It may have been a home game for Northwestern on paper, but the crowd was about 75-80% cheering for Illini basketball. Sometimes in sports media you can start writing your story by halftime. And you can file it before the final horn. All you need then is the quotes to add in; tonight was one of those nights. Is Illinois vs Northwestern a real, true acrimonious rivalry? John Groce's team truly stomped on his opponent's throat as if they were. Although I was always thought the Indiana Hoosiers were the true rival of Illinois, as their all time series is dead even.
The Illinois vs Northwestern series is now 130-38 in favor of the Illini who also lead in Evanston 60-24 all time. This was a big win for Illini basketball as they avenge their second of two bad RPI losses. Purdue was the other.
Unfortunately, there is no Land of Lincoln trophy on the line here. The 41 points is a season low for Northwestern. The previous low was 44 versus UIC. After starting 2-7 in the Big Ten, Illinois has won 4 in a row. UI used a 26-0 run in between the half to pull away and find themselves up 45-15. Yes, triple their opponents score. The Wildcats went just 5-27 from the behind the arc, 25% from the field. It was once a close game, but then Illinois held NU scoreless for 11 minutes. Eventually "Illinois: Our State. Our Team." trounced "Northwestern: Chicago's Big Ten team" and the last quarter of the game was garbage time.
Illini coach John Groce said that "Brandon Paul had one of his best games of the season and he only scored 8 points. Good all-around game."
That's an encouraging sign, when Brandon Paul doesn't have to score to make an impact, and the team succeeds without him.
NU coach Bill Carmody described the Wildcats lack of offense, "Our offense was bad the entire night. It didn't seem to have any flow to it," he said. Yes, it looked ugly out there. The Illini have held NU to 3 of its 5 lowest scoring games in Big Ten play since 1996. 30 points ('00), 37 ('07, '08).
This was a serious blow to the Wildcats NIT hopes in what has been an awful injury-riddled season. Illinois on the other hand, is looking like a #7 seed right now in the NCAA Tournament.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Fox Sports, MSN, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Chicago Now
A Fulbright scholar, published author and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.