After a solid regular season, the Northwestern Wildcats (13-7, 11-7 B1G) secured the fifth seed in this year’s Big Ten Tournament, guaranteeing them a first-round bye. The Wildcats will face the winner of No. 12-seeded Illinois and No. 13-seeded Wisconsin on Wednesday, March 10 around 12:30 p.m. CT. The Illini and Badgers open the conference tourney Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. CT. Below is your all-encompassing preview of both teams, beginning with the Illini.
Record: 4-17 (2-16 B1G)
Best win: 72-64 vs. Minnesota
Player to watch: Jeanae Terry
It’s no secret that the Illini have struggled mightily this year. Just look at the record. After opening the season with a victory over Indiana State, they fell to a Valparaiso team that proceeded to go 11-12 this season and finished seventh in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Illinois has looked a little better in its final three games, losing twice by fewer than 10 points and ending the regular season with a 72-64 victory over Minnesota. Sophomore guard Jeanae Terry has been a bright spot this season for Illinois, averaging 11.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG and 4.2 APG, but struggled in both games against Northwestern. She added a 28-point double-double against Wisconsin earlier this year.
Northwestern has faced the Illini twice, both victories Wildcats. In their first matchup of the year, Northwestern dominated en route to a 73-54 victory. The Wildcats forced 22 turnovers, seven of which came from Terry. Lindsey Pulliam posted 28 points (24 of which came in the second half) and Burton added 15 of her own as NU cruised.
The ‘Cats couldn’t shoot in the second matchup, in which they fell down 18-4 before rallying and holding on down the stretch, 67-61. It took 20 points from Veronica Burton and 19 points from Lindsay Pulliam for them to win.
Record: 5-18, 2-18 B1G
Best win: 75-70 vs. No. 15 Ohio State
Player(s) to watch: Imani Lewis, Sydney Hilliard
Like Illinois, the Badgers have won only two conference matchups. They won all of their non-conference games but got off to an 0-11 start to conference play and lost those games by an average of 17.9 points.
UW’s best performance this season came on February 10, when it upset then-No. 15 Ohio State at home. Imani Lewis scored 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting and recorded 14 rebounds while Sydney Hilliard added 13 points and seven assists of her own.
Like Illinois, Northwestern has faced Wisconsin twice this season, winning both games by a considerable margin. In their first matchup, the ‘Cats won 80-55 as four players scored 14 points or more. On the defensive end, the Wildcats’ signature blizzard defense forced the Badgers to turn it over 20 times.
The teams’ second meeting of the season was a bit closer than the first, with Northwestern winning 67-54. Pulliam and Wood led the way in this one with 14 points each as the Wildcats rode their defense to 26 takeaways. The Wildcats struggled offensively but never let the Badgers threaten them.