Tyra Buss and Hoosiers cruise past Illinois

By Matt Gertsmeier

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On Matt Bollant’s first day on the job as head coach of the Illinois women’s basketball team, he offered Tyra Buss a scholarship. Before Bollant could get Buss, a Mount Carmel, Illinois, native, to Champaign for a visit, she verbally committed to Indiana.

During her time at Indiana, Buss has a career average of 15 points, four rebounds and two steals per game and has been a nightmare for Illinois. 

Buss has never lost a game against the Illini.

That trend did not end Wednesday night: The Hoosiers defeated Illinois 80-68 at State Farm Center. Buss led all scorers with 21 points, and extended the Illini’s losing streak to seven games.

“She’s a heck of player,” Bollant said about Buss. “I love the energy that she plays (with), I admire the energy and life she brings every game.”

The Illini could have used some of Buss’ energy Wednesday, especially in the first half.

After jumping out to a 9-2 lead in the first quarter, Illinois started to lose its momentum and Indiana answered with a 13-2 run. Illinois turned the ball over five times in the opening quarter while the Hoosiers shot over 50 percent from the field.

The second quarter also proved to be a challenge for Illinois. Illinois center Chatrice White started getting into foul trouble as she picked up three fouls within five minutes of each other. White fouled out of the game with four and a half minutes left in regulation.

Because of foul trouble White only played 23 minutes and finished with 10 points and one rebound. White typically averages 33 minutes, 18 points and 10 rebounds against conference opponents.

Bollant said White’s limited action hurt the Illini.

“I thought it really took a lot of life out of us in the first half,” Bollant said. “The team knows how important Chatrice is to us so when she picks up her third foul, picks up her fourth and fifth foul, I think that is a hard thing for them to respond to.”

Illinois was outscored in the paint 38-30, outrebounded 49-33 and gave up 17-second chance points. Indiana also dominated the free-throw line shooting 20-29, while Illinois went 8-13.

White’s absence put pressure on freshman forward Alex Wittinger. Wittinger wore a splint on her thumb Wednesday — she is still recovering from breaking her thumb in practice last week. Wittinger, who averages 12 points in Big Ten games, only scored six off of 3-for-10 shooting against Indiana. She managed to snag 11 rebounds.

The Hoosiers outscored Illinois in three out of the four quarters Wednesday. The only quarter the Illini managed to win was the third quarter, when they outscored the visitors 20-18.

Bollant said he thought Illinois’ zone defense helped his team get back into the game. Illinois’s third quarter effort helped cut Indiana’ lead to eight points.

Illinois’ scoring load mainly came from its guards. Sophomores Brooke Kissinger and Kennedy Cattenhead finished with 12 points and 10 points, respectively, and senior Kyley Simmons led Illinois with 20 points. However, the three guards combined for 26 percent beyond the arc.

Simmons acknowledged that her performance felt good, but she would have much preferred a win.

“It feels good, but it doesn’t feel as good as a team win,” Simmons said. “I could care less if I score 20 points or zero points, if we win, we win, and we didn’t do that tonight.”

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