Dynamic duo, Illini women drop Big Ten opener to Purdue

By Anthony Zilis

In the 1986-87 season the Chicago Bulls, led by Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, finished 40-42 and were bounced in the first round of the playoffs.

Lacey Simpson and Jenna Smith probably know how Jordan and Pippen felt after the Illinois’ 53-42 loss to Purdue on Saturday at Assembly Hall.

According to post game stat sheet, Smith’s mantra of “my teammates have got my back,” isn’t really true.

The duo accounted for two-thirds of their team’s scoring in the Illini’s Big Ten opener, and on the season have accounted for 57 percent of the team’s scoring, 48 percent of its rebounding, 85 percent of the its blocks and 45 percent of the its assists.

As a whole, Monday’s loss was a major step backward for a team that was coming off, undeniably, their best performance of the season in giving the No. 2 team in the nation all it could handle on Saturday.

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“This was not the same team that I saw two days ago against North Carolina, we didn’t play like we are capable of,” Illini coach Jolette Law said.

For a team that fed the post with ease on Saturday, the Illini struggled to get Smith the ball. The team’s leading scorer shot only 4-for-11 and scored 10 points.

“Their posts doubled hard all game and were very active with their hands. It was tough to get a good looks so I tried to look more for my teammates,” Smith said.

The theme before the game was revenge, drawing on Illinois’ Big Ten Tournament championship loss to the Boilermakers. The Illini will have to wait until the two teams meet again on February 15 to get the bad taste out of their mouths.

Illinois never led after the 9:28 mark in the first half. The Boilermakers held Illinois to 32 percent shooting while cashing in on 42 percent of their own shots.

But it was one step forward and another step back for Illinois after it seemed as if the team’s season was rebounding after a win against Milwaukee and the strong performance against North Carolina.

“I also have to give a lot of credit to Purdue,” Law said. “They did what they needed to do tonight to come away with a win.”