Women’s Basketball: Northwestern withstands comeback, edges rival Illinois 64-58

Guard+Karly+Roser+dribbles+up+the+court.+The+senior+started+Sunday%E2%80%99s+game+against+Illinois+and+helped+Northwestern+overcome+the+Fighting+Illini+after+sophomore+Christen+Inman+was+a+late+scratch.
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Women’s Basketball: Northwestern withstands comeback, edges rival Illinois 64-58

Guard Karly Roser dribbles up the court. The senior started Sunday’s game against Illinois and helped Northwestern overcome the Fighting Illini after sophomore Christen Inman was a late scratch.

Guard Karly Roser dribbles up the court. The senior started Sunday’s game against Illinois and helped Northwestern overcome the Fighting Illini after sophomore Christen Inman was a late scratch.

Daily file photo by Sean Su

Guard Karly Roser dribbles up the court. The senior started Sunday’s game against Illinois and helped Northwestern overcome the Fighting Illini after sophomore Christen Inman was a late scratch.

Daily file photo by Sean Su

Daily file photo by Sean Su

Guard Karly Roser dribbles up the court. The senior started Sunday’s game against Illinois and helped Northwestern overcome the Fighting Illini after sophomore Christen Inman was a late scratch.

Claire Hansen, Reporter

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It took another nail biter for the Wildcats on Sunday, but Chicago’s Big Ten Team secured a 64-58 home victory in a spirited matchup against state rival Illinois.

Northwestern (17-6, 7-5 Big Ten) stifled a late comeback attempt by Illinois (12-12, 3-9) in a game that proved to be just as physical as players anticipated.

“Whenever we play Illinois, it’s a passionate game, being instate rivals,” junior guard Maggie Lyon said. “Today we knew that they weren’t going to give up, and they played really hard. It shows a lot of character for us.”

The Cats were forced to change their starting lineup slightly after sophomore Christen Inman was injured yesterday, coach Joe McKeown said. Senior Karly Roser started in Inman’s place, marking the first change in the starting five in the last 26 consecutive games.

From the get-go, both teams played fast, albeit sloppily. The Cats and the Fighting Illini seemed to sling the ball around, both executing a few wild passes. Two minutes into the game, Lyon nailed a pair of free throws to put the first points on the board.

NU and Illinois rapidly traded possessions, and points, over the next 10 minutes, with the Fighting Illini leading for most of the time. An Illinois 3-pointer at 8:39 notched the score at 18-13, giving the visiting team their largest lead of the game.

NU quickly responded. Sophomore Lauren Douglas added a jumper and sophomore guard Ashley Deary had a layup to give NU its first lead in almost 10 minutes. Following more back-and-forth play, the Cats entered the locker room at the half up 31-27.

Shooting troubles plagued the Cats in the first half. NU went just 12-33 in field goals and hit an uncharacteristically low 25 percent of 3-pointers. The Fighting Illini, on the other hand, sank 45.5 percent of both field goals and 3s. Sophomore forward Nia Coffey asserted that the Cats were just having some bad luck.

“They just weren’t falling,” Coffey said. “You just had to keep shooting and keep your confidence. We are all capable shooters.”

Defensively, the Cats were clearly dominant in the first half. NU pressured Illinois into 11 turnovers while only losing the ball five times. Illinois and NU entered the game sitting first and second respectively in turnover margin in the Big Ten.

“I thought our ball pressure was good, I thought our ability to get in passing lanes and deflect was,” McKeown said. “We did a good, solid job at being in good position.”

The Cats were able to brush off their shooting troubles and emerged for the second half a new offensive team. Coffey hit a 3-pointer just 15 seconds into the period, beginning a 10-2 run over the next two and a half minutes.

Despite increased pressure by the Illinois defense, NU maintained its lead for the next 10 minutes and the scoring margin was handily kept in double digits.

With 8:25 to play, Illinois hit a layup to pull itself within 8 and mounted a spirited comeback campaign. Sloppy defensive play by the Cats allowed Illinois to methodically shave down the deficit. NU found itself clinging to a 2-point lead with just under seven minutes left.

“We had back-to-back defensive breakdowns, and we just had to come together, stay strong and fix our defense,” Coffey said.

The breakdown continued until Illinois tied the game at 55 with just 3:14 to go. Deary added a 3 and a set of free throws to put the Cats up by 5, but Illinois notched a clutch 3-pointer to come back within 2 points.

As the Fighting Illini drove in for a game-tying layup, Douglas drew a huge charge call against Illinois with 26 seconds to play. From there, it was all Deary. The sophomore made four high-pressure free throws, and NU walked away with a 64-58 victory.

“It was a crazy game,” McKeown said, “and I thought we were in control most of it. We got reckless with the ball in the last three or four minutes, so I was disappointed with that. But I was proud of the fight, and the way Deary played at the end was incredible.”

Lyon said that withstanding such a strong comeback shows the team’s growth.

“We have matured over the season and from last season as well,” she said. “We have a lot more poise in end-of-game situations.”

Email: clairehansen2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @clairechansen

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