Women’s basketball squeezes out victory

By Steve Contorno

The Illinois women’s basketball team came away with a win on Tuesday against Illinois-Chicago, despite letting the Flames come within two points after the Illini led 31-21 at the half. UIC came within three points with less than a minute to go, but Illinois was able to squeeze out a 53-48 victory against the in-state rival at the UIC Pavilion. Junior forward Danyel Crutcher’s rebound and lay-up with seven seconds left sealed the victory for the Illini.

“I thought the shot clock went off, but I got the rebound and put it up anyway because you never know,” Crutcher said.

Sophomore guard Lori Bjork missed a shot with the shot clock expiring, but Crutcher was there for the rebound and the second-chance basket.

“Lori made a smart play to throw the ball up with the clock winding down and giving Crutch a chance to make a play,” head coach Theresa Grentz said. “And Crutch did a good job of not giving up on the play.”

Bjork made only three of 14 attempts, and has been held under 10 points in both games so far for the Illini after scoring 45 points in the first two exhibition games. Redshirt freshman forward Lacey Simpson carried her stellar preseason play to the regular season, tallying a game high 12 rebounds while scoring 12 points, for the first double-double of her career.

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“Lacey is a player,” Grentz said. “She still has a lot to learn, but can flat out make plays and she made a couple tonight when we needed them.”

Crutcher led the Illini in scoring with 14 points and contributed five rebounds.

The Illini led by as much as 12 in the game after going on a 16-4 run in the first half with 3-pointers from Bjork and Simpson.

The lead diminished after the half as the Illini committed 12 turnovers and scored just seven points in the first 12 minutes, which allowed UIC to come within two.

But the Flames were unable to overcome the deficit, scoring just seven points off Illinois’ 19 turnovers in the game.

Grentz said she was happy to come away with a victory on the road.

“When you come into Chicago in their gym you know you’re going to get their best shot,” Grentz said. “I think we got a little tight in the second half, but we were able to find a way to win.”

The Illini will face Loyola at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Assembly Hall.