Women fight for win, scrape by against OSU



By Wesley Deberry

The first rule of boxing: never stop fighting until the fight is done. In the course of a fight, punches are thrown, words are exchanged and an occasional thrown elbow to the torso is not uncommon. At the end of it all, there is only one winner.

For the first time this season the Illini stood victorious over a ranked team, as they beat the Ohio State Buckeyes 68-64.

If shots were compared to punches, Illini guard Lori Bjork threw the knockout blows. With 12 seconds left, the junior hit two free throws that put the game out of reach for the Buckeyes. She finished the game with 16 points.

Four of the Illini starting five ended the game in double figures. Illini center Jennna Smith led with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Chelsea Gordan had 10 points, and Rebecca Harris chipped in 14.

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“I was so proud of my young ladies,” Illinois head coach Jolette Law said. “We did all the little things, and we finished the game.”

Ohio State (16-5, 7-3 Big Ten) did manage a slightly higher shooting percentage than the Illini (12-9, 4-6) as they shot 44 percent for the game while the Illini shot 42 percent. Buckeye center Jantel Lavender led her team in both points and rebounds with 19 points and eight boards. Guard Marscilla Packer was not far behind with 17 points and five rebounds.

But the Buckeyes turned the ball over eight times in the game resulting in 19 Illini points.

“I just think at the beginning of the game we were not competing,” Ohio State head coach Jim Foster said.

“They played with much more spirit and intensity than we did.”

Smith scored the Illini’s first five points of the game and finished the first half with eight. Her uncharacteristic, yet inspiring three-pointer in the opening minutes started an Illini trend.

Law said she has been telling Smith all season to shoot the three-pointer if open.

“You are in practice nailing them,” Law said she told Smith. “Why wouldn’t you shoot them in the game?”

No hesitation, just poise seemed to flow through the veins of the Illini as they shot 16 three-point shots in the first half. They finished the half 6-16 from three-point range. Lori Bjork made two of her first three pointers in the first half.

The Illini jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the opening minutes of the game. With 9:12 left, the Illini stretched their lead to 14 after a Bjork layup. In the final nine minutes of the first half the Illini momentum seemed to stop as the Buckeyes went on a 21-8 run, with the surge being lead by Packer. At halftime, the Illini found themselves in a close 35-34 game.

In the locker Law told the Illini to “hold the rope,” adding that they should trust each other and do all the little things.

Illinois did just that.

A Bjork three-pointer with just under six minutes remaining put Illinois up 57-54, a lead they would not give up. The Buckeyes pulled within two, but Bjork’s aforementioned free throws sealed the game.

The Illini will return to the court at 6 p.m. on Monday in Ann Arbor, Mich., to face the Michigan Wolverines.