Women’s basketball completes season sweep of Wildcats

By Anthony Zilis

The Illini took it, and now they are dishing it out.

After being swept by Ohio State and Wisconsin early in the season, the Illini beat Northwestern, 60-46, on Thursday evening to complete their second sweep in the last five days.

“It wasn’t pretty, but we found a way to get it done,” Illinois coach Jolette Law said.

The Illini have now won four out of five, and taking care of the ball has been key in the recent stretch.

Illinois took care of the ball all night, committing just seven turnovers in the game and capitalizing on 18 Wildcat turnovers, scoring 17 points off the giveaways.

Law gave credit to her young point guards Lydia McCully and Fabiola Josil for keeping the turnover total low.

“That’s just everyone knowing time, situation, score … Just taking care of the ball,” Law said. “I’m pleased right now because I have a point guard out there right know that can really run the show.”

With the Big Ten leader in blocks, Northwestern came into the game with one of the strongest defenses in the conference.

But even as the Illini struggled from the outside – their first made jump shot came from Josil with 10:29 left in the first half – Northwestern couldn’t stop the Illini as they went inside.

Jenna Smith scored 21 points on 10-of-17 shooting with Amy Jaeschke, who had six blocks, defending her the entire game.

“All night we were out of position, they drove right by us,” Northwestern coach Jack McKeown said. “We’ve played some really strong defensive games, and I can’t explain tonight why we were all over the place.”

The Illini received a scare when Lacey Simpson went down with 13:23 remaining in the second half, after a block attempt resulted in a foul.

Simpson rolled her ankle on the play and was forced to leave the game.

After receiving treatment on the bench, though, Simpson was back in the game with a noticeable limp.

“I thought it was worse than it really was,” Simpson said. “I just wanted some pain relievers, and ‘Come on, get me back in the game.'”

After the Wildcats came within four points with five minutes remaining, the game never seemed in doubt as the Illini stretched the lead to come out with the victory in what McKeown called “one of the worst games we’ve played all season.”

And after virtually being out of the race in the Big Ten, Law’s team is showing it can be a spoiler for teams down the stretch.

“I’m encouraged, I’d rather peak late than to peak too soon,” Law said. “If we can fine-tune our defense, I feel we can compete with anyone.”