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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern handles Illinois 82-59 behind strong performances from Burton, Shaw

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NU’s tournament hopes remain alive and well.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — It was warmer in Evanston on Sunday, but the Blizzard remained fierce as it hit the road.

Northwestern (15-10, 7-7 B1G) was in control nearly the entire way in the State Farm Center, beating Illinois (6-17, 1-11) for the 14th straight time. The loss marked the ninth in a row for the Illini, while NU tallied a season high in points.

Courtney Shaw enjoyed a career day, her bruising presence powering the ‘Cats with a career-best 20 points and 10 rebounds. Veronica Burton added another complete stat line of 13 points, four rebounds, 14 assists and nine steals, one shy of her first career triple-double. Aaliyah Nye and Erika Porter led the way for the Illini, finishing with 15 and 13 points, respectively.

Illinois’ Eva Rubin got the scoring started a hair over a minute into the game, but Shaw tied it up seconds later. Burton then proceeded to force steals on consecutive possessions to put the ‘Cats on a 6-0 run.

However, the Illini got back into the swing of things via triples from Nye and an Adalia McKenzie bucket, keeping pace with NU to tie the game at 10 at the first media timeout. Both teams had four turnovers within the initial six minutes.

Caileigh Walsh finally put an end to a scoring dry spell of over two minutes, compiling five points in 34 seconds. At the end of the first quarter, the Wildcats led 16-12, with free throws from De’Myla Brown concluding the Illini’s nearly five-minute scoring drought.

To begin the second quarter, Lauryn Satterwhite propelled the ‘Cats to a strong start, cashing in on a three. After a Porter jumper, Paige Mott got a layup to fall to increase the Northwestern lead to seven.

Yet U of I wouldn’t go away. Porter added two makes at the charity stripe and a layup to cut it to 21-18 Wildcats before Shaw made a putback tip shot. The two players traded buckets until Nye made a three, putting the NU advantage at just two halfway through the second quarter.

With 4:34 to go in the first half, Laya Hartman poured in her first make of the afternoon, supplementing the NU lead. Shaw then posted even more points in the paint to put the ‘Cats up 30-23. Color us shocked if you’ve heard this before: a Burton steal facilitated yet another Shaw deuce, with McKeown’s team enjoying a 7-0 run.

Although Porter had notched 10 points by the end of the first half, Shaw’s 14 points and six rebounds fostered a 38-27 lead for the ‘Cats at the break.

NU kept humming out of the break with Satterwhite draining another tripe. Not long after, Burton squeezed a pass into Hartman, who converted a reverse layup. McKenzie deposited a layup of her own for the Illini, but two from Jillian Brown prompted Illinois to take a timeout down 45-29.

Following the break, U of I’s Sara Anastasieska drilled a tough jumper, and Porter swatted a Burton layup attempt to give the Illini a bit of a surge. Yet a Hartman three diminished the Illini hopes and put NU back up 15 about halfway through the third quarter. The ‘Cats didn’t add any points for nearly three and a half minutes, but the Illini did no work to close the deficit. Entering the fourth, NU led 56-41 and was in complete control.

In the final frame, the Illini never drew within 15. Brown totaled five points within the opening three minutes, and Shaw set a career-high in scoring at the 5:17 mark. By the end of the game, the ‘Cats had raised their lead to as high as 28 points, eventually winning 82-59.

With their two-game road trip now complete, the ‘Cats return to Evanston for Senior Night against Purdue on Thursday at 7 p.m.