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Illinois vs. Northwestern Player of the Game: Mark Alstork

In an ugly conference loss, Mark Alstork showed a what he can do for this young Illini team.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Player of the Game: Mark Alstork

In losses like the one Illinois suffered to Northwestern on Friday night, it’s hard to find the positives.

“I’m very disappointed,” Brad Underwood said in his postgame press conference.

Illinois settled for jump shots, recorded just eight assists, and, despite forcing four Wildcat turnovers in the final minutes of regulation, the Illini couldn’t get it done.

Mark Alstork, however, showed a glimpse of what he can do for this team as the season continues to move forward. The fifth-year transfer from Wright State finished the game with 14 points, second only to Leron Black (15). He also added a trio of assists in 40 minutes of gameplay.

Alstork was certainly not perfect on the night — he had three turnovers himself — but he showed some grit down the stretch and was able to score in crucial moments. Underwood needs Alstork to show some leadership qualities on the court, and there were several to point to on Friday. Aside from his scoring, Alstork had a perfect alley-oop to Leron Black, a possession-saving out-of-bounds dive, and a steal in the final moments of regulation.

Alstork had this pretty drive at the end of the first half, and he did something similar towards the end of regulation to keep Illinois within reach.

Then there was this ridiculous out-of-bounds save:

Another note: Alstork was 6-of-6 from the free throw line. Veterans have a tendency to do the little things, and taking advantage of free points is one of those ‘little things.’

If Alstork can build on this game and continue to raise his confidence, Illinois may have a legitimate go-to scoring threat, which they currently seem to be lacking. Don’t be surprised if Alstork is the player of the game a few different times this season.