Illini fall to Michigan State

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

Michigan State’s defense and offensive execution proved to be too much for the Illini as they lost to the Spartans Wednesday night at Assembly Hall 62-42.

Both teams got off to very slow starts. Michigan State missed its first seven shots of the game, but the Ilini were not able to take full advantage of their good defense. The score was only 2-0 Illinois after four minutes of play in the first half.

The Spartans played a box-and-one through out the entire first half to keep the Illini from penetrating.

That defense would turn out to give the Illini big problems on offense. Another defensive wrinkle that Michigan State coach Joanne McCallie used on the Illini was to apply a full-court press to take time off the shot clock. That strategy would also pay dividends as the Illini consistently were taking shots with less than five seconds left on the shot clock.

The Spartans’ pressure defense also caused the Illini to be called for a five second violation.

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The Spartans used their size advantage to great effect. In the first half, they outrebounded the Illini 25-12 with 13 of those rebounds coming on the offensive end. Fortunately for the Illini, the Spartans were not able to convert on those second-chance opportunities. They would finish the first half with only two points off rebounds.

Even with their advantage on the boards, the Illini played strong defense throughout the first half and were able to go into halftime only down 25-20.

“We played a good first half defensively,” said Illini Head Coach Theresa Grentz. “That was one of the best defensive halves we have had all year.”

For all the good that came out of the first half, the second half would be a diasaster.

The Spartans would open the second half on a 13-3 run to extend their lead to 38-23 with six minutes gone in the second half.

The Spartans were not as careless with the ball in this half as they ended the fist half with nine turnovers. They would only turn the ball over four more times for the rest of the game.

One noticeable change was the Spartans’ emphasis on offensive execution.

“At halftime we talked about execution because in the first half we were flighty and we just didn’t execute anything,” said McCallie.

The Michigan State guards took the Illini guards off the dribble more often and that led to either layups for the guards themselves or for their frontcourt players.

Their defensive intensity combined with the Illini’s carelessness contributed to 13 Ilini second half turnovers and they would finish the game with 21 on the night. Michigan State turned that into 23 points.

Michigan State was led by Kelli Roehrig with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

The Illini ended up shooting 34 percent for the game.

“They are cohesive, and they work well together and we just don’t have that,” Grentz said.