Randle’s dunk puts nail in Wildcats’ coffin

By Lucas Deal

Despite being without its best player, Vedran Vukusic, Northwestern was giving Illinois all it could handle on Wednesday night.

The Wildcats had withstood two Illinois runs in the game and only trailed 53-45 when guard Dee Brown launched up an off-balanced three with four and a half minutes to go. The shot missed to the right, but forward Brian Randle flew in from seemingly nowhere, grabbed the ball with one hand and slammed it in with authority, giving Illinois a 55-45 lead.

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Feeding off the momentum of the dunk and a newly energized crowd, the No.14 Illini (21-4, 7-4) outscored Northwestern (12-11, 4-7) 8-2 over the final four minutes and held on for a 63-47 win at the Assembly Hall.

After the game, Randle wasn’t really sure what to say about the dunk, but said it was enough to get the Wildcats to end their pointless trashtalking.

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    Illini head coach Bruce Weber was pleased by Randle’s dunk, but was more excited to see the Illini end their two-game skid.

    “We got through the hump,” he said. “Penn State had left some doubts, so maybe this will help us.”

    Rich McBride led the Illini with 17 points while Dee Brown added 16 and Randle and forward Warren Carter each had 10.


    With his 10-foot jumper in the lane late in the first half, Brown became only the fifth player in Illinois history to score at least 1,700 points.

    With 1,714 careeer points, Brown is 21 points behind Cory Bradford for fourth place on Illinois’ list. He is also the top active scorer in the Big Ten Conference.

    Brown also moved into first place on Illinois’ minutes played and second place on Illinois’ steals list in the game.


    After a disappointing 1-for-8 performance Sunday at Ohio State, Rich McBride rebounded to have another great game on Wednesday. The junior guard hit 6-of-10 shots for 17 points and has now led the Illini in scoring in Illinois’ last two home games.

    “Tonight he got in the paint and pitched it, he attacked the gaps,” Weber said. “When he makes shots, it sure makes it easier on everyone else.”


    With Wednesday’s win, the Illini now have only two home games remaining -ÿSunday against Indiana and Feb. 25 against Iowa.

    Sunday’s game will also be “Paint the Hall Orange” night at Assembly Hall, and all fans are urged to wear nothing but orange.

    Over the past two seasons, Illinois has crushed then-No. 1 Wake Forest 91-73 and Michigan State 75-51 on “Paint the Hall Orange.”