5. Terrible defensive performance by the Illini
I save the best, or in this case the worst, for last. Illinois should have beaten Northwestern on Wednesday night, but we played some of the worst defense I have seen in a long time.
The Illini couldn’t stop the Wildcats. The worst area for the Illinois defense was on the perimeter. I already touched on this, but Illinois couldn’t get through the Northwestern screens. We continued to go under screens, and the Wildcats would hit wide-open shots.
But Illinois’ poor defense goes beyond the three-point arc. Coleman Hawkins wasn’t able to stop Northwestern big man Matthew Nicholson. He finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, four blocks, and three assists while shooting 6-of-7 from the floor.
Northwestern was also able to get through the game relatively efficiently. Illinois wasn’t able to force many mishaps, as the Wildcats had 16 assists to just five turnovers on the night.
I feel like Illinois had the expectation of just going out and beating Northwestern by 30 points once again. We didn’t seem prepared for what the Wildcats were going to bring to the table. This lack of awareness bit us in the butt. Illinois’ defense looked putrid, and it is what ultimately doomed us.