INDIANAPOLIS — The Fighting Illini women’s basketball team exploded out of the gate in yesterday’s Big Ten Tournament opener, scoring the first 17 points en route to a 67-42 drubbing of Wisconsin.
Freshman guard Aaliyah Nye scored a career-high 17 points to lead Illinois — including four three-pointers. She credited the Illini coaching staff for providing the road-map to success.
“It feels great because we got coach Fahey her first Big Ten Tournament win. Today everybody just had a positive attitude,” Nye said. “I think we just knew what the game plan was, and if we go out there and do what it says on the scouting report, we would win. It was just a fun win.”
Sophomore Kennedi Myles added her 12th career double-double, with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Her classmate Jeanae Terry added 11 points and a game-high five assists. They’re all part of a youth movement that Myles says is laying the groundwork for a competitive future.
“I think we really are seeing everybody’s pieces, and just being able to put that together,” Myles said. “Hopefully for tomorrow (Wednesday’s game against Northwestern), to get that win, but this is really our start for next year. This isn’t the end of the season. This is the beginning of our next.”
Imani Lewis and Sydney Hilliard each scored 11 points to lead the Badgers, whose season ends with a 5-19 record. Lewis also grabbed 11 rebounds.
The Illini (5-17 overall, 2-16 Big Ten) will face a Northwestern (13-7 overall, 11-7 Big Ten) squad Wednesday afternoon that beat them twice this season. But the second game, in late February, was much closer than the first.
Head coach Nancy Fahey says the Illinois can compete with the Wildcats if they keep Northwestern out of transition.
“It was six or seven points, under five minutes. It was a close game (in Champaign). We went up to their place, they were very explosive. When you start turning the ball over, they score quick. You have to keep them in a half court game,” Fahey said.
“Let’s face it, if you got beat by twenty two times in a row, coming in it’s gonna be a little tougher, mentally, right? Well, we played with them. And I know there gonna be up for us, but that gives us something to build on. It’s kinda like the Minnesota game (an Illini win on Senior Day) — build on it. Our second Northwestern game — build on it.”
Tip time on the Big Ten Network is 25 minutes after the conclusion of Game 1 between Nebraska and Minnesota, which starts at 11:00am Central Time. Officials estimate the Illinois-Northwestern game will start at approximately 12:30pm CT.
Rob McColley covers University of Illinois sports for WILL.