Women’s Basketball secures Big Ten victory

By Dave Fultz

Illinois women’s basketball improved to 13-4 overall and moved one game over .500 in the Big Ten after they notched a big road victory over Wisconsin on Sunday.

The 70-62 victory over the Badgers in Madison came in front of over 8,000 Wisconsin fans at the Kohl Center.

“This was a hard fought game and I’m very pleased with how we kept our composure and kept the crowd out of it,” head coach Theresa Grentz said.

Four Illini scored in double figures and Illinois’ lone senior, forward Erin Wigley, led the surge with 15 points.

Sophomore guards Lori Bjork and Chelsea Gordon scored 13 and 12, respectively.

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    Freshman center Jenna Smith added 12 points of her own and fronted the Illini defensive attack with five blocked shots.

    “Our defense was the key to the whole thing,” Grentz said. “We were able to get some steals and block some shots early to build a big lead.”

    “We knew they’d fight back, but we maintained our composure and had built up a big enough lead to take it,” Grentz said.

    The Illini defense tied a school record with 11 blocked shots and pressured the Badgers into 17 turnovers.

    The Illini have suffered from some health problems this season and only played seven players in the win.

    Bjork and redshirt freshman and defensive stopper Lacey Simpson helped to carry the load by playing all but a few minutes of the game.

    Low-post players Wigley and Smith were perfect from the free-throw line as the Illini shot 86 percent on 25-of-29 shooting from the charity stripe.

    “We shot well from the free-throw line,” Grentz said. “And in a game like this, that’s almost like having (an extra) player out there.”

    The win in Madison continued the team’s trend of winning after a loss.

    In each game following a loss this season, the Illini have adjusted and won the following game.

    The victory also moved Illinois into a fourth-place tie with Minnesota in the Big Ten.

    The Orange and Blue will look to move ahead of Minnesota when the Golden Gophers travel to Champaign for their second meeting with the Illini in less than a month.

    The Gophers won the previous contest by nine points and snapped Illinois’ five-game winning streak.

    “This is one of those games that could have gone either way,” said Grentz after the Dec. 31 loss to Minnesota.

    “We had a lot of chances for easy baskets in the second half and didn’t convert and that put a lot of pressure on our defense,” Grentz said.

    Smith, the reigning Ms. Basketball in the state of Minnesota, was limited to only six points and six rebounds in 22 minutes in her return to her home state.

    “Jenna’s been terrific for us all season,” Grentz said.

    “I think there was a little pressure on her coming back and it was a closely called game so the foul trouble didn’t help,” Grentz said.