Northwestern travels south tonight to take on Illinois, and given their history in Champaign, it's tough to be optimistic. The 'Cats haven't won in Assembly Hall since Evan Eschmeyer's senior year in 1999, and that was a terrible Illini team that would finish last in the Big Ten (of course, that last place Illini team, led by a young Corey Bradford, would later return the favor at Welsh-Ryan to knock NU off the bubble, some things never change). Since Bill Carmody took over the program in the fall of 2000, it's been pretty ugly. Let's take a look:
2001: Illinois 84, Northwestern 59
#6 Illinois had no trouble covering the 22 point spread, as they jumped out to a 49-24 lead and had 6 double figure scorers, led by Brian Cook's 16. Ben Johnson had 13 to lead the way for NU.
2004: Illinois 66, Northwestern 56
#23 Illinois avenged an earlier loss at Welsh-Ryan, behind 20 points from Dee Brown and 13 points and 8 assists from Deron Williams. Davor Duvancic, who had a career high 22 in the aforementioned NU win (your guess is as good as mine how he ever scored 22 against a Big Ten team), was held scoreless in 35 minutes.
2005: Illinois 84, Northwestern 48
No shame in this loss; 2005 was the year Illinois remained undefeated until early March and played for the national title. Dee Brown and Deron Williams were once again too much for Northwestern to handle.
2006: Illinois 63, Northwestern 47
Northwestern hung in for a while against the 14th ranked Illini, getting within 3 late in the second half, but couldn't handle Illinois' size and athleticism inside, allowing them to make 18 of 23 2-pointers and grabbing just one offensive rebound the entire game (by 5'9" Michael Jenkins of all people).
2007: Illinois 48, Northwestern 37
Scores like this were pretty common throughout most of the Carmody era, as this one was played at a glacial 55 possession pace. No Wildcats made it to double figures in points, and Rich McBride's five threes gave the Illini another win.
2008: Illinois 70, Northwestern 37
This one is certainly the most embarrassing loss at Assembly Hall, as unlike the other blowouts where Illinois had an excellent team, this Illini squad was pretty crappy and would finish the season 16-19. Still, they had no trouble blowing out a much worse Northwestern team. Nikola Baran lowlighted the NU effort, managing 0 points and 0 rebounds in 15 minutes.
2009: Illinois 89, Northwestern 83 (OT)
Last December, the Wildcats played their first game as a ranked team in over 40 years (in typical Northwestern fashion, they were still 8.5 dogs against the unranked Illini). NU would tie a school record with 47 3-point attempts (making 16), but had no answer for Mike Tisdale inside, and fell in overtime to kick off Big Ten play.
Tonight, we'll see if Northwestern can finally win one at Assembly Hall and reduce the number of Big Ten arenas Carmody has never won in to two.