Illinois basketball had a big letdown game on Wednesday night, as Northwestern looked like the more prepared team.
The Illini let Northwestern hang around too long. We had a chance to take over but couldn't manage to pull ahead by a significant margin throughout the game. The Wildcats started to hit shots, and the next thing we knew, this game was going to overtime.
Northwestern dominated in overtime, taking a double-digit lead at one point. Despite a late push, the Illini couldn't overcome the great Wildcats shooting. Illinois would fall to Northwestern, 96-91.
Here are five frustrating observations from the Illinois basketball loss to Northwestern
1. Illinois did a bad job getting through screens
Illinois ended up struggling on defense throughout the entire Northwestern game, but I will get to that later. I want to focus on one particular area of the defense, and that is the ability to get through screens.
The Wildcats were able to set solid screens throughout the game, but Illinois couldn’t figure out how to cover the wide-open three-point shooter on the perimeter. It was like we had never seen a screen before.
Illinois was constantly going under screens, leaving the shooter to pop out behind the screener for a practice three-point attempt. This smart strategy by Northwestern is why they put up a big number from beyond the three-point arc on Wednesday night.
When it was all said and done, the Wildcats had made 11-of-18, 61.6%, from three-point range. That is a crazy number for any team to shoot, let alone against a solid three-point shooting defense this season.
It wasn’t just one Illinois player who was the culprit of the inability to get through screens. The Illini as a team couldn’t manage to figure out the screens on Wednesday.
Instead of going around screens, you have to fight through them. You can’t just let the opposing player have a wide-open shot. I am not saying truck the screener but go above him. Fight instead of letting open shots get knocked down at a high clip.