Northwestern eliminates Illinois in second round of Big Ten Tournament
March 10, 2021
The Illinois women’s basketball season has come to an end with a record of 5-18 after losing to Northwestern, 67-42.
A rough shooting performance in the first half gave Illinois a deficit too large to recover from, as Northwestern will now advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament.
Both teams struggled early offensively. A jumper by sophomore guard Jada Peebles with 2:55 left in the first quarter saw Illinois trail 10-6, but from then on, Northwestern took over.
The Wildcats finished the first half on a 28-2 run thanks to an advantageous defense that forced Illinois to turn the ball over and led to transition offense. Heading into the break, Northwestern led by 30 points.
“We struggled, a lot of turnovers in the full court and half-court as well,” said sophomore forward Kennedi Myles. “We weren’t able to settle ourselves down.”
Northwestern junior guard Veronica Burton was instrumental in the Wildcats’ first-half success. After being announced on Monday as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Burton earned that title, racking up four steals in the first half.
The Illini put up a good fight in the third quarter, going on their own double-digit scoring run, but it was all too little, too late.
“We felt like we got into our offensive flow a little bit, defensively we kicked it up,” said head coach Nancy Fahey, “I know we won the third quarter, but there’s a lot more basketball that was had to be played in the first and second (quarter).”
The deficit was too large, and the Wildcats eased to a dominant win.
Illinois struggled to find much of a rhythm on offense, as it scored a season-low eight points in the first half and managed to shoot just 23% from the field.
Northwestern did not finish with showy numbers, shooting 39% from the field and 22% from three, but it took 13 more shots than Illinois.
Northwestern’s leading scorer was senior guard Lindsey Pulliam, who finished with 21 points on the night. On Monday, she was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team, a perceived snub by Northwestern head coach Joe McKeown. The Illini, however, were aware of Pulliam’s potency.
“We didn’t take away (Pulliam’s) pull-up in the middle,” Myles said. “We got exposed in the middle multiple times in that zone. She was very active, just wasn’t able to stop her today.”
Myles was the only Illini to finish in double figures, as scored 10 points and added nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Jeanae Terry scored nine points but shot just 1-9 from three. The Illini committed 23 turnovers in the game and made only 13 shots.
This loss marks the end of Illinois’ strange 2021 season. The Illini will go into the offseason with many questions, most notably if Fahey will be retained after another disappointing season for the Illini.