First and foremost, congratulations need to go out to Chris Collins.
The new Northwestern head coach picked up his first Big Ten win and his first win over a ranked team on Sunday evening, as Northwestern knocked off No. 23 Illinois in Evanston, 49-43. It wasn’t pretty — nothing that Northwestern does this season will be pretty — but a win is a win is a win.
But I’d hesitate before using this as proof that Collins is going to have success at Northwestern for one reason and one reason only: I just don’t think Illinois is all that good.
I’ve now had a chance to watch them play three times over the course of the last two weeks, and I’m just not buying that this is a team that deserves to be ranked in the top 25. This group is like a poor man’s Ohio State. They’re tough defensively, forcing opponents into difficult shots without fouling and doing a good job of clearing the defensive glass.
But offensively, Illinois is a disaster. Essentially, this is a team that relies on two shot-first, penetrating guards that are inconsistent at best from three. They don’t have a low-post presence, either, which puts even more pressure on their guards to be able to score.
Tracy Abrams and Rayvonte Rice are both talents, but are they talented enough to actually carry this Illinois team to the NCAA tournament? I’m not sure.
Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.
The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78:
Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.
UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.
Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.
All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.
The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.