All good things must eventually come to an end, and verily, it came to an end in Champaign tonight. Northwestern's longest winning streak in more than 40 years came to a close as Northwestern was shot out of the building on one end, and stifled on the perimeter on the other. It wasn't fun, it wasn't pretty, and it wasn't a win. Northwestern is going to want to hide this report card from the parents.
Overall grade: C-
Illinois was projected as a "Last Four Out" team going into this one, and it showed. Illinois came out fast and they came out hot. Northwestern couldn't get themselves going and before you knew it, Illinois was up 20 and the game was over. Illinois is no doubt a better team than Northwestern, but coming off a 4-game winning streak, one could be forgiven for thinking that Northwestern would come out and, at a minimum, compete with Illinois. Those raised expectations made a loss in a game where NU was 6 point underdogs harder to swallow than perhaps it should have.
Giving up 45 points in a first half is really bad. But to be fair to the Wildcats, if your opponent is going to lose consciousness from deep for 20 minutes at a time, there's not a whole lot you can do. But at some point, you need to make some kind of adjustment. You can't give up nearly 90 points to Illinois. You can't let five Illini players get to ten points, especially if one of them is Maverick Morgan. All the good that the zone had done over the last four was nowhere to be found. The Illini were prepared, they were hot, and they carved it up.
Yuck. You can't score less than 25 points in a half, you just can't do it. The second half was better, but by then the damage was done. Alex Olah was doing work down on the low block, but for some reason, NU stopped giving him looks on the post-up. Scottie Lindsey, Tre Demps, and Vic Law combined for more or less nothing, and while McIntosh had a sparkling second half, his first half was marked by passivity. It wasn't a fun game to watch on the offensive end of the floor.
Alex Olah may be shooting just 1-20 from three in Big Ten play. But who cares? He's a big boy on the interior, and there aren't a whole lot of bodies in the Big Ten who can match up with him. Olah might not be the most mobile, he might not be the most athletic, but he can score when he's close to the basket and he did it again tonight. Now if we could find a way to get him some more touches...
Tre Demps isn't a great defender, and the zone can usually cover for that, but if he's not going to score double figures, the defense is going to show up just that much more. To his credit, he didn't force up a lot of bad shots. He knew he didn't have it so he didn't push the envelope. Still, NU isn't going to win a lot of games where Tre Demps isn't effective and aggressive.
McIntosh ended with a statline that looked pretty good, but just about everything came in the second half which meant that the game was more or less decided before he started to get it going. McIntosh is a great distributor, but I still think he's more valuable to this team as a scorer. It'd be nice if Northwestern could move McIntosh off ball a little bit more, but they don't really have the horses to get away with that quite yet. A good afternoon, but McIntosh needs to look for his shot for all 40 minutes.
Those three foul shots he made after getting clipped taking a three really help the numbers look a little better. Three fouls and three turnovers is bad. His shooting percentage wasn't much better. Vic Law's last couple of games were amazing and today was a little bit sobering. Here's hoping the previous two games were more trend than a simple hot streak.
Sanjay was on the floor, and that was about all that he did. Other than pick up four fouls, including a flagrant. There's a time and a place for aggression, but when you're getting smoked, it doesn't make a lot of sense to be mixing things up. If Lumpkin is going to play 20 minutes a night, he needs to be at least present on the offensive end of the floor. Defensively, it wasn't much better. Rough night for the redshirt sophomore.
Given the limited role he played (even if he was on the floor for 15 minutes), Taphorn took his class pass/fail tonight. We'll give him a pass because of reasons.
Lots of stuff written about Sanjay Lumpkin can be written about Lindsey. Nothing going offensively multiplied by a technical foul. The freshman let the moment get the best of him a little bit.
If you don't love what Sobolewski has done this year, you just don't get it. As a freshman, Sobo was among the conference leaders in minutes. Now, he's a reserve player. It's awesome to see him get into double digits again. It's been a long time. He's still a heady player with a pretty good outside shot, and was certainly one of the few bright spots.
Barely played, got rejected by Leron Black, but was called a foul.
Saw a minute or two in garbage time.