Illini close season with win

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

The Illini seniors finished their careers on a positive note as they defeated Michigan 65-56.

After the Illini scored their opening basket, they came out in a full court press to throw Michigan off.

“Today we started with the press, which I don’t think they expected,” said Illini head coach Theresa Grentz.

Their up-tempo defense led to a partially blocked shot by senior forward Angelina Williams. Senior guard Tiffanie Guthrie took the ball the length of the floor for a layup.

The Wolverines also showed a different look defensively by coming out in a 2-3 zone.

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“We came out in the zone because they are an athletic and good penetrating team,” said Michigan head coach Cheryl Burnett.

The Illini attacked the zone with a combination of quick ball movement and penetration.

Whenever the Wolverines broke the Illini press, their half-court defense didn’t suffer. Early in the first half, Williams stole the ball, which led to a 2-on-1 fast break finishing with a layup by junior guard Janelle Hughes.

Hughes came off the bench to score six points as the Illini led 16-8.

“Janelle is an important part of this team,” Grentz said.

After this, Michigan came out in a zone trap which led to the Illini committing two turnovers on consecutive possessions.

The trap turned out to be a good equalizer because Michigan missed 15 of their first 19 shots, but managed to keep the game close at 20-16.

“Our zone trap was very successful as we tried to get back in the game,” Burnett said.

Their zone trap also caused the game to be played at a slower pace then the Illini wanted.

After a timeout, Illinois again came out in the press. The adjustment paid off immediately as sophomore foward Erin Wigley deflected a pass which led to a jumper by Hughes and also a foul.

The Wolverines only scored three points in the last seven minutes of the first half as the Illini went on a 14-3 run to go up 34-19 at halftime. Hughes led the Illini in scoring with 12 first-half points.

“We knew she was the other perimeter player and if she got hot, we would have to guard her closely,” Burnett said.

On defense the Illini came out in a 2-3 zone for the opening possession of the second half, but they would go back to a man-to-man defense on the next possession.

In the first three minutes, the Illini extended their lead to 40-21.

When Michigan came back with their half-court trap, the Illini broke it easily as they found Wigley for a jumper just below the free-throw line.

The Illini would commit a turnover as Hughes was trapped at half-court and had the ball stolen away, but Williams hustled back to block a layup attempt by freshman guard Jessica Starling.

The Wolverines did not go away easily as they trimmed the Illini lead to 10 points with 10 minutes remaining in the game.

Grentz put the full-court pressure back on the Wolverines, which caused a half-court violation by Michigan, ending the Wolverines’ rally.

“We can do whatever we want to do (in the Big Ten Tournament), but it’s up to us,” Grentz said.