Women’s Basketball: Northwestern brushes past Illinois to keep the momentum going


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

“The things she does for our team are just amazing.” Veronica Burton put up a near triple-double with 13 points, 14 assists and a career-high nine steals today against Illinois.

Kyle Leverone, Assistant Sports Reporter

After grueling back-to-back games against top-five opponents, Northwestern enjoyed a round of champagne on the Fighting Illini’s tab today. And rack up a bill they did, scoring a season high and winning 82-59.

It has been a long and arduous season for the Wildcats, and the past week has arguably been the longest and most difficult. After upsetting No. 4 Michigan at home last Sunday, NU traveled to Bloomington to battle the No. 5 Hoosiers and lost. To go 1-1 in that stretch is a feat that deserves recognition. And as a reward for such a tough stretch, the Cats played lowest ranked Illinois.

“It was a hard-fought game,” said Coach Joe McKeown. “I thought we played really well in stretches and spurts, and we were able to turn them over and get out and run a little bit.”

And although this game was as close to an automatic victory as one can get to in the Big Ten, its consequences are immense. With now only two games left, one against a borderline top-25 Nebraska team, each one holds hefty importance in NU’s case for making it to the NCAA Tournament.

The Cats have notable wins against top-25 Iowa and Michigan. Michigan just beat No. 13 Maryland, which is another formidable NU foe. And Iowa beat Indiana yesterday. So, by the transitive property of college basketball, the Big Ten Tournament could potentially be utter chaos. And as the Cats’ momentum grows, the possibilities could be fun, especially when Veronica Burton is on your team, as McKeown points out after just about every single game.

“She almost had a triple double with steals,” said McKeown. “The things that she does for our team are just amazing.”

Burton had 13 points, 14 assists, and nine steals today. And in her long and heinous life of crime, her tally of nine steals against Illinois marks a career best for her. Acting as the Sundance Kid to Burton’s Butch Cassidy, Courtney Shaw set her own personal high, getting away with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

“I thought it was one of her best offensive games of the year,” said McKeown. “She went 10 for 11, got inside of Illinois’ post defense, and finished everything. She made tough shots, got out and ran and was all over the offensive glass for us.”

Having several players reach career-high marks against Michigan last Sunday, it appeared that the upset against the No. 4 team in the country would be the pinnacle of their season. But after today’s drubbing of the Illini and momentum on their side, this team might still be climbing.

“I think we’re playing better,” said McKeown. “I think the Michigan game really helped our confidence as a team. It was one of the best games of the year, and I think that’s really helped us. Indiana was a great game too.”

It was another uptick in a season full of all-over-ticks. Now, the focus shifts to Thursday – the Cats’ last game in Evanston and another opportunity to keep moving forward.

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Twitter: @KLever0ne15

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