2nd Half Cat Scratch Fever Fells Illini in Evanston

IlliniGuys Staff

January 4, 2023

EVANSTON, Ill. - Chase Audige scored a game-high 21 points and Northwestern used a 22-2 run in the second half to turn a narrow deficit into a large lead as the Wildcats surprised Illinois 73-60 before the first sellout of the season at cozy Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The win snaps an eight-game losing streak to the Illini and marks their biggest win in the series since 2013.

Illinois (8-5, 0-3) narrowly missed their season-low in scoring (a 74-59 loss at home to Penn State on December 10th) and fall to 0-3 in Big Ten play for the first time since 2018-19, whcn they lost their first five conference games on their way to a 7-13 league record.

Matt Mayer led Illinois with 17 points.  Jayden Epps added 11 off the bench and Coleman Hawkins scored 10 for the Illini, who are now 0-2 in true road games this season and are 2-4 away from State Farm Center this season.

Illinois put on an outstanding defensive effort for most of the game, holding the Wildcats to just 10-of-33 shooting in the first half and then not allowing a field goal for the first 6:13 in the second half.

That allowed the visitors to reverse a 31-27 halftime deficit and build a 43-38 on a Dain Dainja reverse layup with 12:36 to go in the game.

But Illinois would score only five more field goals the rest of the way.  Northwestern hit a trio of three-pointers to make up a 9-0 run to take the lead for good.  They extended that dominance into a 22-2 spurt capped off by a Boo Buie layup at a 60-45 lead.  The Wildcats outscored the visitors 32-6 at the free throw line to ensure the victory.

Northwestern improves to 11-3 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten.  They'll travel to #15 Indiana on Sunday.

Illinois returns home to face its biggest test in Big Ten play yet as conference co-leader Wisconsin comes to town on Saturday.  That's a 12;30pm tipoff on ESPN2.

Stay with IlliniGuys.com for more coverage on tonight's game.

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