Women get big win on road

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Derek Barichello

Thirty consecutive teams went into the Thomas Assembly Center, home of No. 20 Louisiana Tech, and all left as losers. On Saturday, the Illini women’s basketball team did not become 31.

The Illini ended the nation’s second -longest home-winning streak with a 71-65 win in overtime over the Lady Techsters, moving the team’s record to 4-1 on the season.

The win came after the Illini’s worst performance of the season – a 29-point loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay on Wednesday.

“It says an awful lot about our fortitude and perseverance,” said head coach Theresa Grentz. “We were embarrassed with our performance on Wednesday. To go into a hostile environment like Louisiana Tech and win is huge. I give a lot of credit to our coaching staff for a wonderful scouting job and our players for believing in it and making it work.”

Senior forward Angelina Williams was the hero of Saturday’s game. With 7.5 seconds remaining in regulation, after Louisiana Tech guard Tasha Crain hit a jump shot to give the Lady Techsters a three-point lead, Williams dribbled the length of the court and nailed the game-tying three.

“I feel that by hitting that shot I gave myself a lot of confidence,” Williams said. “It let the team know that I’m there for them when it becomes crunch time.”

In the overtime period, the Illini shot 5-6 from the field and 3-5 from the free throw line to come away with the victory.

Williams led the team with 24 points, shooting 3-6 from beyond the arc. Freshman forward Danyel Crutcher continued her strong play in the paint; adding 12 points and five rebounds.

Senior guard Tiffanie Guthrie had a great all-around performance for the Illini with 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and three blocks.

In Saturday’s game the Illini fell behind 12-2 early in the first half, but unlike Wednesday night, the Illini responded and took a 29-26 lead into halftime.

“We didn’t panic,” Grentz said. “We settled in and played more transition basketball than they did. What helped us is that we were deeper in our bench.”

The Illini turned in a strong defensive performance, holding the Lady Techsters to 24 percent shooting for the game and blocking nine shots. The Illini attributed their success to mixing zone defense into the game plan.

“A lot of (Louisiana Tech’s) players can really drive to the basket,” Grentz said. “We worked hard on defense to make sure we guarded them as shooters.”

Although the Illini came away with the upset, they did not shoot well from the free-throw line. They shot just 8-16 from the stripe.

“We need to be able to hit those,” Grentz said. “Funny enough, the same person that missed her free throws came back and hit a three.”

The Illini feel the win gives them momentum heading into the final stretch before conference play.

“It gives us a lot of confidence,” Williams said. “We went out and proved we can play with the best.”

The Illini return to action on Tuesday when they host Bradley at Assembly Hall.