Women’s basketball drops home game to Spartans

Womens basketball drops home game to Spartans

By Bret Greenberg

Even after a valiant second-half run Thursday night at the Assembly Hall, the Illini couldn’t contend with Michigan State’s forward tandem of Aisha Jefferson and Courtney Schiffauer, which accounted for 26 of the Spartans’ 63 points. The Illini could manage only 50. As for the Spartans’ 6-foot-9 center, Allyssa DeHaan, she served merely as a decoy, finishing with two points and three rebounds in 21 minutes.

Illinois turned the ball over early and often, as it struggled to find an offensive flow. The Illini finished the night with 22 turnovers and 11 assists. Junior Lacey Simpson accounted for nine of the turnovers.

“I guess I just didn’t have a good connection with (Jenna Smith),” Simpson said. I just wasn’t putting the ball where it needed to go. I tried to get some transition points, and I threw the ball up too far. I just need to focus on making better passes.”

On the defensive end, the team felt the absence of their defensive stopper, senior Chelsea Gordon, who will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. She will undergo reconstructive surgery Feb. 10.

Simpson tried her best to lead the defense, finishing with seven steals and four thunderous blocks to go along with her 12 points and 12 rebounds. But as a unit, the Illini defense had trouble slowing Michigan State’s high-octane offense.

“We stopped communicating on defense,” head coach Jolette Law said. “There were times when half of the team was in zone and half of the team was in man.”

Law threw different zone schemes at the Spartans throughout the night, but nothing seemed to get them out of their rhythm.

Illini center Jenna Smith was roughed up in the post, netting 19 hard-earned points. Her free throws were falling, but she failed to complete some of her usual looks in the paint. She finished the night 6-of-15 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw stripe.

“I’m always going to miss shots but I try and keep my head up,” Smith said. “I have to face that I’m not going to be perfect, but sometimes I just look at the rim and say, ‘Why?'”

Law’s thin bench struggled to produce, which forced her to use them sparingly. The three bench players accounted for two points and three turnovers in nine minutes.

After two big wins against Indiana and Northwestern, the Illini are looking to get back to what made them successful. The Orange and Blue will get a chance to find their “mojo” once more when they travel to Bloomington, Ind., Sunday for a rematch against the Hoosiers.

Note: Near the end of the first half, assistant coach Tamika Louis collapsed and was taken to a nearby hospital for medical assistance. No further information was known as of Thursday night.