The #23 Illinois Fighting Illini dropped their third straight conference game after losing to Northwestern, 68-54.
Northwestern came out fast from the word “go” and it all started with senior Reggie Hearn. He scored a team-high 20 points in the win over Illinois, but more importantly, he scored 10 points in the first ten minutes of the game.
After the game, head coach John Groce said, “I thought the first 10 minutes they were a juggernaut. I didn’t think we did anything whatsoever to be disruptive and take them out of that” (Source: fightingillini.com).
The Wildcats also had success from both the foul line and from beyond the arc on Thursday night. They made 8-of-15 3-pointers (53.3%) and made 26-of-31 free throws. Both were again led by Hearn. He finished the game 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and 9-of-10 from the charity stripe.
It looked like the offensive struggles continued for the Illini on Thursday. They shot 38.8% from the field and a dismal 15.0% from beyond the arc.
Senior Brandon Paul looked to be playing much better then he did against Wisconsin. Paul finished the game with 21 points. He went 9-of-17 from the field and 2-of-7 from beyond the arc in 34 minutes.
The only other Illini to finish with double-digits was sophomore Tracy Abrams. Abrams went 3-of-9 from the field and scored 10 points.
The Fighting Illini have now dropped three straight Big Ten Conference games. This is critical because of the fact that their toughest opponents are yet to come. Starting on January 27th, Illinois will begin a five-game stretch that will feature four ranked conference teams.
During those five games, Illinois will play #5 Michigan (first meeting), @ #18 Michigan State (first meeting), Wisconsin (lost in first meeting), #2 Indiana (first meeting), and @ #9 Minnesota (lost in first meeting).
The Fighting Illini are now 14-5 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten.
Their next game will be against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on January 22nd. The Cornhuskers lost to Purdue, 65-56, in their last game. Nebraska is 9-9 overall and 0-5 in the Big Ten.
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