Illinois basketball: Illini report card against the Northwestern Wildcats

In a tale of two halves, the Illinois basketball team was able to walk away victorious against in-state rival Northwestern, 73-66.

The Illini looked really good in the first half of this game, and that’s how a top-five team should play against inferior opponents at home.

But it’s the Big Ten and anything can happen. What seemed like a nice 12-point lead at the half turned into a little bit of a scare for Illinois fans. The Wildcats closed within a single score in the second half, but Illinois held on for the 73-66 victory at the State Farm Center.

The Offense: B

The offense was great in the first half. Nothing Northwestern did was slowing the Illini down.

Kofi Cockburn was dominant in the paint, and Illinois was making outside shots and spreading the court for the offense. The Illini shot 60-percent in the first half but only 44-percent in the second half.

The 15 turnovers and the 50-percent shooting from the free-throw line slowed any momentum that Illinois built up. There were flashes of greatness from this team, but they need to be more consistent and put together two good halves.

The Defense: C+

The same goes for the defense. Illinois had a good first half and a bad second half.

Northwestern could not score in the first half, shooting just 34-percent from the field. But they got in a groove in the second half and shot 50-percent. The Illini did do a good job of preventing the Wildcats from spreading the court, however, as Northwestern finished with only four assists.

Kofi Cockburn: A

The game plan was simple for the offense: get the ball to Kofi. The big man was able to slice and dice the Wildcats defense, and they simply didn’t have an answer for him no matter how many defenders they put on him. Kofi finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds in just 23 minutes, which was good for a double-double.

Ayo Dosunmu: B

Ayo Dosunmu had a relatively quiet game until the final five minutes, where he would proceed to hit a switch.

Dosunmu made baskets when they mattered the most and, once again, proved why he is the best closer (player?) in all of college basketball. He had two huge three-pointers in the last several minutes of the game to close out the victory. He did have 2 rebounds and 5 assists, but also had five turnovers.

Trent Frazier: B

Becoming one of the most consistent players on the team, Trent Frazier has looked great in February.

In his 31 minutes, he had 9 points with 2 assists and 1 rebound. He went 3-of-4 from the free throw line and, once again, played solid defense. Also noteworthy was his just one turnover in a game where the Illini seemed like they couldn’t take care of the ball.

Giorgi Bezhanishvili: B

Giorgi Bezhanishvili looked to have his groove on Tuesday night. He had his hook shot working and put up 10 points in just 16 minutes. He also added three rebounds. He looked very comfortable and was a great backup for Cockburn when he had two fouls early in the first half.

Jacob Grandison: B

Jacob Grandison was another player who played well in the limited time he received on the floor. He set the tone early with a couple of nice baskets and continues to be solid defensively. Brad Underwood keeps rolling him out in the starting five, and I’m a fan of it.

Da’Monte Williams: B

Da’Monte Williams did not get the start (see Grandison, Jacob) but played 25 minutes in this one. He had 5 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds against Northwestern. A nice play that stood out to me was when he was able to get his hand on a pass from the Wildcats at the end of the first half and take it back for a layup and drew the foul.

Adam Miller: C+

Adam Miller looks like he is a little more comfortable of late shooting the ball, but he sometimes gets too confident when he starts hitting three-pointers. He went 3-of-11 from the field, with nine of those shots coming from three-point range. The guard has a lot of potential but needs to be smarter with his shot selection.

Andre Curbelo: C-

The freshman continues to struggle the last couple of weeks. Andre Curbelo only played 18 minutes and had two turnovers. He is still one of the best passers in the game, but if he learns to slow down a little bit, I think he can take his skills to the next level.