Illini hold on for key Big Ten home win

 

 

By Dave Fultz

The Illinois women’s basketball team evened the season series with Minnesota Thursday night as they held on for a 64-54 victory at home. Illinois (14-4, 4-2) led by as many as 18 points in the first half, but allowed Minnesota (11-8, 3-3) to creep back to within four points with less than four minutes to play.

Thursday’s game almost mirrored the Illini’s Dec. 31 loss to the Gophers in which Illinois led by 10 points midway through the second half and ended up losing by a score of 70-61.

“Last time they came out and outplayed us,” said head coach Theresa Grentz after the game. “(Minnesota head coach Pam) Borton scouted us really well last time, and she did again this time.”

With these two teams meeting for the second time in less than a month, the New Year’s Eve loss was fresh in the minds of the Illini players as they prepared for this game.

“Like coach said, last game they outplayed us,” freshman center Jenna Smith said. “We didn’t want that to happen again.”

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    In the team’s last meeting Smith was limited to just six points and six rebounds and this time around she scored a team-high 18 points and six rebounds. The Illini also improved defensively as Minnesota senior guard Kelly Roysland was held to just 10 points after she had torched the Illinois backcourt for 27 points in the Dec. 31 game.

    “We just executed our game plan that we were supposed to use in the last game against her tonight,” sophomore point guard Lori Bjork said.

    “We got the win,” Grentz said, “that’s all that matters.”

    The Illini will try to bring the momentum from Thursday’s big home win on the road with them as they travel to Columbus to face Ohio State (16-1, 5-0). The Buckeyes, who are ranked No.5 in the nation, trampled Wisconsin by a score of 74-51 on the road in Madison on Thursday night. Ohio State is second in the Big Ten only to Purdue, who also won on Thursday to improve their record in Big Ten play to 6-0.