Northwestern Takes Down Illinois 67-61 Despite Shooting Woes

By Andrew Neville

Northwestern (13-5, 11-5 Big Ten) fended off a late Illinois (3-16, 1-15 Big Ten) surge to defeat its instate rivals 67-61 Wednesday night in Champaign.

Despite maintaining a double-digit lead for much of the second half, the Wildcats went ice cold from the floor midway through the fourth quarter, allowing the Illini to claw back in the game. Northwestern didn’t make a shot from the field the rest of the game after a Lindsey Pulliam jumper put the score at 58-46 with 4:42 remaining. From there, Illinois took advantage of some Northwestern turnovers and timely shooting to cut the deficit to as little as five points, but the ‘Cats were able to ice the game thanks to some timely free throw shooting from Veronica Burton, who scored 12 of her team-high 20 points from the charity stripe. Pulliam was the only other Northwestern player in double figures with 19. 

Northwestern got off to a slow start in the first quarter as Illinois used its size advantage to prevent the ‘Cats from getting easy inside shots. Forced to the perimeter, the Wildcats couldn’t find their touch as they started 0-of-13 from the field and allowed the Illini to go on an 11-0 run to build an early 18-4 lead at the 1:12 mark of the first quarter.

The Wildcats totally flipped the script in the second quarter. Northwestern forced nine of Illinois’ 29 total turnovers in the second while holding the Illini to just one made field goal in the period. This stingy defense turned into easy layups on the other end as the ‘Cats found their offensive rhythm. While the big three of Sydney Wood, Burton and Pulliam continued to struggle throughout the early part of the quarter, role players Lauren Satterwhite, who scored six of her nine points in the period, and Paige Mott, who finished with eight points, hit some big shots to power Northwestern’s 22-3 win in the frame.

Northwestern went on an early 6-0 run in the third quarter to extend the lead to 15 and it maintained this solid lead throughout the quarter. The Illini hung around, but never put together a substantial enough run to seriously challenge for the lead. Satterwhite continued to come up big for the ‘Cats, hitting a third three-pointer just after Illinois cut the deficit back to 12 with 2:02 to go in the period.

Northwestern’s attention now turns to two massive games against ranked opponents as the Wildcats prepare to face No. 8 Maryland on Sunday and No. 12 Michigan on Mar. 6 to close the book on regular season play in 2021.