Women’s basketball wins 2nd consecutive game

By Anthony Zilis

The Illinois women’s basketball team may finally have turned over a new leaf. After losing 16 of 17 games, many of which were down to the wire, the Illini closed out their second consecutive game on Thursday evening, beating Northwestern, 45-44.

As the score would indicate, the game was a fight to the finish. The Illini may have been seeing flashbacks with 17 seconds left, as Lacey Simpson turned over an inbounds pass with the Orange and Blue leading by one.

But this time it was the opponent who failed to produce down the stretch. Wildcat guard Kristin Cartwright made a pull-up bank shot with less than five seconds remaining, but her attempt at a jump stop was called a travel and the basket was waived off, all but ending the game.

“It wasn’t pretty, but I’m proud of my team for finding a way to win,” head coach Jolette Law said. “It was a hard-fought game on both ends and we’re fortunate to come away with a victory.”

Jenna Smith scored 17 points and had 12 rebounds, while the recently labeled “Miss Utility,” Lacey Simpson, once again filled up the stat sheet with 11 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, six steals and two blocks in the matchup of Big Ten bottom feeders.

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“Lacey is a phenomenal player,” Law said. “She played great defense tonight and found open players. She was really the catalyst for us in the second half. I’m grateful to have a player of her caliber on my team.”

With the victory, Illinois finally managed to leapfrog Northwestern in the standings and won consecutive games for the first time in over two months. The Illini won on Sunday against then-first place Indiana.

There is still a lot of work to be done if the Illini plan on closing out the season on an eight-game winning streak, as Simpson pledged earlier in the week.

But the two straight wins have been a major improvement for a team that had previously lost 10 straight games.

The Illini will have a week off before playing Michigan State next Thursday. But the long break may not be welcome for a team on its first winning streak since November.

“If we continue to do the little things and keep playing together, we can turn things around here in the second half of the season,” Law said. “I always say it’s better to peak late than to peak early. We did it last year, and I think we can do it again if we can get everyone to step it up a notch.”