Illinois basketball (19-8, 6-7), erased the second worst blemish on their NCAA Tournament resume by paying back Northwestern Sunday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston. On January 17th the Illini never led in a 68-54 defeat. Tonight Illinois basketball responded with a more than convincing 62-41 victory
Northwestern (13-13, 4-9) endured a scoring drought of ten minutes which allowed the Illini to build a 30 point lead. The nearly 3/4 Illinois basketball favoring crowd at Welsh-Ryan was empathetic and gave a bronx cheer when James Montgomery III finally ended the drought. Northwestern shot only 25 percent for the game. It’s Northwestern’s lowest point total since 2008 when it scored 37, also against the Illini.
Illinois is shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from 3-point range in its 12 games away from home, an increase over the UI’s 42.3 percent shooting from the field and 30.8 percent from 3-point range in its 14 games at Assembly Hall.
D.J. Richardson (18 points, 8 rebounds tonight) has scored in double figures in each of the last seven games – his career-long streak in Big Ten play – averaging 17.1 points over that stretch (120). He is shooting 42.3 percent from 3-point range over the last seven games (22-52) after shooting 21.6 percent from behind the arc over the previous eight games (11-51). The Wildcats have defeated the Illini twice in a season just three times, most recently in 1966.
Illini coach John Groce was proud of the way his team defended. Getting better on D, communication got better and he said they Played “exceptionally hard.” And point guard Tracy Abrams has been playing exceptional since his benching. “Tracy Abrams was off the charts,” Groce said.
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