Illinois managed just 5 points in the first quarter, but committed six turnovers in that same 10-minute stretch. Sophomore Kennedi Myles said her team anticipated difficulties with the Wildcats’ full-court pressure.
“One thing we worked on all week was ball faking, because they’re (the Wildcats players) long and athletic,” said Myles, “When it comes to their press, that’s where they got most of their steals — in the full court — causing them to get easy run-outs in transition, as well as overpassing in the half-court, passes that were right next to each other where the person should have just shot it and let the other person rebound.”
Illinois converted just five of its 23 field-goal attempts in the first half. And while they improved that performance to 42% for the game, they never got their ball-handling under control.
By game’s end, the Illini had 22 turnovers.
Myles led the Illini with 16 points, but also committed five of those turnovers before fouling out. Head coach Nancy Fahey said she was happy to take the bad with the good from Myles.
“What I look for is hustle,” said Fahey. “And sometimes, when you’re hustling as hard as she is — no, you don’t want to have turnovers, but it’s done with such effort. That’s what I’m looking for. That’s what I want to coach is that much effort. She continues to be one of the hardest working players I’ve ever coached.”
Jeanae Terry chipped in 11 points for Illinois, and equaled Myles with a team-high 8 rebounds. Freshman guard Aaliyah McQueen returned from injury for her first action since December 10th. She and J-Naya Ephraim led the Illini with four assists each.
Lindsey Pulliam led Northwestern with 28 points. Veronica Burton added 15 and Sydney Wood 10. Courtney Shaw grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for the Wildcats.
The Illini drop to 2-7 overall, 0-6 in the Big Ten Conference. The Wildcats are now 8-2 for the season, 6-2 in the Big Ten.