February 17, 1999
EVANSTON, Ill. - National player of the year candidate Evan Eschmeyer notched his 14th double-double of the season with 22 points and 11 rebounds, but Illinois guard Cory Bradford scored 16 second-half points to lead the Fighting Illini (11-15, 3-11 Big Ten) to a 69-63 come-from-behind victory over Northwestern (14-9, 6-7 Big Ten).
The NU defense limited the Fighting Illini to a .303 shooting percentage (10-for-33) in the first half. Seniors Evan Eschmeyer and Julian Bonner carried Northwestern to a 37-29 halftime lead. Eschmeyer had 14 of his game-high 22 points during the first period, including 8-of-9 from the free-throw line. Bonner aided the cause with nine points at the break.
In the second half, Bradford tallied eight of Illinois' first 12 points that pulled the Illini within three points (44-41) with 12:05 remaining. A 15-foot jumper by Victor Chukwudebe at the 10:54 mark gave Illinois a 45-44 lead. Northwestern reclaimed the lead, taking a 57-55 advantage with 4:12 left in the game. Illinois took the lead for good on the next possession as Bradford nailed a three pointer.
Bonner finished with 14 points, while Sean Wink had 13 points, including 4-for-9 from three-point range. David Newman dished out a game-high six assists in the loss.
The Wildcats travel to Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday to take on 11th-ranked Ohio State. Tipoff is set for 11:15 a.m. CST.
Illinois Head Coach Lon Kruger
On defending Eschmeyer
We fouled him a lot in the first half. We changed things up a bit. You always need to have a couple of guys aware of where he is. When you're playing Esch, you have some form of zone on him all the time.
On Illinois' defense
Newman, Lepore, Wink and Bonner had a great game (for Northwestern). It's hard to find them all. Our guys got into a rhythm defensively and were able to find their shooters.
Northwestern Head Coach Kevin O'Neill
On the game
We give up an average of 55 points a game. We've scored enough, but we can't win games giving up 69 points a game. Athletically, they took it to us at all positions. We're not capable enough offensively to give up points like that. When we're giving up more than 65 points in the Big Ten, we're losing ballgames.
On the postseason
We don't have a player on our team who has even played in a postseason game. I dont know if it's nerves -- maybe it's just expectations. Our team is more down tonight than they've been all year, and rightfully so because they've worked really hard. We want to be a postseason team all the time. When people chant "N.I.T.," we take it as an embarrassment.
Northwestern Guard Julian Bonner
On guarding Cory Bradford in the second half
There were a lot more handoffs and screens set for him. He would drive baseline and shoot over me. He'd jump into me and I couldn't defend or I'd get a foul.
On Illinois' zone defense
Our perimeter guys were too far out of scoring range. We have enough shooters, we should be able to penetrate. We have a great inside-out game, but we're not knocking down shots. We have to be able to adjust to the zone.
Northwestern Center Evan Eschmeyer
On Illinois' zone defense
The zone hurt us. We didn't do a good job of attacking it. We didn't get as much penetration in the second half.