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Three takeaways from Northwestern’s unfortunate loss to No. 13 Illinois

Some season-long areas of struggle reared their ugly heads again in another tough loss to a ranked opponent.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

In what was not an especially surprising but still a disappointing event, the Northwestern Wildcats dropped another close game on Sunday, this time to No. 13 Illinois. The ‘Cats were out of this one for a while, which culminated in them trailing by 18 with 14:28 to play. NU then went on a 19-2 run to make the score 55-54 in favor of Illinois, only to falter and end up losing by seven. Here are three takeaways from Northwestern’s predictable, yet still frustrating loss to the Illini.

Northwestern needs to clean up its shot selection

This could be a takeaway for just about every Northwestern loss this season. The shot selection is consistently poor, and yesterday it was especially bad. Boo Buie and Chase Audige finished a combined 7-for-28 from the field, often throwing up incoherent layups and jumpers. At the end of the day, Northwestern’s starting guards combined to take 28 of the Wildcats’ 62 shots. With the types of attempts the duo tried on Sunday, that figure isn’t one that will frequently lead to success for the team.

Buie and Audige weren’t the only players to take questionable shots, though. One specific possession that comes to mind regarding shot selection was when Ryan Young hoisted up a three with about 15 seconds left on the shot clock. That’s not a shot that a guy who has only attempted a handful of threes in his career should be taking.

The starting lineup continues to struggle

Once again, this is an obvious trend. The starting five of Buie, Audige, Roper, Beran and Nance just isn’t cutting it for the ‘Cats. They continue to get into holes at the beginning of games, only to be saved by players off the bench. It could be Ryan Young, it could be Ryan Greer, it could be Casey Simmons (more on him in a second). Whoever it is, the starting five is constantly saved by the performance of Northwestern’s bench.

The last change we saw Collins make in his starting lineup was Roper getting the spot over Ty Berry. If the Wildcats are going to make a run to end the season, we may need to see a couple more changes made. Not much seems to be working with the current five that Collins is rolling out.

Casey Simmons could be big for the future

As the second half was winding down, the Wildcats were struggling. As previously mentioned, the ‘Cats trailed by 18 at one point, only to go on a 19-2 run and draw within one point. That run was largely sparked by Casey Simmons.

Simmons only played in 13 minutes in the loss, but boy, were they some 13 minutes. By the end of the game, Simmons had a clutch six points, the majority of which followed his three steals. His defensive prowess was evident throughout, and while he did have two turnovers, his impact off the bench cannot be understated. We’ve already seen the potential that Roper may have, but it was very refreshing to see that from Simmons as well, even despite the loss.