Bryant McIntosh: B
21 points (8-20 FG, 1-3 3PT, 4-6 FT), 4 assists, 6 turnovers, 3 rebounds, 39 minutes
Between the six-minute marks in either half, the Wildcats’ point guard played what was easily an A+ game. He efficiently shouldered the offensive load, creating shots for himself time after time and relying on an unstoppable mid-range game to drag his team back into the game and help it keep pace with the Illini.
However, it was what occurred at the beginning and end of the game that pulled his overall grade down, and ultimately led to a Northwestern loss. B-Mac’s ice cold 0-of-8 start from the field put his team in an early hole, which he had to exert copious amounts of energy to help dig them out of. More damagingly, the effects of that additional effort showed in crunch time, as his tired legs and mind led to a series of poor decisions and costly turnovers that let the game slip out of the Wildcats’ grasp.
Vic Law: B-
15 points (5-14 FG, 4-9 3PT), 9 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 steals, 38 minutes
Law played a decent all-around game Tuesday night, but the bottom line of his performance was that, when his team needed him the most to step into a go-to role, he failed to rise to the challenge. In the absence of Scottie Lindsey, Law was too passive in the offense early on when he was in a groove and the offense as a whole was struggling. He also lost his rhythm and failed to create offense in the latter part of the second half when he stepped up his involvement.
Much like McIntosh, Law’s ineffectiveness down the stretch was likely due in part to the heavy burden of minutes he played in Lindsey’s absence. His first half contribution was about as good as it could have been, as he went into the break with a near double-double, having only missed two shots and held Illinois star Malcolm Hill to a scoreless half. But his impact on both ends tailed off the other side of the break, which affected Northwestern dearly down the stretch. One one side, the Wildcats had nowhere to turn as McIntosh ran out of steam, while on the other side Hill’s offensive influence was the decisive factor in pulling his team over the line to victory.
Gavin Skelly: B-
8 points (1-5 FG, 0-3 3PT, 6-6 FT), 9 rebounds, 1 block, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 22 minutes
Skelly’s energy and defensive activity off the bench in the first half was crucial in getting the Wildcats back into the game, but his impact on the night as a whole was marred by his inability to contribute in the half-court setting at either end. He suffered frequent defensive lapses, as he was again tasked for small stretches with guarding Illinois’ wings, and was incredibly hesitant and unsure with the ball in his hands offensively, turning the ball over twice and badly air-balling two open jump shots.
Sanjay Lumpkin: C-
0 points (0-2 FG, 0-2 3PT), 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 turnovers, 1 block, 4 fouls, 30 minutes
The Sanjay Lumpkin of old returned against the Illini, as the fifth-year Senior reverted to his previous mold of being a one-way player in the most complete sense of the word. He was invisible on offense and his presence—and Illinois’ decision midway through the first half to completely ignore it— closed gaps and added to a feeling of congestion surrounding Northwestern’s half-court attack. The reason he stays out of the ‘D’-range is because he did an admirable job guarding Hill for significant stretches as Law tired, and because he was one of the few Wildcats who did not make any glaring mistakes during the limited time the ball was in his hands.
Dererk Pardon: D+
6 points (2-5 FG, 2-2 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 0 blocks, 0 fouls, 35 minutes
Less than two weeks after posting a near-20/20 game against Nebraska, Pardon had absolutely no influence on a game against a distinctly mediocre Illinois frontline. Not only did he provide no relief for McIntosh or Law on the interior offensively, but he was also a liability defensively. He botched pick-and-roll coverage on numerous occasions, failed to alter any shots around the rim and was not a prominent presence on the glass against a team with a very much perimeter-oriented frontline.
Nathan Taphorn: D+
5 points (1-5 FG, 1-3 3PT, 2-2 FT), 1 rebound, 4 fouls, 17 minutes
When Tap does not do the one thing that he is on the floor to do well (shoot), it is going to be hard for him with his limited skill set to have a positive impact on the game. This game was just one of those cases. Outside of a corner three-ball to start the second half, the senior sniper missed a couple of open looks both from beyond the arc and in close and was as slow and lost as ever defensively.
Isiah Brown: D
5 points (2-5 FG, 1-2 FT), 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 4 turnovers, 4 fouls, 18 minutes
The large camp that thought Brown’s recent solid performances off the bench (at Rutgers, against Iowa, at Ohio State, against Nebraska) meant that he was ready to thrive in the starting lineup in place of Lindsey has so far been sorely mistaken. In a game that Chris Collins and the team as a whole absolutely needed him to play 30+ quality minutes, the Freshman could not even manage 20. His night was wrought with a worrisome mixture of tentativeness and reckless abandon, neither of which showed themselves at the right times. The result was a litany of needless fouls and avoidable turnovers in the first half, which led to him being benched for Taphorn to start the second half and only playing six more minutes on the night.
Jordan Ash: F
0 points (0-0 FG), 0 assists, 0 rebounds, 1 minute
This game showed definitively that Ash is not yet a player who Collins can put on the floor in any meaningful situations. He played one first half minute, made a poor read defensively that led to an Illinois three, and sat for the rest of the game as McIntosh played all 39 other minutes and tired down the stretch as a result.