After 2 wins, Illinois faces Missouri in Big 12 game

Chelsea Gordon gets a break away at the home game against Eastern Illinois on Sunday. Erica Magda

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Chelsea Gordon gets a break away at the home game against Eastern Illinois on Sunday. Erica Magda

By Bret Greenberg

After wins against Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne and Eastern Illinois, the Illini will face their biggest test of the young season on Wednesday when they play host to Big 12 foe Missouri at Assembly Hall.

Head coach Jolette Law said her team will not get away with the same mistakes it made in the first two contests.

“We can’t come out against a team like Mizzou and wait until the second half to get it done,” Law said. “We addressed rebounding, being aggressive to the ball and denying. We’re working on our perimeter, being ready for when there’s a double or triple team on Jenna (Smith). I’m expecting them to come in and knock down some shots.”

Law wants the team to cut down its turnovers to 10 on Wednesday after giving up 13 to the Cougars on Sunday.

Part of the turnover problem was trying unsuccessfully to feed Smith down low.

“Sometimes I get very frustrated because I’m getting shoved and elbowed,” Smith said. “But I know my teammates can knock down shots. It’s all about everyone working together. They can all score just as well as I can.”

Smith said that the team needs to come out fired up right from the start and play at a high level for 40 minutes.

“It’s nothing that we can’t do,” Smith said. “We just need to be more excited, talk to each other more and motivate each other to bring the energy alive in the first half. We don’t lose at home. Beating us on our home floor is basically disrespectful.”

Senior forward Chelsea Gordon has been around Illinois basketball for a while and said this season’s start is similar to years past.

“Whenever the season starts, we are never where we should be, so I don’t think this year is any different,” Gordon said. “I think that with all the new players, maybe we are a little farther behind. But I think they are all just little things that we can correct, and we are going to be absolutely fine.”

Gordon was critical of her own game so far this season as well after taking a backseat to the performances of juniors Smith and Lacey Simpson in the first two games.

“I just need to slow down and shoot more relaxed, like I know I can,” Gordon said.

The team as a whole, however, has some early season growing pains to work out.

“We’re a little confused on some plays,” Smith said. “We feel like we’re doing some repetitive passes instead of reading the screens. But we are going to put in some more plays and learn some different cuts. Once we know the plays, we have to start reading them out there on the court to get easy baskets.”

As one of the few veterans on a young Illini team, Gordon emphasized the grudge between Illinois and Mizzou on the court.

“They’re Mizzou, and I know the history between Illinois and Missouri athletics,” Gordon said. “So knowing that, it doesn’t matter what they got or what they’re going to throw at us. We just know it’s a game we must win for our school.”