Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 1/4/12

Lots of cliches applied in this college basketball game “tale of two halves,” “halftime adjustments” “wining ugly” “blue-collar”  I could go on and on, but I’ve tortured you enough already.

In the battle to be “Chicago’s Big Ten team” Illinois defeated Northwestern 57-56 in the same manner they won this year’s college football meeting- starting slow, having to come back in the second half, and then make sure they didn’t give it all away at the end.

Northwestern’s John Shurna had 17 points on 7-10 shooting at the half. NU led 36-31 at the break; with the Illini closing the opening 20 minutes on a 5-0 “run.”

In a game like this, 5 points honestly is a “run.” In the second half though, Illinois figured out how to guard him and Shurna went just 1-7 in the second half; finishing with 20.

“I missed shots. It’s on me,” Shurna told the media afterward.

Illini Center Meyers Leonard had just one field goal attempt and three points in the first half, but finished with a near double double of 12 points (leading the Illini) and 8 boards. Most importantly, he saved the game with a HUGE blocked shot in the final seconds.

The Illini (13-3, 2-1) won this game in the second half with part good defense, part terrible offense by Northwestern (11-4, 1-2).

“We just weren’t able to get on track, so you have to give them credit for that second half defense,” NU Coach Bill Carmody said.

“We just get better looks in the first half, guys were more open for shots,” he continued.

The ‘Cats shot just 24% in the second half to finish at 36% for the game. They also went just 25% from three to finish 28% from distance in the contest.

But Illinois’ offense wasn’t exactly sparkling either. 2009 North Carolina vs. 1991 UNLV this was definitely not. The Illinois basketball team has the same exact problem as their football team- passing.

“I don’t know if you’ve watched our stats, we’re not very good at passing,” Weber said.

The Illinois offense just had no flow for the entire evening.

The Illini had dropped their previous two in Evanston, so getting this win in front of a large number of their own fans (as it always is at Welsh-Ryan), was rather significant. Illinois now has the same number of RPI top-50 victories as Mizzou, Kansas and the Indiana Hoosiers.

When you factor in that Illinois has lost their last three at the United Center, it’s been five in a row Illinois had dropped in the Chicago area- until today.

“It’s been a little agonizing for our fans, but they stuck with us and we were able to get a win,” Weber said.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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