EVANSTON - Northwestern's methodical second-half rally fell short Sunday evening as the Wildcats dropped a nonconference clash against the Illinois State Redbirds, 68-64. The 'Cats committed only two second-half turnovers and outscored the Redbirds by 14 points in the second half, but the deficit was simply too great to overcome.
Neither squad could find an offensive rhythm in the early going Sunday evening. Northwestern and Illinois State began the contest shooting a combined 7-for-26 from the floor over the first 9:33 with the Redbirds maintaining a narrow one-point lead, 9-8. Illinois State soon hit three of its next four attempts, all from within a few feet of the basket, to push its lead to 15-10.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats struggled to find the bottom of the bucket as they hit just three of their next 11 attempts. Illinois State began to turn its offensive fortune around, however. The visitors' lead soon grew to 14 points when Zach Lofton drilled his second three-pointer of the game from the right wing to give the Redbirds a 31-17 advantage with a shade over four minutes remaining in the opening half.
ISU took a 40-22 lead into the locker room at halftime after John Jones tipped a shot in as the final seconds ticked off the clock. The Redbirds connected on 12 of their final 16 attempts to end the first half.
Jones was one of three Redbirds with eight points in the first half; Lofton led all scorers with 12 points for Illinois State. JerShon Cobb paced the Wildcats offensively with nine points in the first period, seven of which came from the charity stripe.
Drew Crawford's three-point basket with 4:40 remaining helped NU creep even closer. The fifth-year senior's shot from distance pulled his team within eight, 61-53. The Wildcats continued to chip away and eventually turned it into a one-possession game when Abrahamson made one-of-two free throws to make it 63-30, ISU. On two more occasions down the stretch, Cobb scored to get his team within two, but that was as close as they could come Sunday. A pair of free throws by Illinois State's Tony Wills iced the game for the visiting team.