EVANSTON, Illinois — No. 21 Northwestern (8-2, 6-2 B1G) defeated in-state rival Illinois (2-8, 0-6 B1G) 73-54 Thursday night behind a stout defensive performance and Lindsey Pulliam’s best game of the season to extend its winning streak to four straight games.
After a quiet past couple of games, Pulliam had a standout day for the Wildcats with season-high 28 points. Veronica Burton added 15 points as well as six rebounds, six assists and a season-high seven steals, and Sydney Wood scored 10 points, all of which came in the first half.
Neither team started the game particularly strong on the offensive end, but the two battled on the defensive side. Northwestern held the Illini to just five points in the opening quarter and held them scoreless in the final four minutes of the opening frame. Illinois finished the first quarter with more turnovers than points. After a slow start offensively, NU found a 7-0 run to end the quarter, which gave them a 14-5 lead after one.
The Wildcats continued to build upon their lead in the second quarter and extended Illinois’ scoring drought another two minutes. The Northwestern lead stretched to as much as 18, as Wood and Burton led the scoring.
Wood played perhaps her best half of the season. She finished the first half with 10 points and provided the ‘Cats with energy on both ends. She frequently found herself on the receiving end of the fast break, helping the Wildcats earn 10 points off turnovers.
Kaylah Rainey relieved Pulliam in the second and delivered some respectable defensive minutes alongside Lauryn Satterwhite, who also produced eight points off the bench. Their efforts paired with the strong play of NU’s starters allowed the Wildcats to enter halftime with a 30-15 lead.
However, Illinois came out firing on all cylinders to begin the second half, sparked by a 9-0 run that was bookended by two big shots from Jada Peebles that cut the Northwestern lead to nine. Immediately following a Wildcat timeout midway through the third quarter, Burton made a backcourt steal leading to an open Pulliam floater that ended the Illini’s run.
Shortly following, Pulliam and Northwestern’s offense settled down and built up a 17-point lead with 2:45 to go in the third quarter. The senior guard scored a quick eight points of her 19 third-quarter points (!), earning her confidence to keep shooting the ball. Satterwhite continued to pester the Illini backcourt, leading to a steal immediately out of the Illinois timeout that ended in another Pulliam score. The Wildcats finished the third quarter on a 7-0 run that ended with a last-second three-point shot from Satterwhite.
The ‘Cats put the game out of reach with a three-point shooting barrage led by Pulliam, Burton and Satterwhite that resulted in a 28-point lead with 5:55 remaining. Northwestern finished the game 38% from deep, a good sign for future contests.
Kennedi Myles led the Illini in the matchup with 16 points and eight rebounds. Jeanae Terry added 11 points, Eva Rubin had nine and Peebles had seven.
The Wildcats face their first ranked opponent since January 3 on Sunday at 11 a.m. CST when No. 16 Indiana (8-3, 6-1 B1G) travels to Evanston.