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Powers' Northwestern-Illinois preview

Illini, Wildcats going in different directions before Big Ten opener

Updated: December 29, 2009, 3:10 PM ET
By Scott Powers | ESPNChicago.com

Northwestern (10-1) at Illinois (8-4)

When:8 p.m. Wednesday at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill.

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: WGN-AM 720

The story: Illinois and Northwestern open up the Big Ten season headed in two different directions. The Illini have lost their past two games and are looking for answers. Northwestern has won its past nine and have entered the polls (No. 25 in AP) for the first time since 1969. Last season, Illinois crushed Northwestern's heart when it rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to beat the Wildcats 60-59 in Evanston. Illinois junior point guard Demetri McCamey had 21 points and the game-winner with 2.9 seconds remaining in the win. Northwestern's Drew Crawford and Illinois' Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson, all freshmen, weren't around last season, but they could be the difference in this year's game.

Quotes: Illinois coach Bruce Weber: "I think we've lost some confidence, and it's a fine line as a coach. We got to get them to play hard. The only way I know how is to get after them and stay after them. At the same time, we're a little fragile."

Northwestern coach Bill Carmody: "These guys know what's ahead of them. Of course, it's important to have a good showing and play well on the road, definitely, because the good teams win on the road. They have to defend their home court, and we have to learn to win on the road."

Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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