By: Will Greer
Desperately needing a win against last-place Illinois, Northwestern cradled a narrow 4-point lead after three quarters in Champaign Thursday night.
Then, Christen Inman took over.
Inman, who finished with 20 points, scored eight of Northwestern’s (14-9, 3-8 B1G) first 10 points of the game’s final quarter, helping the ‘Cats build a 10-point lead and cruise to a win of the same margin, 69-59.
“In that second half, Inman just exploded,” said head coach Joe McKeown. “She was huge down the stretch.”
Northwestern seemed to have their A-game early on, as the ‘Cats built a 12-point lead and led 19-7 after the first quarter.
But Illinois (8-14, 1-10 B1G), which brought a 4-game losing streak of its own into the matchup, outscored Northwestern 25-8 in the second quarter and took a 5-point lead into halftime.
However, the third quarter was a whole new ballgame. Northwestern’s defense stepped up in a big way, holding Illinois to just 10 points in the period. The Fighting Illini shot just 32% from the field for the game.
“I thought defensively we really did a good job trying to take away their three-ball,” said McKeown, whose team limited Illinois to just five makes on 28 attempts from behind the arc. “It was a great all-around team effort tonight.”
To go along with Inman’s 20 points, Nia Coffey tallied another double-double, finishing with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Maggie Lyon also finished in double figures for Northwestern, scoring 17 points.
Illinois was led by sophomore center Chatrice White, who scored a team-high 16 points but was plagued by foul trouble for most of the night.
The ‘Cats will try to complete their first conference winning streak of the season when they take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.