Early deficit at Iowa too much for women’s basketball

Valentine’s Day may have felt like Groundhog’s Day for the Illinois women’s basketball team.

The Illini’s 77-67 loss at Iowa on Sunday was their 43rd in the last 50 meetings between the two teams. Jolette Law still has yet to beat her alma mater — the only Big Ten team she has never defeated as an Illini head coach.

Just as in the teams’ last meeting on Jan. 21, Iowa’s drive-and-kick style gave Illinois trouble. The Hawkeyes got the ball outside to their shooters, who showed why Iowa makes the most 3-pointers per game in the Big Ten.

The Hawkeyes converted 9-of-16 of their 3-point shots in the first half alone and scored 19 points off 13 first-half Illinois turnovers.

The resulting 27-point halftime deficit proved too much for Illinois to overcome, though the Illini did show some fight in the second half.

“I wasn’t very happy with our effort in the first half, but my team didn’t quit and that’s what we can take from this game,” Law said. “We could have dropped our heads when we got down, but we showed who we are in the second half and that’s something we can build on.”

Illinois topped Iowa in nearly every statistical category in the second half. The two teams nearly switched field goal percentages, and Illinois scored 11 points off 10 Hawkeye turnovers while only giving up the ball twice.

But Illinois’ last field goal of the game came when freshman Kersten Magrum cut the deficit to four with 3:30 remaining. The Illini missed their next four shots, and the Hawkeyes made 9-of-10 free throws to close out the game.

“I think if we had a few more minutes we could have pulled it out, but you can’t expect to get wins when you get down that much,” Law said.

When the two teams last met, Iowa was in last place in the Big Ten standings.

Since defeating Illinois in that matchup, the injury-ridden Hawkeyes (14-11, 7-7 Big Ten) have won five of six, only losing to then-No. 8 Ohio State by four.

Illinois’ (13-12, 5-10) season has gone the opposite direction. The Illini have dropped five of seven since last playing the Hawkeyes and are currently tied with Minnesota and Northwestern for last in the Big Ten standings.

After following a 31-point victory against Northwestern on Thursday with Sunday’s loss, Illinois is still searching for consistency as Big Ten play winds down.

“We showed what kind of team we can be,” Magrum said. “We played together in the second half, we were talking more and we had better energy. We need to practice with that same intensity so next game we can play like that right from the tip.”