Women’s basketball trounces Clarion in exhibition opener

By Dave Fultz

After a slow start, the Illini women’s basketball team caught fire offensively and defensively to rout the women of Clarion University by a score of 86-30 on Friday.

The Golden Eagles came out quickly, jumping to a 7-2 lead in the first minute of the game.

But that was as good as the game got for Clarion as the Illini swarmed on defense and moved the ball well on offense.

Defensively, the Illini held their opponent to just 12 points in the second half and forced 28 turnovers on the game.

Offensively, the Illini moved the ball well in the post, shot over 50 percent from the field, and scored over 40 points in each half. Head coach Theresa Grentz saw good things in her team’s performance.

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“I don’t know where we were at the start,” Grentz said. “But we started to really buckle down and do some things. I think when you have Lacey Simpson and Chelsea Gordon out there on those wings, with Lori (Bjork) directing, good things happen.”

The Illini were sparked offensively by a great performance from sophomore guard Lori Bjork. Bjork drained six three-pointers and ended up with a game-high 26 points.

“I’d like to expect that every day from Lori,” senior forward Erin Wigley said.

“Last year Lori played small forward and she just didn’t belong there,” Grentz said. “Tonight, I thought she looked very comfortable at the point. That is probably the best I’ve seen her look since she’s been here.”

The Illini were all over the court defensively and played the passing lanes very well as they forced 13 steals in the game.

After allowing seven points in the first minute of the game, the Orange & Blue limited the Golden Eagles to just 12 points in the entire second half.

“I think that our intensity helped a lot on defense,” Wigley said. “Staying focused and communicating are the main things on defense.”

In the end, Grentz said that though Friday’s contest was an exhibition game, the team is still moving in the right direction.

“I’m never happy,” said Grentz after the win. “I hate these games because I’ve been on the other end of this type of shellacking before. They’re no fun on that side, but this game is the next step towards where we need to go.”

Even with the Illini winning handily and playing well on both sides of the ball, Grentz saw room for improvement.

“There are a lot of things that we can break down and take from this game,” Grentz said. “But this team is going to make some noise before this is all over.”