Women's Basketball
Illini Earn First Big Ten Win Over 'Cats, 76-74

Ivory Crawford has not scored below 19 points in a Big Ten game this season
Ivory Crawford has not scored below 19 points in a Big Ten game this season

Jan. 15, 2014

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EVANSTON, Ill.  - Ivory Crawford scored 12 points over a four-minute span late in the second half and Sarah Hartwell buried four free throws in the final 2:39 as Illinois earned its first Big Ten win of the season with a 76-74 victory at Northwestern on Wednesday. Crawford finished with 19 points, including 16 in the second half, and Hartwell scored 10 of her 15 in the final stanza to lift the Illini to their first road win since beating Toledo in the third round of the 2013 Women's NIT. Illinois improved to 8-9 overall, 1-3 in the Big Ten, while Northwestern fell to 11-6, 1-3.

"Really big," Illinois head coach Matt Bollant said of the win. "That first one's always the hardest and it takes a lot of pressure off. I give a lot of credit to our kids, they've really fought hard. It hasn't been easy - we've played a tough schedule - but they've been resilient and they've kept fighting. They came in and really executed the game plan really well. We tried to get them to be more patient tonight after we shot it too quickly against Nebraska (on Sunday), and they executed that perfectly. And it really led to great shots.

Crawford's 19 points came on 6-of-10 shooting, 2-of-2 from beyond the arc, and 5-of-7 free throws in 30 minutes. Hartwell, who returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench the last two games, was 4-of-7 from the field, including 3-of-4 from distance, and was 4-of-4 from the line. She also had six rebounds. Jacqui Grant gave Illinois three scorers in double digits with 13 points, five rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes before fouling out. And the Illini bench was as productive as it has been in a close game since the season-opener, scoring 14 points among Taylor Tuck (7), Nia Oden (5) and Taylor Gleason (2).

The Illini shot 40.7 percent from the floor, including 11-of-20 (55 percent) from the three-point line, tying the school record for three-pointers made in a Big Ten game. Illinois also shot 77 percent from the free-throw line, making 17-of-22. Northwestern made 51.2 percent from the field and 8-of-17 (47.1 percent) from distance. The Cats also made 81.5 percent (22-of-27) of its free throws, but Illinois' 25-14 advantage in points off turnovers and 16-4 margin in second-chance points proved to be key. The game was a back-and-forth affair, featuring 17 lead changes and eight ties.

Illinois started with a bang, sinking eight of its first 11 shots of the game, including 4-of-5 from three-point range. But Northwestern nearly matched the Illini, going 7-of-10 and 2-of-3, and UI led 20-16 with 13:45 left in the first half. The Wildcats scored seven straight points later in the half to go up 33-30 but Illinois responded with an 11-0 spurt and a 41-30 advantage with 2:38 left in the half. Nia Oden had five points and Jacqui Grant chipped in four during that stretch. Northwestern closed the gap before the break, though, as Illinois held a 43-39 lead at halftime. Grant had 11 points at intermission and Amber Moore had eight.

The Illini pushed the lead to eight at 54-46 with 13:56 remaining when Crawford drained two free throws but the `Cats reeled off a 9-0 spurt to grab a 55-54 lead. Alexis Smith's three gave the Illini the lead once again but Northwestern scored the next six points to go ahead by four. The next three minutes saw the lead change hands seven times along with three ties, before Crawford's old-fashioned three-point play with 4:20 to go put Illinois up 69-67. She and Northwestern's Nia Coffey traded layups to make it 71-69 then Moore missed the front end of a one-and-one. But Wildcat sharpshooter Maggie Lyon missed a jumper and Smith found Hartwell in the corner for a trey that pushed the lead to 74-69.

NU's Lauren Douglas made two free throws after being fouled by Moore with 1:26 to go and Crawford turned it over. Lyon missed a trey and Douglas got an offensive board, then Moore fouled Coffey. But the freshman made only 1-of-2 from the line, leaving the Illini lead at 74-72. Coffey then bumped Hartwell and she drained both free throws for a four-point advantage. The next time down the court, Coffey was fouled again and made both of her free throws, pulling NU within 76-74. The Illini ended up being whistled for a shot-clock violation when Moore's 17-footer was short, giving the Wildcats the ball with 5.8 seconds left. After a Northwestern timeout, the `Cats inbounded the ball to point guard Ashley Deary who dribbled upcourt against pressure from Smith. Between midcourt and the Northwestern three-point line, she attempted a behind-the-back dribble to change direction but lost the handle and Smith took it from her as the final horn sounded, giving Illinois the 76-74 victory.

The Illini now head to Michigan for an 11 a.m. tip on Saturday with the Wolverines, who beat #22 Purdue, 65-49, in West Lafayette on Wednesday.