Win against Ohio State motivates hungry Illini

By Stuart Lieberman

The Illini women’s basketball team looks to carry the momentum from its 68-64 upset of No. 19 Ohio State when it faces Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Monday. After dropping six of its last seven games, the team finally picked up a much-needed victory, one it hopes will set the tone for the rest of the season.

“It’s amazing on how one win can change your outlook,” junior guard Lori Bjork said. “We want to feel this feeling the rest of our year so that is our motivation now. It’s nice to finally see the karma come back to you a little bit.”

Head coach Jolette Law said her goal for the rest of the season is to build off of the victory and to continue to play a full game.

“It feels like we just won our first ever national championship,” Law said after the upset. “This is just the beginning. This day will come again where we will face the same situation, and we will know how to get out of it.”

The Illini have a tough task ahead of them, facing a Wolverine team that is 8-0 at home this season. The Wolverines are led by sophomore center Krista Phillips and junior forward Carly Benson. Phillips is averaging 10.9 points and 6.0 rebounds a game, while Benson is scoring 10.1 points per game and grabbing 4.5 boards per game.

Meanwhile, Law would not comment on senior forward Danyel Crutcher’s status. Crutcher did not travel with the team to Purdue on Jan. 27 and did not even appear on the bench in Thursday’s game against the Buckeyes.

“She’s still a member of the Illini program,” Law said. “We’re family. Each and every day we are teaching life lessons here. We are prepared for the rain.”

Sophomore center Jenna Smith will lead the way for the Illini in the final stretch of the season. Smith said the team has been learning to stick together as a team in order to win down the stretch.

“We know that we have that belief that we can do it,” Smith said. “We just need to stick together and keep believing that we can win the rest of the Big Ten games.”

The Illini and Wolverines will tip off at 6 p.m.