Women’s basketball pours on the offense

 

 

By Wesley Deberry

The last time the Illinois women’s basketball team met Penn State it was tied for first place in the Big Ten Conference with a record of 2-0. A controversial last-second foul resulted in a one-point loss and an end to the Illini’s perfect record. In last night’s rematch the Illini tended to some unfinished business, beating the Lady Lions 69-49.

“We took it into our own hands tonight,” Illini guard Lori Bjork said. “We didn’t wait for someone to give it to us … we just went out and took it.”

The victory was by all means a true team effort, as each member of the Illini scored. Leading the way was Illini center Jenna Smith with 30 points. Bjork trailed Smith with 14 points.

From the field, the Illini shot 46 percent while holding Penn State to 36 percent and a dismal 7 percent from three-point range. The Orange and Blue also set a season record with just five turnovers in the game, while the Lady Lions turned the ball over 14 times. Penn State guard Kamela Gissendanner was the only player on her team in double figures.

“I always knew they had it in them,” head coach Jolette Law said. “Now seeing that they’re putting it on other teams, it gives me a heart-warming feeling.”

From the start, the Illini could not have asked for better. Bjork’s opening three-pointer was both business and personal. While she jump-started the Orange and Blue scoring machine, she also cemented her place in the Illini record books as the all-time three-point leader for shots made in a career.

“I guess it shows that shooters are made, not born,” Bjork said. “I spent a lot of time in the gym and it is certainly rewarding.”

The Illini did not stop there, as they opened the game with a 14-2 scoring run. Penn State attempted to stop the Illini momentum by calling an early timeout. However, the Band-Aid could not stop the open wound from bleeding; it was simply a temporary solution.

Smith was the catalyst in the first half, leading her team with 15 points.

The Illini defense suffocated Penn State, holding it to less than 10 points in the first 11 minutes of the game. At half, Illinois led 31-18 after holding the Lady Lions to four points in the last five minutes. In the second half it was more of the same as the Illini never surrendered the lead.

Late in the second half, many of the Illini starting five had smiles on their faces as they sat on the bench observing their fellow teammates on the court.

“It’s good right now,” Law said after the game. “We are finally coming together and we are on a high right now.”

Their next conference matchup will be at Assembly Hall on Sunday at 5 p.m. as Illinois welcomes the Michigan Wolverines.