Illini women's basketball dominates on Senior Day

After an up and down season for the Illini women’s basketball team, senior day turned out to be all smiles.

Needing a win to make sure they avoided the first round of games in the Big Ten tournament, the Illini made a statement in their regular season finale. The Illini finished off the season 15-15 (6-12 Big Ten) by dominating Michigan from the tip to the final whistle, 72-60.

While the four healthy seniors: Brittany Carter, Ivory Crawford, Nia Oden and Taylor Tuck all started the game and were subbed out in the last minute to standing ovations, a freshman stole the show for Illinois.

Chatrice White poured in 30 points, a career-high to go with seven rebounds and 67 percent shooting from the field. She dominated one of the Big Ten’s premier post players, Michigan’s Cyesha Goree. Goree was averaging 14.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game coming into the matchup, but was help to just two points on the day.

“I give credit to Goree. She’s a great post player and last time she really showed me how to play in the post,” White said. “I think I brought that back here and just wanted to go out with a bang for my seniors.”

Aside from White’s career day offensively, Crawford was also efficient with the ball in her hands. She finished with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting in her final home game. In what has been a tough senior campaign for Crawford, who missed seven games with a knee injury, Saturday was a signature performance by one of the program’s top players.

“The whole entire time I was just so pumped and excited,” Crawford said. “Even if I made a mistake, I felt like I was just so thrilled, like, ‘Oh, another mistake, but let’s get the ball back and get another steal.’”

In typical fashion, Crawford had much more of an impact than just on the offensive end. She also recorded nine rebounds, six assists and five steals.

The Wolverines were forced into 24 turnovers and only shot 39.6 percent from the field. Goree and Katelynn Flaherty, who combined for 40 points in the previous meeting with Illinois this season, were held to two points total. Illinois head coach Matt Bollant had his team in his signature buzz defense for a large portion of the game.

“(Illinois’) pressure definitely did disrupt us and make us feel uncomfortable,” Michigan head coach Kim Barnes Arico said.

The win also proved to be big for the Illini as it locked them into the No. 10 seed for the Big Ten Tournament. While being seeded 10th may not sound like a big positive, it keeps the Illini out of the new first round that seeds 11-14 have to play Wednesday.

Aside from the seeding, Illinois will also have momentum heading into the tournament after winning two of its last three games and stomping Michigan to end on a high note.

“(I’m) happy for the seniors to send them out the right way,” Bollant said. “I told the younger players in the locker room that they showed (the seniors) love by playing great.”

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