Rapid Recap: No. 14 Northwestern 75, Illinois 58


(Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern)

Ella Brockway, Sports Editor

Big Ten champs.

Northwestern clinched a share of the Big Ten regular-season title in a 75-58 win over in-state rival Illinois on Saturday, giving the Wildcats their first conference crown since the 1989-90 season.

Senior forward Abbie Wolf led the Wildcats with 21 points, and three other NU players — junior guard Lindsey Pulliam, sophomore guard Veronica Burton and senior forward Abi Scheid — finished in double-figures.

The Cats missed their first three shots of the afternoon, but the packed Welsh-Ryan crowd got its opening burst of energy when Scheid hit her first 3-pointer of the afternoon. Scheid finished with eight of NU’s 21 points in the first quarter. Illinois started off strong with a trio of made 3-pointers, but the Cats were able to force a number of turnovers, aided especially by sophomore guard Sydney Wood coming in off the bench.

Despite holding a 10-point lead, NU played a rocky second quarter, missing a handful of open shots and committing seven turnovers in a five-minute stretch. But the Cats held serve defensively, limiting the Fighting Illini to just 12 points in the second quarter of play. NU took an 11-point lead into the halftime break.

The Cats built that advantage in the third quarter, powered by some stellar low-post play from Wolf. The senior scored 11 points and grabbed a number of key rebounds in that span, and electrified the student sections with three and-one plays in a row under the basket.

NU headed into the final quarter with an 18-point lead, and never lost control of it.


1. NU’s senior class went out with a bang.
The Cats honored their five seniors — Wolf, Scheid, guard Byrdy Galernik, and the injured Bryana Hopkins and Amber Jamison — with custom-designed shooting shirts and a pregame ceremony ahead of Saturday’s regular-season finale. And they came to play: The trio of healthy seniors finished with more than 30 points. But as the message on the bottom of the shooting shirts read — “More dates coming soon…” — Saturday wasn’t the senior class’ final time in Welsh-Ryan. The Cats are all but guaranteed to host their first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games in Evanston.

2. Welsh-Ryan was rocking.
With two overflowing seating sections, a nearly-full lower bowl and the upper bowl opened for seating for maybe the first time ever, Saturday may well have been the best atmosphere Welsh-Ryan Arena has had for a women’s game since it reopened last fall. The Cats thrived off the energy on big plays — the student sections erupted on back-to-back-to-back and-one plays from Wolf in the third quarter and on nearly every Scheid attempt from deep. The post-game streamers and celebrations were the icing on the cake for one of the best afternoons at Welsh-Ryan in recent memory.

3. Up next: the Big Ten Tournament.
There’s still a chance that NU can claim the Big Ten title all for itself: The Cats are tied at the top of the conference standings with No. 7 Maryland, and the Terrapins play their regular-season finale on Sunday at 3 p.m. tomorrow against Minnesota. Should Maryland lose, it’s NU’s title to claim in full. The Big Ten Tournament starts next week in Indianapolis, and the No. 2-seeded Cats will most likely match up against the winner of No. 7 Ohio State versus No. 10 Nebraska.

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