EVANSTON, Ill. — Illinois got its first Big Ten win in dominant fashion.
The Illini visited Welsh-Ryan Arena Sunday afternoon having dropped six of the last seven, a stark contrast to Shauna Green’s first season as head coach.
The Illini stood at 0-4 in Big Ten play and were on a three-game losing streak. That changed as the Illini took care of business, delivering a 93-52 beatdown in Evanston over Northwestern.
While Northwestern was coming off a conference win against Wisconsin, it looked like it came into this in-state rivalry game unprepared.
Halfway through the second quarter Illinois’ Adalia McKenzie kicked out to Makira Cook open for three to take a 33-13 lead. Everything after that was domination by the Illini.
Illinois (7-8) started the game missing a couple shots early. It looked like it was going to be another sluggish game by the Illini.
However, the Illini played aggressive on defense from the get go forcing four steals in the first quarter alone. A big part of that defensive effort was Illini big Camille Hobby, who also started hot on offense scoring 11 points in the opening 10 minutes.
Defensive aggressiveness paid dividends for Illinois as Northwestern began falling behind early forcing desperate shots leading to turnovers.
The Illini exploited Northwestern’s missed rebounds and took advantage of second chance opportunities. Illini guards Genesis Bryant and Cook looked in full control and dominated in transition.
The Illini defense did not allow the Cats to get into the paint as Kendall Bostic was able to handle Northwestern’s Carleigh Walsh all day.
At the half, the Illini led 45-21 and looked to be in full command. Halfway through the third quarter, Green gave her bench a bulk of the remaining minutes in the game.
Hobby led all scorers with a season-high 19 points. Bostic ended the game with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Cook and Bryant combined for 33 points.
Is this the season’s turning point?
This game is exactly what the Illini needed. It took a while but the Illini not only got their first Big Ten win, but they got it in dominant fashion.
The Illini will need to carry the momentum into the rest of January to dig themselves out of this hole.
This win begs the question: Could this be the game that gets Illinois back on track?
Although it looked like the Illini put on a clinic (something we haven’t seen too much this season), Northwestern is among the worst teams in the league in turnovers and has been relatively inconsistent throughout this season.
This was a quality win for the Illini, but they still need a signature win against a quality opponent (similar to last season’s upset against Iowa), to prove they can compete against tournament competition.
Illinois will travel back to Champaign to welcome Rutgers on Wednesday.
The matchup will be available on BTN+ at 6 p.m.