Well that wasn't fun. UIC, Loyola and Northwestern all lost on Thursday. The two Horizon League schools put up fights before falling at home and the Wildcats got blitzed in Champaign before losing in spectacular fashion to Illinois. It's a night that seems determined to once again characterize a couple hopeful Chicago schools as a little behind where they hoped to be at this point in the season.
Northwestern let Illinois bust out of the gate and never really had a chance in an 88-63 loss to the Fighting Illini on Thursday night at Assembly Hall. The Wildcats didn't seem prepared at all on defense. Illinois shot 70.5 percent from the field, including 60.3 percent from three-point range and had 24 assists on 31 baskets. It was an absolute offensive clinic.
Equally as worrisome though for the Wildcats is that the offense just isn't very good right now. Maybe it's the injury to John Shurna
, but once again Northwestern failed to keep pace. The Wildcats scored 63 points in 75 possessions, or 0.84 points per possession. That's bad. Northwestern shot 34.3 percent and Shurna himself shot 2-7 from the field, hitting the under for the line Chris Dobbertean set for him
with three made field goals.
Northwestern has to regroup and get ready for Indiana on Sunday because going to 0-4 in the Big Ten would be a huge hole for this team to climb out of. Still, with the offense struggling in conference play and the defense looking like it is Northwestern isn't an NCAA Tournament team right now, they're barely an NIT team. It's going to take a lot of work to get this ship righted.
The Horizon League schools of course have less time to turn things around as they play again on Saturday. UIC's 71-63 loss to Wright State was another case of just not quite having enough at the end. The Flames have been in all but one of their four Horizon League losses this season, but they have been able to close one out. On Thursday against the Raiders it was the play of Vaughn Duggins and N'Gai Evans down the stretch that swung the momentum to Wright State's end and helped them get the victory. Duggins finished with 22 points and Evans finished with 21.
One bright spot for the Flames was the play of Paris Carter. Forced into a starting role thanks to an injury to Darrin Williams the other Carter on the Flames did an excellent job in the low post. He went 3-4 from the field and scored 8 points. I'd like to see him be even more assertive down in the paint. The problem for UIC was that Wright State found ways to shut down both Robo Kreps (3-10, 7 points) and Paul Carter (4-14, 11 rebounds, 13 points). I have to say that I'm a believer in Dipanjot Singh as a rotation player for the Flames in conference play. He gives UIC another option at the point that allows Kreps to play off the ball a bit. Singh can shoot, he went 5-8 from the field today and 1-2 from beyond the arc and tied Paul Carter for the team lead with 13 points. I'll have a lot more on the Flames after Saturday when I see the team live at the Pavilion against an up-and-down Detroit team.
Of course that Detroit team played at Loyola tonight and the Ramblers really needed a win to show that they can be competitive in the Horizon League this season. Unfortunately it didn't happen as freshman point guard Ray McCallum really controlled things with 16 points and Nick Minnerath, someone I had never heard of until tonight, went off for 20 points on 13 shots.
Loyola got four players in double-figures including Geoff McCammon with a team-high 18 points and were quite efficient on offense, but the defense let them down. Allowing 83 points on your home court is a death sentence. The Ramblers need a win on Saturday against Wright State or they will have gone 0-4 against the Horizon League's presumed favorites at home this season. That's a lot of missed opportunities.