Preview: Illinois at Northwestern

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[February 07, 2017]  Scottie Lindsey may have been the only Northwestern player battling the flu last week, but the rest of his teammates probably weren't feeling much better than he was after their last performance. With their leading scorer expected to be back in the fold, the Wildcats attempt to bounce back from their first blowout loss of the season Tuesday when they host struggling Illinois.

Northwestern entered Wednesday's showdown with No. 18 Purdue in the midst of its best start in school history and one win shy of matching the program's longest winning streak in conference play since 1932-33, but the absence of Lindsey led to the team's second-lowest offensive output of the season in an 80-59 defeat. In addition to suffering their first double-digit loss of the season, the Wildcats' Big Ten-best 3-point defense also allowed the Boilermakers to go 12-of-23 beyond the arc. After opening the season with a 2-2 mark in conference action, the Fighting Illini find themselves only a game ahead of last-place Rutgers in the Big Ten standings. Illinois lost for the sixth time in seven tries Saturday, falling at home 68-59 to Minnesota.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network

ABOUT ILLINOIS (13-11, 3-8 Big Ten): The Illini went 4-for-22 beyond the arc Saturday as Malcolm Hill (39 3-pointers) and Jalen Coleman-Lands (team-high 49) - the two players who lead the Illini in made triples - combined to go 0-for-15 on their tries. Hill (team-high 17 points per game, 5.6 boards) has 1,651 career points and needs only four more to move into sole possession of eighth place on the school's all-time scoring list. Freshman forward Kipper Nichols (5.1 points) made all three of his 3-point attempts en route to a career-high 16 points, while senior center Maverick Morgan (10.3 points, 4.2 rebounds) produced his first double-double of 2017 with 12 points and 11 boards against the Gophers.

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ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (18-5, 7-3): Bryant McIntosh (13.2 points, Big Ten-high 5.6 assists) shouldered most of the scoring load in Lindsey's absence against Purdue, finishing 9-of-19 from the field for 22 points while the rest of his teammates combined to go 12-for-41. Second-leading scorer and sophomore guard Vic Law (13.5 points, six rebounds per game) has 10 points combined in his last two games on 2-of-19 from the field after averaging 14.8 points on 44.1-percent shooting over his previous nine. Since erupting for a season-high 19 points and a career-best 22 boards versus Nebraska on Jan. 26, sophomore center Dererk Pardon (7.9 points, team-best 8.1 rebounds, team-best 2.6 blocks) has totaled six points and 10 rebounds over his last two outings.

TIP-INS

1. Northwestern leads the Big Ten in field-goal percentage defense (38.7) and ranks second in scoring defense (64.4 points), while Illinois sits at 12th (44) and 10th (71.3), respectively.

2. Hill on Saturday became the fifth player in Illinois history to amass at least 1,600 points and 600 rebounds in his career.

3. McIntosh ranks second among Division I non-seniors in career assists (492).

PREDICTION: Northwestern 71, Illinois 59

[ 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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