Illinois women’s basketball falls short in fourth quarter letdown

By Matt Gertsmeier, Staff writer

The Illinois women’s basketball team might be last in the Big Ten conference, winless on the road and 1-9 in its last 10 games, but head coach Matt Bollant says he is still proud of his team.

The Illini’s one-game winning streak was short-lived after losing 68-66 Wednesday night to Indiana in Bloomington.

“I’m really proud of our players,” Bollant said. “Indiana hasn’t lost all year at home and (we were) up 10 in the fourth quarter, we busted our butt to get to that point and really left it all on the floor.”

Illinois had no trouble on offense. The team shot 45 percent from the field, and 42 percent from deep – the Illini have a 41 percent field goal percent average and 31 percent three-point average on the season.

Illinois had five players finish with double figures in scoring – Kyley Simmons led the team with 16 points, Alex Wittinger and Brooke Kissinger each finished with 12 and Chatrice White and Kennedy Cattenhead each had 11.

For a second straight game, Illinois had a lead at the half. Before Wednesday, the Illini were 6-1 when leading at halftime.

But Wednesday’s second half was a different story for Illinois.

The Illini held a 56-50 lead heading into the fourth and looked as though they were going to administer Indiana’s first home loss of the season.

But sloppy play and missed free throws sealed Illinois’s fate.

With three minutes left in regulation, Illinois controlled the game with a 66-60 lead, but three Illini turnovers led to an 8-0 run by the Hoosiers to secure the win – Illinois ended the game with 15 turnovers.

Cattenhead was fouled with 38 seconds left and Illinois down two. She missed both her free throws that would have tied the game.

“We tried to draw fouls a little bit in the fourth quarter,” Bollant said. “We saw them getting to the foul line and felt like they were getting rewarded. We didn’t take quite as good of shots in the fourth quarter. We shot 50 percent in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter our movement and our passing wasn’t quite as good.”

Indiana dominated the Illini at the foul line. Illinois was 2-4 from the free throw line while the Hoosiers were 13-21.

Although Illinois failed to come away with a win, Bollant believes there were still some positives to take away from the game. Illinois recorded seven blocks, five steals and had a strong night on the boards.

“We had 11 offensive rebounds and put ourselves in a good situation,” Bollant said. “I’m really proud of our players. I thought they played extremely hard and left it on the court, and that’s all we asked them to do tonight. It wasn’t quite good enough for a win, but I’ll take their effort and their attitude.”

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