Women’s Basketball: Northwestern pulls out nail biter over Illinois, 59-58

Steven Montero

Northwestern gambled on a single shot and came out on top of Illinois 59-58.

The winning point of the game came from freshman guard Karly Roser, who had missed three attempts at the free throw line before coach Joe McKeown called a timeout.

McKeown said Roser was “shaken up” by the rough foul that placed the pressure on the freshman’s shoulders. Back on the line: swish.

The Wildcats clinched the game, holding off the Fighting Illini for 2.6 seconds after Roser’s winning free throw.

“(It was) just a sense of relief really,” Roser said on her game-winner. “I didn’t want to take it in the first place. I was just happy that I got it in. Everyone else was screaming around. I still couldn’t believe it really. I was just standing there.”

NU’s defense allowed Illinois guard Amber Moore to score the game-tying three-pointer with less than 12 seconds to spare, turning up the heat on Roser’s shots.

The Cats failed to sink any shots of their own from behind the arc until several minutes into the second half, coming from junior forward Dannielle Diamant. Diamant racked up a game-high 16 points.

“She’s a good player,” Illinois coach Jolette Law said. “She’s stronger and more physical than any one of my players so we contained her.”

But Diamant fouled out late in the second half, forcing McKeown to replace her with freshman forward Alex Cohen.

Senior guard Allison Mocchi fouled out earlier and junior guard Tailor Jones did not play in the second half after an injury in the first.

This brought a lot of minutes for many NU bench players.

“Inesha Hale is coming off surgery, so she has struggled coming back,” McKeown said. “She now is getting to where she can play a little bit and gave us a big spark and made two big free throws. Meghan McKeown did a really great job of making hustle plays defensively… All those guys came in and gave us big minutes with (Mocchi) and (Diamant) both fouling out. Everybody just kind of came together.”

Law said she expected NU to be a physically larger team, and to combat this she wanted the Illini’s guards to help their posts as much as possible.

Diamant said size was an advantage, especially on the offensive side of the court. However, she said Illinois is an athletic team and capable of jumping over the Cats’ backs.

Junior forward Kendall Hackney, who averages 6.5 field goals per game, managed only four field goals, including a clutch three pointer with less than four minutes on the clock.

“Illinois is really one of the better defensive teams in the Big Ten and they make it hard for you to get the shots you want,” McKeown said. “Kendall Hackney had a tough night but she made a big, big shot. I was really proud of her for that. We’ve got to do a better job of reversing the ball, screening people, and moving and running our offense when we play them again.”

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