One day after Northwestern’s first-ever snow day since 1979, the interstate rivalry between the Illini and Wildcats set the background for a wild thriller that featured 11 ties and 15 lead changes. Senior Amy Jaeschke banked the go-ahead 17-foot jumper with 1.4 seconds remaining off a hasty Meshia Reed pass, despite being double-covered by two Illinois players, to edge Northwestern past Illinois for an 80-79 victory. The high-scoring affair was incredibly physical throughout, with both coaches venting frustrations against the referees for myriad non-calls and disputed infractions. Northwestern ends a four-game losing streak and sweeps the Illini after previously winning an overtime game earlier this season.
Hero of the Game | Amy Jaeschke
Not every Wildcat came into tonight’s contest with their best. Turnovers and lapses in focus gave the Illini any and all reason to pull this game away, but Jaeschke proved to be a solid foundation that carried the team during its weak stretches. It was clear that every last one of her 39 minutes played and 22 points were needed, and despite six turnovers, No. 22’s Hail Mary shot at the end capped a complete performance on the night.
On the final play, designed to give Jaeschke a shot in the paint, Illinois’ defenders quickly sealed off the entry pass and played aggressive man defense, forcing Jaeschke out of the formation to help. Baseline, Meshia Reed drove right, only to be effectively trapped by her defender and time dwindling. A flippant pass to Jaeschke switched the pressure onto the star center, and Jaeschke hastily fired a shot that banked in the dagger and sealed the win.
Stat of the Game | 21 Turnovers
Northwestern entered this contest averaging 16.8 turnovers per game, and the sloppy on-court execution was all-too obvious to see at times. Besides a number of travelling calls, there were a few times where players bobbled passes or simply misread passes and yielded possessions. To be fair, the physicality of the game forced adjustments and frustrated the coaching staff, but don’t expect the squad to cite anything as a crutch. Northwestern was fortunate that Illinois was as discombobulated as they were, and the Wildcats finally got it together in the endgame. If Northwestern cuts down on their turnovers, these games wouldn’t have to come down to the wire every time.
Turning Point | Final NU Possession
You would think that with a four-point lead and two minutes remaining, Northwestern could finally settle down and send the Illini back home disappointed. A four-point lead turned into a one-point deficit on two straight scoreless possessions. Until Jaeschke’s final shot, there wasn’t any confidence that Northwestern could eke out the win, based on the shoddy body of work up until that point.
What to Improve On | Turnovers
Simply put, the girls have to find a way to cut down on those turnovers. The bane of a coach’s existence, those giveaways incensed Coach Joe McKeown so much that, at times, staff and referees alike had to calm down the passionate figurehead. We’ll go ahead and assume that not being in the coach’s doghouse is incentive enough to improve in this category.