk (plus the foul) at 3:36 as Richardson found him on the baseline against the 1-3-1. An aggressive finish by Tisdale, who is barking at the Northwestern team. Could have gotten a technical for taunting there as it was a bit excessive, but Tisdale is playing with some nastiness (which is good to see). Illinois leads 69-63 at the under-4 with Tisdale heading to the line.
Tisdale shouldn’t have been so cocky as he misses the free throw out of the under-4. After a Crawford score, NU throws a wrench at the Illini by going to the man-to-man. Illinois’ offense looks confused and Tisdale eventually travels at 2:40. Tisdale then fouls Thompson at 2:28 as the speedy Northwestern guard turned the corner on a screen in which Richardson couldn’t get around it quick enough. Tisdale did a nice job of showing and keeping up with Thompson as best as he could before committing his fourth foul. Thompson makes both free throws to cut the game to 69-67, and Weber takes a timeout. Good post of the smaller Crawford at 1:18 leads to a foul, and Tisdale hits both free throws for a 72-68 Illinois lead. Makes a huge catch of an errant McCamey pass with the game tied and 31.8 seconds left. Is bumped by Mirkovic on the play and hits two free throws to put Illinois up 74-72. A career-high 27 points for Tisdale at this point.
Huge offensive board and put back off a Cole miss with 3:45 to go in overtime gives Illinois a 78-74 lead. Fouled off the ball by Shurna at 2:41 and makes both free throws for his 30th and 31st points and an 82-77 Illinois lead. Tisdale fouls out on the next possession as Illinois goes to a 2-3 zone (surprise move there). It backfires, as Shurna got behind the baseline on the zone, made a layup and got fouled. Tisdale is done with 31 points and replaced by Paul. Shurna hits the free throw to make it 82-80 Illinois.
Overall, what else can you say? A spectacular game with 31 points (on 11 of 14 from the field) and 11 boards. Illinois made Tisdale’s size advantage a major emphasis, and he certainly responded big time. Played with the type of urgency and aggressiveness that Illinois fans have been longing for three seasons.
● Bill Cole: First Illini off the bench, at 16:42 for Paul. Guards Shurna.
Nice offensive rebound at 14:10 but is unable to stick back the McCamey miss.
Hits a three out of the under 8 with the shot clock down. Good recognition and release as Illinois leads 25-23. That’s Illinois’ first three of the game. Steps out of bounds at 6:09 as Tisdale fed him the ball out of the post. Gets caught behind a screen as Shurna buries a three to give NU a 26-25 lead with 4:39 to go. Scores a layup at 4:17 to put Illinois up 27-26. That play was all set up by McCamey, who got into the lane and made a beautiful assist. Follows up with a mental mistake on the other end. Too aggressive on close out of Shurna three, leading to a potential four-point play. Shurna hits the free throw to complete the four-point play and give NU a 30-27 lead.
Out of under-4, gets lucky on a couple of possessions as he does not stay close enough to Shurna on a backdoor lob pass that is missed and a bit of a heat check three in transition.
Starts second half on Shurna, and allows quick penetration, which leads to an open NU shot that is missed.
Returns at 8:04, spelling Paul, who had a nice run there.
Buries an open corner three at 4:27 as Illinois is really moving the ball well against the 1-3-1 and picking it apart to be honest. Good feed from Richardson as Cole gives Illinois a 67-63 lead that forces a 30-second NU timeout. Illinois does a nice job out of that timeout forcing a difficult Thompson runner as the shot was expiring.
Gets beat on a Shurna back cut layup as the game is tied at 72 with 45 seconds left. That NU possession began with Richardson taking a rushed shot on the other end, Thompson pushing out and missing a layup, and NU missing several put-back chances before the ball was batted out of bounds. Cole briefly fell asleep on Shurna, who was at the top of key and made a good cut in the Princeton offense, with Nash making a great pass. Nearly gets burned at 20 seconds when he sags off but recovers on Shurna, who misses an open three at the top of the key. However, Mirkovic gets two rebounds and a score to tie the game at 74 with 17.1 seconds left.
At 1:36 of overtime, makes a nice block, but the ball goes out of bounds to NU. He then loses Shurna on the inbounds play. Shurna misses a layup but tips the ball in to make it 84-82 Illinois. NU won’t go away.
After a Nash free throw cut the game to 86-83 with 46 seconds left, Cole commits a huge blunder, making a dangerous pass that is stolen by NU amidst their pressure. Northwestern calls a timeout and will eventually miss a tying three with 24.8 seconds left. Cole caught a break there. Cole was fouled on the rebound attempt of the missed three and hits one of two free throws to give Illinois an 87-83 lead. Cole plays good position defense on two NU three pointers late in the game, getting into Nash while staying down and keeping his hands up, and then doing the same on a Marcotullio air ball that Paul rebounds.
Overall, logs big time minutes (27), finishing with 9 points and 2 rebounds. Made some things difficult for Shurna, who still finished with 27. It’s becoming clear that Weber prefers Cole to be a stabilizer at times over the erratic play of the more-talented Paul.
● Dominique Keller: Gets Tisdale at 12:46. Fails to box out Rawley at 11:42, which leads to extended NU possession but no score.
Slow closeout on a Nash three at 10:52 gives NU an 18-16 lead. In Keller’s defense, he had to come out all the way from the block on that play. He actually covered good ground but probably could have come a step or two closer to contest the shot. Play developed off a nice curl in the lane and pass from Thompson, who has been cold shooting at the get go. Can’t corral a tough lob pass from McCamey at the rim with 10 minutes left. Misses a dribble drive from the top of the key at 9:42. Had Tisdale down low in the post – would have liked to see the entry pass, given how effective Tisdale has been. Misses an open mid-range jumper on next possession, and then assists on a Tisdale layup with 8:42 to go, ultimately capping off as sloppy Illinois possession. Got the defensive board to start that possession.
At 1:22, misses an open layup in the 1-3-1 zone. Got to hit that one there.
Doesn’t play in the second half.
Overall, 3 rebounds and 1 assist in seven minutes. A couple of rough games in a row after solid performances against Western Michigan and Vanderbilt.
● Jeff Jordan: Also in at 12:46, for McCamey. Nice defensive rebound and push at 12:02 leads to a secondary transition score for Richardson.
Nice breakdown of NU defense off the bounce and kick to Tisdale for a dunk and potential 3-point play at 10:32.
Back in before under 4 and allows dribble penetration to his good buddy Thompson, who kicks out to Nash for three and a 33-29 NU lead. Immediately turns the ball over at half court, leading to a Shurna layup and 35-29 game.
In for McCamey at 13:08 of second half, immediately allows dribble penetration that results in a Marcotullio three and a 53-47 game. Struggles to contain Thompson on a tough Paul blocking foul at 12:37.
Comes in for McCamey at 1:17 to play defense with Illinois up four. Loses track of Crawford, who tip dunks an NU miss around the rim. Quickly replaced with McCamey, but returns for more defense at 31.8 seconds.
Overall, 1 rebound and 2 assists in seven minutes.
● Tyler Griffey: Comes in right before the under-8 timeout to steal a few seconds.
Does not play the rest of the game.
Overall: Illinois wins 89-83 in overtime, as Tisdale and Davis come up huge. The Illini survive NU’s three-point onslaught and appear to have the game controlled late in the second half after pounding the ball inside. Illinois nearly gives the game away at the end of regulation, but gets back to the post in overtime to get the gritty, if not pretty, win.
Play of the Game: While Illinois will win in overtime, the Illini almost cough up a 6-point lead with under-4 minutes to go. With the game tied at 74 seconds with 7 seconds left, Illinois has the ball coming out of a timeout. The ball ends up in Richardson’s hands. Richardson gets it past half court but can’t go anywhere before NU’s Juice Thompson steals the ball and misses a half-court heave at the buzzer that would have won the game. This lack of execution would be the first of several times last season that Illinois failed to get the last shot off, definitely a working point for the players and coaches this off-season.
Players of the Game: Tisdale and Davis.
Tisdale has a career-high 31 points and adds 11 boards, while Davis goes for 20 and 17. The Illini don’t win this game with just one of these two guys playing well.
Things I Liked:
● Illinois making it a point to get Tisdale touches early and often (great game plan from Weber).
● Tisdale’s nastiness.
● Davis’ urgency, especially in overtime.
● McCamey’s lack of turnovers in 39 minutes.
● Better perimeter defense at the three-point line in second half.
● Illinois’ ball movement against the 1-3-1.
Things I Disliked:
● Execution in last 4 minutes of regulation.
● Inability to handle prosperity late in regulation.
● Not getting a shot off at the end of regulation, and Northwestern getting a shot off that could have won the game.
● Continued problems containing the dribble, and McCamey falling asleep too often on defense.
Well, that’s it for another detailed Illini Tale of the Tape.
Coming next: the Gonzaga-Illinois game from the United Center, where I was actually in attendance.
Topics: Alex Legion, Assembly Hall, Bill Carmody, Bill Cole, Brandon Paul, Bruce Weber, D.J. Richardson, Demetri McCamey, Dominique Keller, Drew Crawford, Illinois Basketball, Jeff Jordan, Jeffrey Jordan, John Shurna, Joseph Bertrand, Juice Thompson, Kevin Coble, Michael Thompson, Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, Northwestern, Northwestern Basketball, Richard Semrau, Tyler Griffey