Women fall to Ohio St.

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Online Poster

By Derek Barichello

Indiana head coach Kathi Bennett said the key to beating No. 3 Ohio State would be to shut down six-foot-five center Jessica Davenport. In Sunday’s game, Davenport was just too much for the Illini, scoring 32 points and leading Ohio State to a 69-55 win.

Illinois’ tallest player was six-foot-two, and the Buckeyes took advantage of the mismatch in height, getting Davenport involved early in the game. Davenport scored nine of the Buckeyes’ first 14 points and finished the first half with 21, leading her team to a 14-7 lead six minutes into the game.

“She’s tough because she’s six-foot-five,” said sophomore forward Erin Wigley. “Not only that, but she has good touch.”

Although Ohio State was able to establish Davenport’s game early, the Illini fought back with a 6-0 run and climbed within a point of the lead, which was the closest they got all day.

The Illini kept Ohio State close throughout the first half, before the Buckeyes went on a 6-0 run to close out the half and extend their lead to 11, going into halftime up 35-24.

The Buckeyes kept the momentum going, outscoring the Illini 17-7 in the first seven minutes of the second half and building a 21-point lead.

Although Illinois limited Davenport to 11 points and pressured her into three turnovers in the second half, Ohio State capitalized on the Illini’s double team on Davenport, getting other players involved. Forward Brandie Hoskins and guard Caity Matter combined for 15 points in the second half.

“Either they lifted their defensive intensity or we didn’t bring it offensively,” head coach Theresa Grentz said. “I thought we rushed a couple of shots. I heard a couple of our kids say we needed to slow it down and run certain things, and I was happy that they understood what needed to be done there.”

The Buckeyes led by as many as 23 with 5:48 remaining in the game, when the Illini closed the game with a 13-4 run. At one point in the run, the Illini stole the ball on four consecutive Buckeye possessions, turning it into six straight fast break points.

Grentz was pleased with how her team finished the game.

“It is a long season,” she said. “It’s easy to just clock it in, but this team hasn’t done that. We are still learning. We were still keeping the pressure on them and we were learning how it was done. That will help our confidence.”

The Illini were not able to get senior forward Angelina Williams involved. Williams averages 19.3 points a game, tops in the Big Ten, but scored only 13 points, 10 of them coming in the last seven minutes of the game.

“That’s not uncommon,” Grentz said. “Ohio State has enough athletes to play defense on her. At the same time, I thought (senior guard) Tiffanie (Guthrie) and Erin fought hard.”

One positive point the Illini can take away from Sunday’s game was the contribution of a third scorer, Wigley. She scored 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds in the process.

“Erin played very, very well,” Grentz said. “I’m pleased for her. She fought hard on the offensive boards and got to the free throw line five times.”

Guthrie led the Illini in scoring with 18 points. It marks the 17th consecutive game Guthrie has scored in double digits.

With the loss, the Illini move to 4-5 in the conference and have yet to record a victory against one of the top six Big Ten teams, raising the question if the Illini need another good win to clinch a berth into the NCAA Tournament.

“We’d like one more Top 25 win,” Guthrie said. “That would put a good name out there for us. We have (No. 11) Michigan State and (No. 24) Purdue left, and we’d like to take one of those.”

The Illini hit the road next week to take on Purdue Thursday night in West Lafayette, Ind., and then travel to Madison, Wis., to take on Wisconsin Sunday.