Women’s Basketball: Both offenses shine in high-scoring battle

Jonah L. Rosenblum

In Northwestern’s barn-burning 80-79 win over Illinois Thursday evening, there was plenty of offense to go around. Both teams put on a shooting clinic, as the Wildcats knocked down 57 percent of their shots, and the Fighting Illini finished not far behind at 52 percent.

“It was just a great offensive game for both teams,” coach Joe McKeown said.

Welsh-Ryan Arena proved a big enough stage for multiple stars, as seven players finished in double digits.

For NU, point guard Beth Marshall continued her emergence as a top scorer, knocking down three of six three-point attempts. She was a solid floor general for the Cats as well, notching eight assists against just one turnover.

“She played with a sense of urgency that you want to have as a senior because it’s really very fleeting and it goes very quickly,” McKeown said.

Standing nine inches taller than Marshall, sophomore forward Kendall Hackney is an inside player with a shooting touch. Thursday she had five rebounds and notched 13 points total against Illinois, six of them on three-point shots.

A host of other players played important roles. In fact, every NU athlete who stepped on the floor recorded at least four points.

“When we can be balanced we’re pretty good,” McKeown said. “When we can have scoring from someone besides Amy, we’re a hard team to match up with.”

For Illinois, Karisma Penn is 6 feet 2 inches tall but is hardly the stereotypical lumbering post player. Rather, Penn is blessed with great speed and has the ability to drive the ball like a guard. She put up 19 points and eight rebounds against NU Thursday, but she also turned the ball over eight times.

And then Lana Rukavina, the Fighting Illini’s star player throughout the night, may have had the softest touch of anybody on the court. At 6’3” Rukavina can battle inside. More impressive, however, was her ability to spot up from all over the court and hit shots. The junior finished with 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting.

“They have some great offensive players,” Marshall said. “(Rukavina) just lit us up and we didn’t do a good enough job of taking her out after she got hot.”

But ultimately the last shot belonged to center Amy Jaeschke. She wasn’t quite able to match the 30 points she put up in Champaign. The senior turned the ball over six times in a highly physical contest.

“It’s almost like I can say I play wrestling instead of basketball nowadays,” Jaeschke said.

She still finished with 22 points and seven rebounds and came up big when it mattered most. On NU’s final play of the game, trailing 79-78, the Cats couldn’t seem to find a shot. They gave it to Jaeschke, who made something from nothing. Her turnaround, fade-away bank shot dropped in for NU and the Cats’ four-game losing streak was over.

“I legitimately just threw up a Hail Mary and it went in,” Jaeschke said.

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