Turnovers, scoring drought plague women’s basketball in loss at Purdue

Wins in West Lafayette, Ind., have come few and far between for the Illinois women’s basketball team. Illinois last defeated Purdue at their house in 2005, and before Thursday’s game trailed 24-4 in the road series.

The discrepancy increased to 25-4 on Thursday after the Illini fell to the Boilermakers, 53-48.

The Illini led by as many as seven early in the first half but trailed 29-23 at halftime and never again took a lead.

After trailing by three with 12:16 left in the game, the Illini went scoreless for nearly eight minutes. The resulting 12-point deficit proved too much to overcome.

Illinois held Purdue to 27-percent shooting from the field, but the Illini’s lack of production on the offensive side combined with 23 turnovers elevated the Boilermakers (12-11, 7-5 Big Ten) into a tie for second place in the Big Ten standings.

Illinois’ offensive troubles included several missed layups and put-backs as well as 1-for-12 shooting from 3-point range.

“I think we played well defensively in the second half, but offensively we were going too fast,” Illinois head coach Jolette Law said. “We missed a lot of easy layups and had some careless turnovers. I was just trying to tell everyone to stay calm. We need to become more mentally tough to win on the road in this conference.”

Jenna Smith’s eight points made her road to the top of Illinois’ all-time scoring list more difficult. With Illinois guaranteed seven more games, Smith must average roughly 21 points for the rest of the season in order to break Ashley Berggren’s record.

Smith was able to break Illinois’ record for blocks in a game after tallying seven on the night.

Lacey Simpson became Illinois’ all-time leader in games played with 123. She contributed 10 rebounds, two steals and tied with Kersten Magrum and Purdue’s Jodi Howell for a game-high 12 points. Magrum played well, scoring a career-high for Illinois in her third start in a row before fouling out with 39 seconds remaining in the game.

“I’ll do whatever is asked of me to help win but definitely feel very comfortable starting,” Magrum said. “I think I’m gaining confidence and my teammates are really helping me learn to play the guard position. I just have to keep pushing to get better and that starts in practice.”

Illinois (12-10, 4-8) is now 1-5 on the road in the Big Ten.

“This wasn’t a pretty game,” Law said. “I want to give Purdue a lot of credit. They played hard and grinded out a win, which is what you have to do at home.”