Following a pair of tough Big Ten losses to Iowa and Michigan, Northwestern women's basketball got back on the right track tonight in Champaign by beating their in-state rival Illinois 68-67.
The script started off the same way for the Wildcats as did in the loss to the Wolverines at Welsh-Ryan on Saturday as NU dominated much of the first half. Joe McKeown's team first used an 8-0 run starting with a Maggie Lyon three at the 11:58 mark to grab a 21-13 lead and went on another scoring surge, this one 7-0, to push the score to 30-17.
However, the Illini fought right back to score the game's next 13 points, completely erasing their deficit en route to finishing the half down just three. Even though they were winning at the end of it, the first 20 minutes had to be disappointing for a Wildcats team that was the better team for much of it.
Scoring was much harder to come by for both teams in the beginning of the second half, as only 19 points combined were scoring by the 13:20 mark. But then, Illinois got hot and went on another scoring binge that almost drowned the Wildcats.
The Illini, spurred by a Chatrice White three, turned a 44-44 game into a 54-44 one in the span in just over two minutes. Once again, it appeared as if NU was going to fall to an inferior team due to a 2-3 minute lapse in effort and energy.
But no, the Wildcats were slowly able to chip away at their deficit and on a pair of Karly Roser free throws with less than four minutes to play, they took a 61-60 lead. Illinois responded immediately but another Lyon triple (she scored 14 points) tied the game up again.
Noone for either team was able to score under just under a minute to go when Christen Inman hit the de facto game-winner, a jumper, that put NU ahead in this one. She hit a pair of free throws a few seconds later to seal the game away, making it so even a last-second three from Illinois' Amarah Coleman didn't make a difference. It may have been ugly, but this win was much-needed for a Wildcats team in serious trouble of falling off the bubble.
Inman led NU with 18 points while Alex Cohen and Lyon added 14 with 13 from Nia Coffey to boot. The Wildcats are now 14-4 overall, 4-3 in conference, and are at lowly Penn State next in another must-win.