Illinois women’s basketball launches the three in season opener

By Matt Gertsmeier, Staff writer

A season ago, it took the Illinois women’s basketball team six games to make more than 10 3-pointers field goals. This year it only took the Illini 36 minutes and 54 seconds.

Illinois was 10-for-30 in 3-point field goals in its season opening 67-36 win over Chicago State at Parkland College. Chicago State was 0-for-16 for threes. Half of Illinois’ field goals on Friday were threes.

Senior guard Kyley Simmons led Illinois in threes, shooting 5-for-9 from beyond. Simmons finished with the game-high 15 points.

Simmons knocked down her first three of the game in the opening seconds. She finished the first quarter 3-for-3 from deep.

“I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” Simmons said. “They give me the ball when I’m open and give me all the confidence in the world (and) coach does. That’s all I need.”

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    Simmons wasn’t the only one to catch fire from downtown. Senior Sarah Hartwell shot 2-for-6 from 3-point land, finishing with 14 points.

    Chicago State primarily played a zone defense for the duration of the game, which opened up the 3-point shot for Illinois.

    However, this caused issues for Illinois’ post game. Illinois might have won the 3-point battle against the Cougars, but the post battle was the complete opposite. The Illini were outscored in the paint 32 to 20.

    The Illini struggled to feed the ball to 2015 Big Ten All-Freshmen team member Chatrice White. White still managed to score 13 points and snare 14 rebounds, but head coach Matt Bollant would have liked to see more of a balance between Illinois’ perimeter shooting and its inside game.

    “I think we want to do both,” Bollant said. “I kept saying we got to find (Chatrice) and we just didn’t see (her). There were times when the ball went to the wing, the ball went to the baseline and (Chatrice) is sitting wide open and it’s like we didn’t see it. When we did throw it, it’s late.”

    White also struggled with foul trouble.

    Illinois went nine deep on Friday. With transfer forward Simone Law recovering from a knee injury, Illinois was also limited to two post-players, White and freshman Alex Wittinger. But White and Wittinger both struggled with foul trouble.

    Wittinger recorded her fourth foul by the five-minute mark in the third quarter. White picked up her fourth foul with about a minute left in the third quarter.

    Post play wasn’t the only thing the Illini struggled with in its opener. While Illinois recorded 19 steals, it also turned the ball over 20 times.

    Bollant believes Illinois’ high turnover total was due to first-game jitters.

    “I think we just got sped up a little bit,” Bollant said. “We want to run, we want to be aggressive, but then there’s times when we ran and we didn’t make the easy pass. I think that’s something about being the first game and probably being a little too excited at times.”

    Despite the high amount of turnovers, Illinois held a lead the entire game. Illinois won the first quarter 23 to 11, the second quarter 16 to 8, and the third quarter 16 to 12. Illinois allowed only three points in the fourth quarter.

    Illinois has a day of rest before hosting Ohio on Sunday at Parkland.

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