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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern rolls by UIC 72-49 in season opener

That was easy enough.

EVANSTON, Ill. — That was just about what everyone was expecting.

While Northwestern (1-0) started off slow, they eventually got into a groove, cruising to a 72-49 victory over the UIC Flames (0-1).

Veronica Burton unsurprisingly led the way for Northwestern, finishing with 22 points, six assists and five rebounds on 8-of-13 shooting. Courtney Shaw followed up with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Of note, first years Jillian Brown and Caileigh Walsh both started tonight for the ‘Cats. Walsh scored the first bucket of the game and finished with two points and four rebounds. Meanwhile, Brown added on five points and two steals.

The Wildcats got off to somewhat of a slow start, but the Flames were even slower. Northwestern opened up a 7-0 lead through the first three and a half minutes before Justice Gee knocked down an impressive layup to get UIC on the board. At the first media timeout, the ‘Cats were shooting 2-for-11 from the field, while the Flames were shooting 1-for-8.

After the media timeout, the scoring struggles continued for the Wildcats, allowing UIC to climb back into the game. It wasn’t until the 1:10 mark in the first quarter that Burton drained a three to end a nearly three-minute scoring drought. Burton would add a layup before the end of the quarter to make the score 14-8 in favor of the ‘Cats.

The defense remained dominant on both ends at the start of the second quarter. A quick Lauryn Satterwhite layup forced a UIC timeout within the first minute, and after the break, the ‘Cats came out in a full court press, putting even more pressure on the Flames. Despite creating turnovers, though, NU continued to struggle to get anything going offensively early on in the second.

With about seven minutes left in the second quarter, Northwestern’s offense began to pick up some steam due in large part to first-year guard Melannie Daley who came off the bench to score five quick points for the ‘Cats. About a minute later, she found Shaw with a nice assist to put Northwestern up by 14.

As halftime neared, the ‘Cats continued its stifling defense. Right before the clock hit zero, Burton threw up a half court heave and nailed it, putting the ‘Cats up 32-16. At halftime, Northwestern had forced 11 total turnovers out of the Flames, four of which were steals.

As the second half began, Northwestern opened up a 19-point lead, but then the Flames mounted a run of their own. By the six minute mark, UIC had closed the gap to just 11 points, and its 8-0 run wasn’t stopped until Shaw sank one of two free throws. The ‘Cats then extended their lead back to 14 on a layup from Burton.

Coming out of the media timeout, there was much of the same sloppiness seen all game from UIC. The Flames turned over the ball four times in the span of three minutes, allowing the ‘Cats to go on a 9-0 run and stretch their lead to 20 points. From there, both teams traded buckets back and forth until the end of the third quarter, when Northwestern held a commanding 19-point lead.

To open the fourth quarter, both teams continued to trade scores. It was largely uneventful, with the Wildcats slowly extending their lead to 20+ points as the quarter went on. Shaw reached double-double status with about six minutes left in the game when she made two shots from the free throw line. At the five minute mark, Northwestern led by 27. This lead never reached below 20 points, as NU brought in the substitutes and successfully sailed to a 72-49 win.

The Wildcats continue their season at home against USCB on Sunday at 5 p.m. CT.