Illini women fall to visiting UAB



By Wesley Deberry

Despite bringing a 29-24 lead into halftime, the Illinois women’s basketball team couldn’t hang on to beat Alabama Birmingham on Wednesday night.

The Illini were strong throughout the first half, but with two seconds left, Alabama Birmingham guard Crystal McFadden scored in the paint despite being fouled by Illini forward Jenna Smith. After converting the free throw, the Illini lead was cut to five.

The tide had turned and the Illini went on to lose 69-56.

McFadden gave the Illini problems throughout the game, finishing with a season-high 25 points. Fellow Alabama Birmingham guard Britney Jones also hurt the Illini by stealing the ball six times. Alabama Birmingham head coach Audra Smith said the main focus of her team coming in to the game was defense.

“Defending and getting key stops at key points in the game was a major factor in us coming out of this game with a victory,” she said.

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Smith also said a big issue in the game was preventing the Illini’s Jenna Smith from going to her left in the post.

“She got a couple of buckets on us, but they were contested so I was satisfied with that,” Audra Smith said.

Jenna Smith finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and a steal. Junior guard Lori Bjork also chipped in for the Illini with nine points.

For the Illini as a whole, head coach Jolette Law said she noticed early on that the Illini were playing timidly on the defensive end, and allowed Alabama Birmingham to dictate what was happening. Against the zone, Alabama Birmingham had success in transition, and did have some easy layups in the game, but Law said much of the Blazers’ success was due to Illinois’ lack of communication and rotation on defense.

“We did not come out to play tonight,” Law said. “I have got to give credit to UAB, they came out and they wanted it more.”

For Law and the Illini, leadership is an area in which they lack candidates.

“I’m still searching for leaders on my team,” Law said. “There were only a few that came to play tonight.”

The Illini will return to action on Sunday as they take on Southern Illinois at Assembly Hall at 2 p.m.