Jan. 15, 2014
EVANSTON, Ill. -- It was a close contest for the full 40 minutes Wednesday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena but after eight ties and 17 lead changes, including 10 in the second half, Illinois took the close 76-74 victory over Northwestern.
Three starters finished in double figures for the Wildcats with Nia Coffey leading the way with 20 points on 7-for-10 from the field. Maggie Lyon contributed 17 points, including four 3-pointers, while Christen Inman chipped in 10 points. Ashley Deary filled the stat sheet with nine assists, seven points and six rebounds.
Neither team missed many shots to start the game as Illinois went 8-of-11 (72.7 percent) from the field while NU was 7-for-10 (70.0 percent) before the first media timeout. Both teams also were spot-on from long-distance to start as Maggie Lyon had two 3-pointers for the Wildcats but Illinois drained 4-of-5 3-pointers to take the early 20-16 lead.
The Wildcats then took the 23-22 lead with 10:55 left in the frame. Meghan McKeown drained another 3-pointer, to put NU within one and then Coffey registered a block, which led to a fast break bucket on the other end, giving NU the lead. Northwestern's lead was short-lived as the Illini scored five-straight to go ahead 27-23.
The Illini's 3-point shooting kept them ahead as they were 6-of-7 from long-distance with just under eight minutes to play in the half. NU climbed back in and took the lead thanks to two free throws by Lyon, which tied the score at 30-30 and then Coffey completed a three-point play, giving NU the slight cushion.
Illinois then went on an 11-0 run to take its largest lead of the half at 41-33 with 2:38 to play. NU cut the deficit to four as Illinois took the 43-39 lead into halftime.
The Wildcats had the staggering advantage on shooting percentage in the first frame at 60.9 percent (14-of-23) while Illinois finished the frame at 39.4 percent (13-of-33), but seven of those field goals were from 3-point range. Coffey led NU with 11 points on 5-of-6 from the field in the first while Lyon added eight. Deary had a productive first half with six assists, five rebounds and four points. NU also was active on defense with eight blocks in the first, including three by Lauren Douglas.
Both teams traded 3-pointers early in the second frame, putting NU within three points at 45-42 and again at 48-45. The Illini continued to maintain its lead until Lyon drained her fourth 3-pointer of the game, putting NU up 55-54. Illinois came back once again with another 3-pointer and then things were all tied up at 57-57 after two Coffey free throws.
The Wildcats utilized another pair of free throws by Lyon and bucket by Inman to take the 61-57 lead with 8:20 remaining. Over the next few minutes there were seven lead changes until Illinois took the 74-69 lead with 2:39 to play. Northwestern kept fighting and came within two after Coffey drained two free throws with 36 seconds left but the Wildcats were unable to score again to force overtime as Illinois took the narrow 76-74 win.
Illinois finished 11-of-20 from 3-point range for 55.0 percent but just 40.7 percent (24-for-59) from the field for the game. NU had one of its best shooting percentages of the year at 51.2 percent and was 8-of-17 from 3-point range.
Northwestern concludes its busy stretch of three games in seven days on Saturday when Wisconsin visits Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip is scheduled for 2 p.m.
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