In the second battle between Chicago’s two Big Ten college basketball teams, the outcome was drastically different from the first. Just how much of a disparity?
It would be like comparing the body composition of Illini Center Mike Tisdale (7-1, very svelte) to that of Jersey Shore star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi (4-8, very squished).
In their first meeting in Champaign, Illinois crushed the Northwestern Wildcats 88-63, in a game that was even more lopsided than that final score reads.
But here at Welsh-Ryan Arena, the ‘Cats knocked off the Illini 71-70. Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody was asked if the home/road difference is truly worth 26 points?
“It was to them,” he answered.
By Paul M. Banks
NU’s top Cat John Shurna was nowhere near himself in either meeting, so he wasn’t the difference; the Illini seniors were. The much heralded Illinois senior class -Tisdale, Demetri McCamey, and Mike Davis- all failed to show up today.
Davis had a nice first half, but finished just 3-11 shooting, and not in double figures for scoring or rebounding.
McCamey got absolutely brutalized on the defensive end by NU senior Michael “Juice” Thompson, who led the game with 22 points. Demetri also sat more than usual, due to his foul trouble.
Tisdale had 13 points, on 6-8 from the floor, in the first meeting. But he finished with as many points as fouls (four) to go along with only three rebounds today. He also had a career high 31 in the team’s first meeting last year. What was the key to NU shutting him down today?
“I think in the second half we went to throwing the ball down to Luka and Davide, and I think it made him think about something besides offense,” said NU Coach Bill Carmody.
For NU, they finally learned the meaning of (if I may quote Glengarry Glen Ross) “coffee is for closers.” The Cats finally closed out a win, after letting three opportunities for victories over ranked opponents slip away.
“We lost some tough conference games, Michigan State by 3, Michigan State in overtime, Ohio State by 1, so it was nice to get a signature victory here,” Carmody said.
Today’s game was also the first national CBS telecast in Welsh-Ryan Arena history. So in regards to hype, this game somewhat resembled the college basketball version of the Wrigleyville Classic. Unlike in college football, NU beat Illinois as more national eyes when usual were upon this series.
“It just depends on if we keep winning,” Carmody said.
“Maybe we get over the hump. It’s certainly an important victory for our guys and I’m really happy for them. So we enjoy this for a little bit, and now we’ll go on the road and see what we can do.”
For Illinois it was an especially demoralizing loss. They out-rebounded the Cats 32-25, out-shot them 49%-48%, and held a big advantage in 3 pt%, 57-43. Yet it was still not enough to keep them from falling to 1-4 on the road.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He doesn’t have a real nickname, but he is also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank