The Illinois Fighting Illini defeated the Northwestern Wildcats, 62-41, in Champaign on Sunday.
The Illini snapped a two-game losing streak against Northwestern. They might have lost the previous two games against the Wildcats, but won the last game in Evanston.
Injuries were the questions for Northwestern coming into Sunday’s game. The Wildcats knew that they would be without Jared Swopshire (knee). Swopshire was Northwestern’s leading rebounder with 6.7 rebounds per game. In the first game against Illinois, he had six rebounds along with 12 points.
The other player that was listed as probable for the Wildcats coming into Sunday was Reggie Hearn. Hearn is Northwestern’s leading scorer with 14.1 points per game this season. In the first game in Champaign, he torched the Illini with 20 points.
However, Sunday was a completely different game for Hearn and the Wildcats. Hearn led the team with 11 points (only Northwestern player in double-figures). He went 3-of-11 from the field and 0-of-4 from beyond the arc.
The Illinois offense was led by D.J. Richardson and Tracy Abrams.
Richardson led all scorers on Sunday with 18 points in the game. He went 8-of-15 from the field and played 30 minutes. He also grabbed eight rebounds which led the team.
Abrams added 13 points for Illinois off the bench. He played 27 minutes on Sunday and went 5-0f-8 from the field. Although, three of his five made shots came from “three-point land.”
The Fighting Illini also got a nice performance from Brandon Paul on Sunday. Paul only finished with eight points, but finished second on the team with six rebounds.
In the end, defense was the biggest key in Sunday’s win for the Illini. First off, Illinois held Northwestern to a shooting percentage of 25%.
There was a span during Sunday’s game where Illinois went on a combined 26-0 run. They finished the first half on a 10-0 run and then scored the first 16 points of the second half. Northwestern was scoreless in 9:29 total game time from 2:55 (first half) to 13:26 (second half).
The Fighting Illini are playing their absolute best basketball going into their last five regular season games. They are on a four game winning streak after being #1 Indiana, #18 Minnesota, Purdue, and Northwestern. Illinois is showing why they should be a tournament team this season come March.
The Fighting Illini are now 19-8 overall and 6-7 in the Big Ten.
Their next game will be against the Penn State Nittany Lions on February 21st. The Nittany Lions lost to the #4 Michigan Wolverines, 79-71, on Sunday. They are 8-17 overall and 0-13 in the Big Ten.
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