Wednesday night brings another road Big Ten game for the Illinois basketball program.
The Illini haven't been bad on the road in the Big Ten this season. We are 2-1 with double-digit wins over Rutgers and Michigan. The only loss is to Purdue by five points.
While Illinois seems to fare better than most Big Ten teams on the road, winning away from Champaign is always a tough task. On Wednesday, we head up to Evanston to take on the Northwestern Wildcats.
A win over the Wildcats would give Illinois the 11th win over Northwestern in the last 12 contests. But there are some big questions I have entering the game.
Here are five big questions for the Illinois basketball team against Northwestern
1. Can Illinois shut down the “others”?
Northwestern has had some good moments this season. They were one of two teams that have beaten the Purdue Boilermakers. That is an impressive feat.
But the Wildcats have a lot of weaknesses. One of the weaknesses is that they aren’t super talented from top to bottom. They have one great player and then the supporting cast is just alright.
So, I am wondering if Illinois can shut down the “others” on the Northwestern roster. When I say “others” I mean everyone but Boo Buie.
Buie is a great player who has been playing for five seasons now. He should be one of the best players in the Big Ten, and he has lived up to those expectations this year. Buie currently averages 17.9 points, 5.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game.
The fifth-year senior came up big against Illinois in the first game, going for 20 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the floor and 2-of-4 from three-point range. He also made all six free throw attempts. But the supporting cast around Buie didn’t play well.
Ty Berry contributed 14 points and Northwestern got 10 points off the bench from Luke Hunger. But three starters for the Wildcats combined for 15 points on 6-of-22 shooting from the floor and 2-of-4 from three-point range. That is going to kill Northwestern every night.
I touch on this nearly every game, but Illinois’ length gave Northwestern trouble in the first game. They had a hard time getting past us and to the rim, and rebounding was a big issue. I expect the same result this time around. While it is a road Big Ten game, Illinois should be able to shut down the “others” and keep Northwestern in check.