Illinois falls to in-state rival Northwestern, team’s sixth-straight loss

Sophomore+Kennedi+Myles+drives+forward+during+the+game+against+Northwestern+on+Thursday.

Photo Courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

Sophomore Kennedi Myles drives forward during the game against Northwestern on Thursday.

By Nithin Reddy, Staff Writer

It was tough out the gate for the Illini, as their offense struggled early. It took the Illini half of the first quarter before they scored a point, yet they were only down one point because the Wildcats had similar struggles. As the quarter winded down, the Wildcat offense started to turn around, but the Illini continued to struggle, shooting just 2-for-8 in the first quarter.

The second quarter was more of the same. Illinois’ offense continued to struggle, and Northwestern added to their lead, growing as high as 17 points. As the first half came to an end, the Illini went into halftime trailing 30-15.

The Illini shot just 21% in the first half, and to make matters worse they gave the ball away 11 times.

“We can’t bury ourselves by 15, if we made a run and came closer it’s a different ball game,” said head coach Nancy Fahey. “All the what-ifs don’t really matter now.”

Starting the second half, the Illini appeared to slowly get back in the game. Due to their aggressiveness against the Northwestern full-court press, the Illini turned an 18-point deficit into just nine, forcing the Wildcats to call a timeout to stop the bleeding. Unfortunately for Illinois, Northwestern would respond in a big way, going on a 10-0 run to go up 19.

“Just because we’re down nine doesn’t mean we’re up nine,” said sophomore forward Kennedi Myles. “We have to go even harder to cut that lead instead of falling off because there are times when they see we’re coming back.”

It was all over after that. Northwestern would lead by 21 after the third quarter and coast in the fourth quarter. Senior guard Lindsey Pulliam was a big part of the Wildcats’ attack. She was held to four points in the first half but exploded for 24 in the second half.

“In the beginning (Pulliam) was shut down, we played great defense,” Myles said. “Second half she got hot. A lot of her shots were contested and guarded, sometimes there’s nothing you can do.”

Myles led the way for Illinois with 16 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Jeanae Terry was the only other Illini to finish in double figures with 11 points, but her seven turnovers were detrimental for Illinois. The Illini finished with 22 turnovers on the day, allowing Northwestern to score 25 points off of them.

Despite having a size advantage over a smaller Northwestern team, redshirt-junior center Eva Rubin was held to single digits, only able to get six shots off.

“They were dead fronting on sitting backside help, especially in the first half, and when the ball did go in they were double-teaming,” Fahey said. “When the ball started moving in the second half (Rubin) became more involved. They were not going to let her touch the ball and we didn’t do a good job of moving it.”

Illinois’ next game will be home against Nebraska where the Illini nearly came out victorious in their first game of Big Ten play.

 

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