Simpson, Blinn help Illini to finish strong

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Anthony Zilis

Jenna Smith was beaten up in the post, the Illini relinquished 19 turnovers and the Illini got off to yet another slow start against Missouri.

But the Illinois women’s basketball team was able to ride strong games by Lacey Simpson and Macie Blinn to squeak out a 65-55 win.

“We found a way to win tonight, it wasn’t pretty, but we found a way to win,” head coach Jolette Law said.

Simpson, who filled up the stat sheet with high 18 points, 6 steals and 5 rebounds, has been the Illini’s steadying force in the past few games of the season when the team has struggled to feed Jenna Smith the ball in the post.


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Women pull off a win

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“Whenever Jenna’s getting doubled, having trouble getting shots, I just know its important that I step it up, make some shots, just get her going in her offensive game,” Simpson said.

So far she has fulfilled the hype that Law has given her from the start of the season, touting the junior as an All-Big Ten talent.

Blinn scored in double digits for the first time this season and displayed her highly touted shooting touch, shooting 2 of 3 from beyond the arc and 6-9 overall, scoring 14 points.

But Blinn, a true freshman, still has a lot to learn, struggling on defense and looking bewildered on multiple plays on offense down the stretch.

“She can be one of the finer players in this league, we’re just working on her consistency, she played the way Macie Blinn is capable of playing,” Law said.

The Illini move to 3-0 on the season, but the last two games have presented struggles that the team will be forced to work through.

Missouri, picked to finish last in the Big 12, put up a fight from the start, coming out of the blocks with an 18-7 lead.

But the Illini were just too much for the Tigers down the stretch.

Smith scored 16 points but, once again, they were all hard earned, as the Illini ran virtually every play around her and struggled to get her the ball. She shot 5-13 from the field and 6-7 from the foul line, and had two fouls of her own in the first half.

“Our gameplan was to make it as tough as possible and sag in on her,” Missouri head coach Cindy Stein said.

The Tigers sent in 6-foot-5 Kendra Frazier to defend Smith. Frazier fouled out in 12 minutes.

But for the Illini, the question remains if their lackluster approach at the beginning of games will work when the Illini takes a step up in opponents.

“Tonight some of us were a little timid,” Law said. “It’s going to come with a lot of rhythm and a lot of reps. But I’m confident in my team, we’ll get it together.”