Illinois loses to No. 9 Wisconsin

By Derek Barichello

The women’s basketball team dropped its seventh consecutive game, but it was not just another loss in the standings, as much as it was the lack of effort that concerned head coach Theresa Grentz.

In the previous six losses, five of them were close games to ranked opponents, but in Thursday’s 66-61 loss to ninth-place Wisconsin, the Illini played like a different team.

“When you step on the floor you are someone else, you’re a warrior. You’re not going to be defeated,” Grentz said. “Tonight I didn’t see that in our players. I saw that in the Wisconsin players and that bothers me more than anything else.”

Grentz was worried from the outset when her team did not take the shootaround seriously.

“I told them, I did not like the way they looked,” Grentz said. “I don’t know if they felt they played well against these other teams and they could let down, but they can’t.”

The Illini’s poor shootaround performance showed. After a Janelle Hughes jump shot made it an 8-4 game early in the first half, the Illini went scoreless for eight minutes, missing 12 straight shots on pace to a 2-19 start from the field.

Despite the draught, the Illini managed to go into halftime down only 29-20.

“It was clear when we got down early in the game, we looked like a team that lost six in a row, and just said we’re just going to pull down,” freshman Lori Bjork said.

That is when Bjork took it upon herself to win the game. She scored a career-high 27 points on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc.

“I thought we had a chance to salvage the game,” Bjork said. “For a good period of the game, we haven’t met the expectations we’ve had for ourselves, and we still had a chance to salvage it.”

Despite Bjork’s efforts to bring the Illini back, they could not get within four points. It seemed like Wisconsin had an answer every time the Illini scored.

Grentz said for the team to take a step backward was not what she was expecting at this juncture in the season.

“We haven’t talked about losing X number of games,” Grentz said. “We’ve avoided that. We’ve taken it one game at a time. It’s too easy to say you’ve lost these, you can’t recover from it. You have to be able to deal with adversity. That’s what sports are supposed to do.”

The women will not have to wait too long to get back at it; they travel to Penn State on Sunday.

“They have to understand, they have to play as hard in this next game and the next four games as they did in those previous games,” Grentz said. “In that point, I haven’t done them justice, because I can’t get that point across to them.”