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Three Points From Illinois' 29-15 First Half Performance Over Northwestern

by Jonah Rosenblum (@jonahlrosenblum)

1. Give Reggie Hearn credit for being particularly aggressive in the first half. He did what Alex Marcotullio could not, driving to the hoop beautifully, drawing a foul as he wove between defenders toward the hoop. He was also authoritative on the boards, snagging two consecutive defensive boards simply by being aggressive, putting his body in the right position and by approaching the glass with no hesitation. It seems like he has embraced the onus on him to step up right now.
2. Alex Olah is having an effect on the defensive end. As Brandon Paul drove baseline, suddenly he saw Alex Olah's massive body in front of him, and his floater went awry. When Tracy Abrams tried to sneak under the hoop for a reverse layup, Olah was there to contest and partially deflect his attempt. Olah's wingspan also helped prevent a Tyler Griffey layup. Illinois led 7-0 before Alex Marcotullio and Alex Olah came into the game. There's a reason this game became more competitive; his entrance had an impact.
3. Neither team was really hitting from outside, but the reason Illinois took a lead into the locker room is that the Fighting Illini could create off the drive. More than anything, Abrams and Richardson and Paul's ability to spin to the post and shoot in motion contributed to their lead, simply giving them a far more diverse offense than the Wildcats have.