Former Illini Arrelious Benn shows up to Pack the Hall

The Assembly Hall had a different atmosphere in Sunday’s Illinois women’s basketball matchup against Nebraska, thanks to the Pack The Hall event.

With promotions ranging from free parking, free T-shirts and Kelly Clarkson ticket giveaways, 2,200 fans attended the game, a substantial increase from the women’s basketball team’s 1,055 home attendance average.

Illinois ranks last in the Big Ten in attendance, but head coach Jolette Law and her team were grateful to play in front of a bigger crowd.

“You go to every other venue and you play in front of a lot of people,” Law said. “Finally, we had a lot of people to come out to support us. It was exciting.”

An unexpected guest for the game was former Illini and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Arrelious Benn.

Benn came back to watch the game with girlfriend and former Illini women’s basketball player Chelsea Gordon. Benn signed autographs to fans after the game and even stopped to chat with a few of them filing for the exits.

*Magrum’s injury a positive sign for struggling Illini*

The Illini ended a seven-game losing streak Thursday with a win over Michigan State. Able to aid the Illinois effort again was Kersten Magrum, who had missed the previous three games with a head injury.

Magrum, who has a history of injury problems, suffered a concussion against Wisconsin on Jan. 8 but returned in a limited role off the bench Thursday to help the Illini top the Spartans.

“It’s different,” Magrum said of coming off the bench. “But it’s Coach Law’s decision, and whatever she decides I have to respect. Whatever position I’m in, just doing what’s best for my team.”

Magrum began Sunday’s game on the bench but was inserted into the starting lineup after halftime.

“I know she’s not 100 percent, so for me to put that extra pressure on her to start, I want to get (her) back in the flow,” Law said. “In the second half, I went with Kersten because I needed energy, and she provided that. She was playing like Kersten.”

Magrum logged 24 minutes of playing time against Nebraska and compiled 10 points, four rebounds and two blocks.

Magrum said she was not up to full strength yet, but that she’s improving each day.

*Freshman Crawford emerges as reliable starter*

Ivory Crawford has started 16 games for Illinois as a freshman and has seen her role on offense increase with each game.

Crawford led Illinois in both points and rebounds during Sunday’s loss with 12 and 10, respectively.

Her numbers have steadily increased since entering conference play, most notably in scoring and rebounding. She ranks third on the team in points per game and second in rebounds per game.

Crawford still commits some freshman mistakes — Law said Crawford sometimes goes for a risky pass in transition — but she has grown comfortable within the offense.

That comfort level is evident from the 17 shots Crawford took against Nebraska, a statistic Law doesn’t mind seeing.

“Initially, we didn’t call a lot to her,” Law said. “Then I called a couple of (plays), and a lot of her shots came in transition. Some of them went in, some of then went out, but she was being aggressive.”