Hughes leads winds of change

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

The Illini had little problems with Western Illinois as they cruised to a 58-37 win against the Westerwinds Wednesday night at Assembly Hall in the WNIT tournament.

“We just didn’t play anything of what we were capable of,” said Westerwinds head coach Leslie Crane.

Both teams came out a little rusty and it showed in the first minutes.

After a jumper by guard DeeDee Murphy, the Westerwinds would go scoreless for the next three minutes, but the Illini only had a 7-4 lead with 12 minutes left in the first half.

The turning point of the game came with 11 minutes in the half with the Illini up 8-7.

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The Illini outscored Western Illinois 12-3 in a six minute span to take a 20-10 lead.

The Westerwinds were held without a field goal in that span until a jumper in the paint by its center, Zane Teilane broke that barren spell.

The Illini went into halftime up 22-12, while holding Western Illinois to an all-time Assembly Hall low five field goals in the first half.

“I think we did some good things defensively,” said Illini head coach Theresa Grentz.

Western Illinois only made three field goals for the remaining 17 minutes of the first half and also turned the ball over 10 times in the process.

Teilane, the Mid-Continent Conference player of the year, went 1-of-9 in the half and had only two points.

“They did a good job of pushing her off the block,” Crane said.

The Illini were not much better offensively, only shooting 30 percent, but senior guard Janelle Hughes led the way for the Illini with seven points and four steals. Freshman forward Chelsea Gordon also added seven points off the bench for the Illini.

The second half would be a totally different story for the Illini offensively as they shook off the rust to shoot 51 percent in the second half.

Led by Danyel Crutcher’s ten second half points, the Illini did not give Western Illinois much of a chance to get back in the game. Crutcher finished the game with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Teilane was never able to get into a groove as she finished the game going 4-of-17 in the game and scoring ten points and grabbing nine rebounds.

“I thought Audrey (Tabon) did a good job on Teilane and [freshman center] Erin McCarthy gave us some quality minutes,” Grentz said.

Western Illinois were able to improve on the first half, scoring 25 points and hitting 10-of-25 shots, but they ended up shooting just 27 percent for the game.

The highlight of the game came with eight minute left, when off of a missed shot, Hughes and senior guard Maggie Acuna were on a 2-on-1 break, when Hughes made a behind-the-back pass to Acuna, who made a touch pass to junior center Audrey Tabon for the lay-up.

The Illini had the lead by as much as 25 points late in the game and will move on to play Marquette in Milwaukee Friday night.