EVANSTON — Life on the road in the Big Ten is a struggle.
But Matt Bollant’s Illini seem to be enjoying themselves after forcing 34 turnovers en route to a 65-47 victory against Northwestern on Thursday night, giving Illinois back-to-back Big Ten road wins for the first time since 2003-04.
“It’s a big win for us, and every one we’re going to celebrate,” said Bollant, whose team improved to 9-6 overall and 2-1 in league play.
Illinois won Sunday at Ohio State.
“To go on the road and only shoot 33 percent for the game and win by 18 says a lot for our defense, so I’m really proud of our team,” Bollant said.
Karisma Penn and Alexis Smith (seven assists) had six steals apiece and Adrienne GodBold had five as the Illini posted 24 steals, a school record in a Big Ten game.
“We did a better job in the buzz, for sure,” Bollant said of his team’s defense. “We made life pretty tough for their point guard. She had eight assists and zero turnovers last week against Indiana, and she had 15 turnovers tonight, so that says a lot for our defense.”
GodBold had 20 points and eight rebounds, and Amber Moore hit four threes en route to 16 points. Penn added 13 points and eight boards as Northwestern tried to get physical against the two-time defending league Player of the Week.
“I thought Karisma showed some poise,” Bollant said. “(Northwestern center Dannielle Diamant) was battling and fighting, and it would’ve been pretty easy to get in a fight with her, but she kept her poise and made some free throws when we had to have them.”