Women steal one in Peoria

By Derek Barichello

The women’s basketball team put together its finest game of the season and knocked off Bradley (3-4) 80-64 on Monday in Peoria, Ill.

Head coach Theresa Grentz said the mentality from the tip off was to attack, and the Illini (5-2) did that on both sides of the ball.

On the offensive end, the Illini outscored the Braves by 20 in the paint and balanced it with a 7-14 shooting performance from beyond the arc, busting Bradley’s zone defense.

The offense fed off its defense, which stayed aggressive all night long, recording 13 steals.

Senior guard Maggie Acuna led the way with six steals and senior guard Janelle Hughes swiped four more.

“I thought the senior back court was terrific,” Grentz said.

Hughes led the way for the Illini, scoring a career-high 22 points and adding five assists.

“I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunities my teammates are giving me out there,” Hughes said.

Grentz was happy with Hughes’ performance, knowing she is important to an offense that has been depending on freshman Lori Bjork early in the year for scoring.

“When Janelle shoots, I expect it to go in,” Grentz said. “She took 16 shots tonight, but they were all good ones. They weren’t rushed or forced at all.”

Junior forward Audrey Tabon recorded her first double-double of her career, scoring 15 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. The Illini outrebounded the Braves. 37-35.

It was not as easy for the Illini as the score might indicate. Bradley stayed close to the Illini early in the first half, but freshman forward Danielle Gratton hit a three-point shot which started an Illini rally.

“Danielle Gratton hit a couple big shots – she gives us a nice look out there,” Grentz said.

Illinois pulled away to a 13-point lead, but two three-pointers by Bradley guard Amy Peters right before halftime cut the lead to seven going into the break, 36-29.

The momentum quickly swung back to the Illini, as they scored the first four points of the half and regained their double-digit lead.

The two teams would go back and forth the rest of the way as the Illini were backed by a hot second half of shooting from the field.

Acuna set the pace for the Illini. The guard added six points and seven assists to her good defense.

Despite putting together its best game of the year, Illinois struggled from the free-throw line.

The Illini made just 9-15 from the charity stripe, compared to Bradley’s 10-13.

Not only was in-state pride on the line for both teams, but family pride as well.

Illini sophomore forward Stephanie Chelleen matched up against her older sister Ashley of Bradley.

Ashley played 12 minutes and scored seven points, while Stephanie did not get into the game.

The win comes nearly a year after the Illini were upset by a hot-shooting Bradley team at Assembly Hall, 70-67.

“We talked about last year as a team. It was definitely a factor,” Hughes said. “I wanted to get out there and help the team win after missing last year’s game.”

The Illini could not have asked for a better time to put it all together. They will travel to Florida on Friday to play a Gators team that received votes in the AP poll.

“I really think we’re moving in the right direction,” Grentz said. “It’s easy when everyone is making contributions, and we’re all on the same page and having fun. Still, we have a lot we need to work on and two tough games coming up.”