Illinois women’s basketball snaps losing streak

By Matt Gertsmeier, Staff writer

Matt Bollant has had some restless nights recently.

The Illinois women’s basketball coach wasn’t waking up at two in the morning because of his team’s recent eight-game losing streak, but because he was excited for the Illini’s next game day against Wisconsin.

Much like the Midwestern temperatures, the Illinois women’s basketball team had gone cold. After jumping to a 7-1 record to start the season, the Illini froze up, going 0-5 to start conference play.ss

But the Illini snapped their losing streak, beating the Badgers 71-65 at State Farm Center on Sunday.ss

Leading up to the game, Bollant’s message to his team was simple — have fun.

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    “The game of basketball is fun,” Bollant said. “(I said to them) remember when you first started playing and how you looked forward to the tournaments. Let’s get back to making it fun. Obviously it’s not an easy challenge, but let’s not get caught up in the end result and go have fun and play as hard as we can.”

    For the first time since Illinois’ last win against Central Michigan, the Illini held a lead at halftime — they led the Badgers 35-25 at half on Sunday.

    Center Chatrice White said Illinois’ fast start is something that should be expected of the team moving forward.

    “We have shown that we haven’t started off a lot of games super strong, but for us to do that is great for us going into the rest of the game,” White said. “Starting strong and just building from there. Now we know that we can do it and now it’s expected.”

    White finished Sunday’s game with 16 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. However, she struggled in the first half, only scoring six points off of 2 for 9 shooting from the field.ss

    Instead, Illinois relied on sophomore Brooke Kissinger, freshman Alex Wittinger and senior Sarah Hartwell in its dominant first half. Kissinger was 3-for-4 from deep with nine points, Wittinger had eight points and Hartwell had seven points and three assists in the first half.

    The Badgers caught up in the second half, outscoring the Illini 40-36. In the second half Hartwell tallied two points while Kissinger was scoreless, playing only four minutes.ss

    Nonetheless, Illinois came away with a win and Bollant is looking to turn around his team’s season.

    Before Sunday’s win, Illinois’ five conference losses were against teams above .500, including No. 8 Maryland. Wisconsin entered Sunday’s game 6-9. The Illini’s next two games are against Indiana and Penn State. Indiana is 10-8 overall and 2-4 in conference and Penn State is 6-11 and 1-5.ss

    That’s not the only change Illinois can look forward to. Bollant believes being back on campus will be a big boost for the Illini.

    “The great thing for us is we need the guy practice players,” Bollant said. “They’ve been on vacation and that hurts our team because we just don’t have the depth and the physical bodies, especially post players to play against. I think it will help us defensively a lot and rebounding wise to play against the guys.”

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