No. 12 Illinois vs Northwestern

No. 12 Illinois vs Northwestern | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Written by on January 6, 2021

The Northwestern Wildcats are in the midst of a murderous stretch of schedule as the formerly ranked Wildcats look to end a two-game slide when they host rival and No. 12 Illinois on Thursday. The Illini will be favored on the NCAAB odds.

How to Bet Illinois at Northwestern NCAA Basketball Odds & TV Info

Last Meeting

Being these are state rivals, they play twice each regular season. Illinois won both a season, although close. The one at Northwestern was 74-66. Alan Griffin set career highs with 24 points and six 3-pointers, and current Illini star Ayo Dosunmu scored 21. Kofi Cockburn finished 12 points and 14 rebounds. Pat Spencer led Northwestern with 18 points, and Miller Kopp scored 14. The Wildcats made just 5 of 20 3-pointers in remaining.

Why Bet on Illinois? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

The Illini (8-3) won their third in a row on Saturday, 66-58 over unranked Purdue in Champaign. Illinois was led by a strong performance from freshman Andre Curbelo, sophomore Kofi Cockburn’s second consecutive double-double, and Da’Monte Williams’ second double-double of the season.

Curbelo posted 8 points and 6 assists, steadying the Illini offense throughout the night. He posted a team-high +/- of +23. Cockburn scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Williams made three three-point field goals and totaled 12 points while also securing 10 boards.

The game was a back-and-forth battle, but in the end the Illini defense and playmaking were too much to overcome. Illinois shot 48% on the night while holding Purdue to only 38%, scoring 13 points on the fastbreak compared to the Boilermakers’ two. Purdue is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, but Illinois topped the Boilermakers 39-33 on the boards.

Cockburn is averaging 20.4 points and 11.2 rebounds in Big Ten play while shooting 68.3%.  Williams leads the nation in three-point percentage at 67.9% (min. 20 attempts). Williams is 9-for-12 from three in Big Ten play.  Ayo Dosunmu had 12 points and five rebounds. Dosunmu is averaging 20.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in Big Ten play while shooting 48.8% and 43.8% from three.

Dosunmu and Cockburn are two of only four Big Ten players scoring 20 points per game in league play, along with Ron Harper Jr. of Rutgers (25.0). and Luka Garza of Iowa (24.0). Curbelo is playing nearly 25 minutes per game in Big Ten action, which is up from 19 minutes per game during Illinois’ nonconference slate. Eliminate his foul trouble against Minnesota and Rutgers and Curbelo’s influence on the 12th-ranked Illini in Big Ten play would likely be even greater than the 8.2 points, five assists and 3.6 rebounds he’s averaging.

Why Bet on Northwestern? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

The Wildcats come off an 85-66 loss at then-No. 16 Michigan on Sunday. It was the first time these teams had ever met while both were ranked in the Top 25 — but it was no contest after Michigan scored the last nine points of the first half. Michigan led 34-29 near the end of the first half when the Wolverines made three 3-pointers to go up 43-29 at the break.

“We tried to make a push at the end of the first half,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “We cut it to five, and then they hit three 3s. I thought that was kind of the key moment of the game.”

Three Wildcats finished the night in double figures, led by Robbie Beran who scored 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, 12 of which came in the second half. It marked Beran’s second-highest scoring output this season and his most against a Big Ten opponent since he scored 17 at Illinois last season on January 18, 2020.

Pete Nance finished in double figures for the third-straight game, adding 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Also joining Nance in double figures was Miller Kopp, who added 13 to go along with four rebounds. Both Nance and Kopp have now scored in double figures seven times on the season.

Northwestern guard Boo Buie was hurt in the first half on a play when he lost the ball near midcourt and a Michigan player went the other way for a dunk that made it 34-24. Buie remained down on the court and appeared to be holding his right knee, and he had to be helped slowly to the sideline. He was able to return but finished scoreless on 0-of-6 shooting.

Buie led the team in assists for the 8th consecutive game, finishing with four assists. His 49 assists through the first nine games are the most by any Wildcat since Bryant McIntosh had 51 assists in 2017.

Northwestern finished with 12 assists on the night, marking the 34th consecutive game in which they posted double-digit assists, the fourth-longest active streak of any D1 program. Northwestern forced 12 turnovers, hitting double digits in the category for the third time in four games.

Expert Prediction

  • Illinois 76, Northwestern 73
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