Lori Bjork reflects on season, prepares for Big Ten tournament

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By Brian Atlas

Lori Bjork is a sophomore guard on the Illinois women’s basketball team. She has started all 28 games and averages 14.8 points per game. On Sunday, Bjork had her national-best streak of 27 games with at least two treys snapped. She has helped lead the Illini to a No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament, which is set to begin on Friday. The Daily Illini caught up with Bjork on her day off.

Daily Illini: How do you prepare for No. 5 Penn State and the Big Ten Tournament after ending the season on a loss?

Lori Bjork: First of all, we want to get our legs back under us. We haven’t had a bye week in a while, so (we’re) trying to get some rest and then come back, and we just got to work offensively, trying to get a little more flow to our offense. It was stagnant on Sunday.

DI: What did Coach Grentz tell you after the Purdue game on Sunday?

LB: We have to put (the loss) behind us. We didn’t play very well, particularly in the second half. And we know we can’t let that half end up being what this season is remembered for. We have more basketball to play, and I think that’s what we focused on.

DI: What do you feel like you need to do to give your team the best chance for postseason success?

LB: Obviously, as a point guard, it’s my job to try to put people in positions to be successful out there. And, also, make some shots for my team. So, those are what I’m focusing on, just trying to get my shot back. I haven’t shot it really well the last couple games, so hopefully I can get back on that.

DI: Though the streak ended on Sunday, how do you look back on the nation-leading 27 straight games with at least two three-pointers made?

LB: It was one of those things that just kind of happens. I mean, you’re obviously not out there gunnin’ for it, and you just kind of look up every night and you’re ending up with two three-pointers. It was a pretty neat streak of consistency. I haven’t had those games where I’ve been 0-for-10 or 0-for-7, so I guess it’s a tribute to just have consistent hard work, and it pays off.

DI: But you still have a 35-game streak with at least one three-pointer made, which is fourth nationally…

LB: It’s not like it all came crashing down on me on Sunday. My team needs me to keep that going because when I get looks, I’m going to try to hit them.

DI: What do you think about finishing fourth place in the conference, the team’s best finish in seven years?

LB: Obviously, it was kind of the top three teams, then everyone else, but we’ll gladly take the top of everyone else versus the bottom of everyone else. It was an accomplishment because you look at where people thought we were going to be at the beginning of the year, and, if nothing else, we gave ourselves a chance for the NCAA.

DI: Would you say that everyone on the team needs to execute better?

LB: Yeah, I think that’d be a good word for it. You just got to find ways to score, and I think our defense can play with anybody, and it’s just a matter of if we can put enough points on the board.

DI: Personally, you finished No. 1 in your high school class of 309. How do you believe your class load, being a student, and being a Division-I basketball player coincide?

LB: I take a lot of satisfaction from doing well in both. When I do well on a test, I get excited, and that carries over to the basketball court when I come to practice. Or, if I have a good game, I think it makes me more confident with what I’m doing academically, so they go together hand-in-hand.

DI: You stole my next question: Does one affect another?

LB: It’s about building momentum, you’re doing well in one thing, and you start doing well in the next.

DI: What everyone wants to know: Do you believe Illinois women’s basketball will make the NCAA tournament?

LB: I better believe. I definitely do. We know that we’re an NCAA-quality team, but we have to show that to the committee, and that’s what we’re setting out to do on Friday.