Northwestern Vs. Illinois: Wildcats Look To Get First Big Ten Win

  • 9:00pm ET on ESPN 2
When the Northwestern Wildcats take on 20th-ranked Illinois today, they will be looking for their first Big Ten win after dropping their first two game to then-11th-ranked Purdue on the road and 19th-ranked Michigan State at home. In the meantime, Illinois looks to remain undefeated in Big Ten play after downing Iowa on the road and edging out then-24th-ranked Wisconsin at home. 

Northwestern desperately needs a win in Big Ten play, while Illinois wants to add another win to their resume and tie their selves for first place at 3-0 alongside Purdue.

Last January, Northwestern snapped an 11 game losing streak to the Illini. They look to snap another streak, Northwestern hasn't beat Illinois in Champaign since 1999.

Northwestern would love to have this win over a ranked team, on the road for their NCAA Tournament resume. They need wins like this if they have any shot at making the field this year.

John Shurna leads the Wildcats with 21 points per game. Two other Wildcats average double digit scoring, Michael Thompson and Drew Crawford, both with 14 points per game.

Demetri McCamey leads the Illini with 16 points per game. D.J. Richardson and Mike Davis average double digit scoring, each with 11 points per game. 

Illinois has recovered from a rough two game losing streak with a two game winning streak. 

Keys to the game after the jump.

When Illinois Has The Ball

 

  • They need to overcome Northwestern's 1-3-1 trap defense by passing the ball and getting all the players involved. They need to use quick passes to get players open to take the shot. 
  • Illinois needs Tisdale, Richmond and Paul to step up as well. Don't put everything in the hands of McCamey. Let everyone take shots, much like Purdue did with Ryne Smith in the Northwestern game. If foul trouble arises, the bench needs to contribute to the scoring factor.

 

When Northwestern Has The Ball

 

  • Push the tempo. Get fast break away points. Don't let Illinois get set in their defense. Confuse them. Make them rethink their game plan. All these points would be a success to Northwestern. 
  • Shurna may still be hurting some, don't make him do all the work. Get other players involved. The bench needs to have a great night in this game, for a chance at a win. You have to overcome the Shurna factor. He can lead you, but if the Wildcats are going to win, they need to produce key points at key times in the game. Get players involved.

 

Overall

It could be an Illinois blowout. It could be a Northwestern surprise. This game could go either way. I look for it to be close, with a team pulling away late. Northwestern needs to beat a ranked opponent on the road for NCAA Tournament resume reasons. Northwestern is also desperate for a win, so don't be surprised if they shock the Illini. 

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