Illinois 88, Northwestern 63: Hoops Musings for the Morning After Game 16

Getting some much-needed time in the second half, Illinois freshman guard/forward Crandall Head (#4) is trapped by Northwestern guards Michael "Juice" Thompson (#22) and Nick Fruendt (#15) during the Illini's blowout victory on Thursday night.

After an impressive win against the Wisconsin, many Illinois fans were worried that Northwestern was a trap game. The Wildcats had come off a near upset of then top 25 team Michigan State and had a lot of momentum when they headed into Champaign. Illinois didn’t seem to care.

The Illini trounced the Wildcats, winning by 25 and setting a school record in the process.

Here are some observations from the rout:

  • Illinois has clearly gotten over its two game struggles against UIC and Missouri. In the three games since the bragging rights game, Illinois is 3-0 and is shooting 62.2 percent from the field and 63.3 percent from behind the arc. That is quite a bit better than the 25.7 percent the team shot in the previous two losses.
  • While the 70.5 percent shooting for the game, a school record, is extremely impressive, what might be more impressive is how well Illinois distributed the ball. Six different Illinois players were in double figures.
  • It was nice to see Illinois driving to the basket. Although they are still taking plenty of jump shots, and those are falling at the moment, the UIC game proved that it is too dangerous to rely on the jump shots alone. Not only did Illinois have numerous dunks this game, by far the most of any game so far this season, but they also drew 18 fouls.
  • If there is something negative that can be said about this game, it is that the Illini turned the ball over far too much. The Illini had 22 turnovers to only 9 from Northwestern. Turnovers do not really matter when you shoot as well as Illinois did in this one, but the Illini won’t always have such nights. The Illini must take better care of the ball, especially against the other top-tier opponents in the Big Ten, if they want to continue to move up in the rankings.

Alright, here are some player observations.

Demetri McCamey

14 points (4-6 from the field, 3-3 from three, 3-4 from the foul line), 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 turnovers, no fouls in 28 minutes

  • At first glance McCamey’s stats look decent but not extraordinary. Then you realize that he accomplished those stats in only 28 minutes of play, more than 5 minutes less than he is averaging, and you begin to get the picture. McCamey did a great job not only shooting the ball but distributing to everyone. His four turnovers are a bit high, but three of them came on show-boating plays such as failed alley-oops. While this is not necessarily an excuse, it is acceptable in this instance because it was good to see that the team kept the foot on the pedal despite the big lead.

Mike Tisdale

13 points (6-8 from the field, 0-0 from three, 1-1 from the foul line), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls in 21 minutes

  • While it would be nice the see Tisdale get a few more rebounds, that is the only complaint that can be placed on the senior’s performance. While this was not as dominant as Tisdale’s 31 point double-double against the Wildcats last season, he was able to get to the rim whenever he needed to. The difference this game was that the rest of the Illini played well enough that he did not need to have as huge of a performance.

Mike Davis

12 points (3-5 from the field, 0-0 from three, 6-8 from the foul line), 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, no turnovers, no fouls in 26 minutes

  • Davis had a career high 7 assists in this game, and was the star for the Illini. After making his first few baskets, Davis did an excellent job of passing to the open man when the double team came instead of trying to force up a shot.

Jereme Richmond

11 points (4-4 from the field, 1-1 from three, 2-3 from the foul line), 3 rebounds, no assists, 4 turnovers, 2 fouls in 16 minutes

  • Another very solid game from the freshman. Richmond has continued to live up to his preseason hype and although he will no be freshman of the year (Ohio State’s Sullenger has all but wrapped up that award), he is well on his way to becoming a member of the Big Ten all freshman team.

Meyers Leonard

11 points (4-5 from the field, 0-0 from three, 3-4 from the foul line), 1 rebound, no assists, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls in 18 minutes

  • This may have been Leonard’s coming out party. Prior to this game, the freshman had looked very uncomfortable at times on offense and often would shy away from the post. In this game Leonard was constantly backing down in the post, and he was rewarded with a career high in points. Now he needs to focus on becoming a greater threat on the boards.

D.J. Richardson

10 points (4-7 from the field, 2-4 from three, 0-0 from the foul line), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal, 4 turnovers, 2 fouls in 21 minutes

  • Richardson’s points do not properly convey how well he played. He defended John Shurna, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, and held him to a season low 7 points on 2-7 shooting. Richardson’s value on both ends of the court can not be overlooked.

Bill Cole

5 points (2-3 from the field, 1-2 from three, 0-0 from the foul line), 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, no turnovers, no fouls in 20 minutes

  • While Cole will never be the team’s star player, he is a key part of this offense. Cole is always making the hustle plays and when the team is lacking energy Weber always turns to Cole to get the players back in the flow of the game.

Crandall Head

5 points (2-2 from the field, 1-1 from three, 0-0 from the line), no rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 foul in 5 minutes

  • It was great to see Head get off the bench and into the action, something that has not happened enough this season because the Illini have not put away opponents that they were supposed to and the bench has not had the playing time. The freshman showed flashes of brilliance in this one as he came in late as the point guard. He made both shots from the field including a ridiculous three pointer that banked in and sent the Illini bench into a laughing fit.

Brandon Paul

4 points (1-2 from the field, 1-2 from three, 1-2 from the foul line), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls in 22 minutes

  • After watching D.J. Richardson win freshman of the year honors for the Big Ten thanks largely to his lockdown defense, the sophomore has picked up his own defensive effort. Paul leads the team in steals and is 5th on the team in blocks behind the Illinois post players.

Joseph Bertrand

2 points (1-1 from the field, 0-0 from three, 0-1 from the foul line), 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 block, 1 turnover, 1 foul in 7 minutes

  • Although it would appear that Weber is grooming Paul to be the starting point guard next season with McCamey’s departure, you can be that both Head and Bertrand will be throwing their names in for the starting lineup. It is sure to be an exciting race to follow this offseason.

Tyler Griffey

1 point (0-1 from the field, 0-1 from three, 1-2 from the foul line), 2 rebounds, no assists, 2 turnovers, 1 foul in 14 minutes

  • Griffey is going through a slump this season. The sophomore has only recorded 35 points thus far this season. While some of his decreased numbers can be attributed to the arrival of Richmond, Griffey still has the ability to have big games, he just needs to get out of his shooting slump.

Kevin Berardini

0 points (0-0 from the field, 0-0 from three, 0-0 from the foul line), 1 rebound, no assists, no turnovers, no fouls in 1 minute

  • Berardini has taken the role of crowd favorite as a walk-on this year.

Jean Selus

0 points (0-0 from the field, 0-0 from three, 0-0 from the foul line), no rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, no turnovers, no fouls in 1 minute

  • Selus had his first collegiate assist and steal in this game.

Overall this was an excellent game for the Illini and something that the players can look back on to see just how well they can play when the effort is there and they play smart.

Until next time.

Topics: Assembly Hall, Bill Cole, BP3, Brandon Paul, Bruce Weber, Crandall Head, D.J. Richardson, Demetri McCamey, Head Coach Bruce Weber, Illini, Illini Basketball, Illinois, Illinois Basketball, Jean Selus, Jereme Richmond, Joseph Bertrand, Kevin Berardini, Meyers Leonard, Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, Tyler Griffey, University Of Illinois

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