EVANSTON, Ill. — “Winner of the paint will win the game.” - Coach Shauna Green
In front of a pro-Illini crowd on the road in Evanston, Illinois was able to pull out a tightly contested 67-64 win over Northwestern on Sunday afternoon.
A rough shooting performance by the fifth-best three-point shooting team in the nation was balanced out with tough and resilient defense that kept Northwestern at bay.
This is Illinois’ second win against Northwestern this season after having 14 consecutive losses against the Wildcats.
The beginning of the game was all about setting the tone inside. 22 of the first 34 points scored came by way of the paint as Northwestern’s Paige Mott and Illinois’ Kendall Bostic were being put to the test in the interior.
A 10-0 run by Northwestern that spanned over 3 minutes combined with an Illinois field goal drought of 5 minutes left Illinois in an early second quarter hole.
Illinois (16-4, 6-3 Big Ten) was able to limit the damage, however, as Northwestern could not build off the momentum given. With the first Illini three falling with just under a minute to play in the first half, Illinois miraculously headed into the locker room only trailing by one.
Out of half the offense started clicking for Illinois while the turnover bug seemed to have bit the Wildcats. The last five minutes of the third, Northwestern was averaging a turnover per minute, allowing Illinois to take a 6-point lead into the last frame.
With Illinois trying to run away with lead in the fourth, Makira Cook and Brynn Shoup-Hill each picked up their fourth foul, putting pressure on the rest of roster to contribute during their absence.
Jada Peebles and Genesis Bryant answered the call with monster possessions that kept Northwestern at arm’s length.
Back to back big three-pointers by Northwestern cut the 8-point lead to just 2 with 40 seconds to play.
Illinois needed to convert on its next possession to stay in control. Bryant knocked down a crucial three to put them up by 5, but the Wildcats would not go away easy.
Northwestern would make it a 1-point game with under 10 seconds to play, but Cook would knock down both of her free throws to seal the game.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Makira Cook knocks down the crucial three.
Adalia McKenzie doing what she does best
Bryant with the Mamba Mentality.
TWEET OF THE GAME
GENESIS BRYANT SLAMS THE DOOR SHUT.— Noted Battlehawks Fan Alex Orr (@theorryouknow) January 22, 2023
The Illini will be taking on Purdue on Thursday night at State Farm Center.
7 p.m. CT tipoff on BTN+.