Illini brought back to earth

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

The Illini had their four-game winning streak snapped as they lost to No. 12 Michigan State 72-61 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing on Thursday night.

The game did not start off well for the Illini as Spartans guard Lindsey Bowen scored the first eight points of the game and jumped out to an 8-0 lead.

“We started the game well on the defensive end as we did not allow them any easy baskets, but we didn’t have someone on the offensive end to knock down shots,” said Illini head coach Theresa Grentz.

The Illini had three turnovers in its first six possessions and finished the game with 20 turnovers.

Another problem that plagued the Illini on the night were the 14 offensive rebounds the Spartans grabbed.

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It took the Illini almost seven minutes to score its first points when freshman guard Lori Bjork grabbed one of the 10 offensive rebounds for the Illini and put the ball in.

After the Spartans jumped out to a 10-2 lead, the Illini closed the lead to within five points as they made an effort to go inside against the Spartans defense.

Aiding in the run was freshman guard Danielle Gratton who came off the bench to score five quick points.

“Tonight we just played in spurts,” Grentz said.

At halftime, the Illini were down 27-17 as the backcourt duo of freshman Lori Bjork and senior Janelle Hughes were a combined 1-of-13 in the first half, with the Illini shooting 24 percent in the first half as a team.

“I don’t mean to talk about just one player, but Janelle really struggled tonight,” Grentz said.

At the beginning of the second half, the Spartans scored the first six points to extend its lead to 33-17 with just over a minute gone in the second half.

Michigan State would eventually extend its lead to 25 points midway throughout the second half, but to its credit the Illini did not go down with a fight.

Grentz decided to put pressure on the Spartans, and with the help of freshman guard Chelsea Gordon’s 12 points and two steals, the Illini crept back into the game and closed the deficit to seven points with two minutes to go, but they were unable to get any closer.

“Gordon played well tonight.” She was key for our comeback,” Grentz said.

The Spartans improved to 14-5 (4-2) and the Illini dropped to 12-5 (4-2).

Erin Wigley lead the way for the Illini with 15 points and nine rebounds, while the Spartans had four players in double figures led by Bowen’s 16 points.