Wildcats, Fighting Illini renew rivalry

By Nader Ihmoud

The Northwestern University Wildcats men’s basketball team looks to bounce back on the road against state rival University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign on Jan. 17.

The Wildcats suffered a massive defeat at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes Jan. 13 when the team shot a dismal 29 percent from the field.

Following the loss, Wildcats Head Coach Bill Carmody called on his veteran players to step up their performance. He said the team’s offensive struggles have been an issue since the beginning of the season.

Senior Reggie Hearn and sophomore Dave Sobolewski are the only starters averaging double digit scores this season. Hearn and Sobolewski average 13.7 and 11.5 points per game, respectively.

The Wildcats have had several successes outside the Welsh Ryan Arena, however. The team is 4–1 in road and neutral site games. This season’s only road loss was to the University of Minnesota Gophers on Jan. 6.

When the Wildcats visit U of I Jan. 17, they will face Guard Brandon Paul, the Fighting Illini’s top scorer whose 18.1 points per game ranks second in the Big Ten. Paul and his teammates are 8-1 at home this season.

The two teams last faced each other Feb. 5 in Urbana, where the Wildcats won 74–70.

Both teams have struggled through their first four games of conference play. Both Northwestern and U of I are 1–3 against other Big Ten opponents.

The Wildcats lost senior Drew Crawford earlier this season because of shoulder surgery. Crawford started and played in the first 10 games of the season, averaging 13 points and five rebounds a game. His teammates have struggled to find an offensive rhythm this season without their leader in active scoring, rebounding and assists.

Northwestern is ranked 10th in scoring offense in the Big Ten and is one and three in conference play so far.

The Wildcats will take on the No. 22-ranked Fighting Illini at 7 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.