Wittinger inconsistent after injury, Illini struggle to get to the line

Illinois+Alex+Wittinger+shoots+a+jumper+over+Indianas+%09Lyndsay+Leikem+during+the+game+against+Indiana+at+the+State+Farm+Center+on+Feb.+10.+The+Illini+lost+70-68.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Alex Wittinger shoots a jumper over Indiana’s Lyndsay Leikem during the game against Indiana at the State Farm Center on Feb. 10. The Illini lost 70-68.

By Daniel Dexter

#Illini women’s basketball team received praise from legendary basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer

The Illinois women’s basketball team saw limited contribution from freshman standout Alex Wittinger on Saturday against Rutgers. The forward is battling a broken thumb in her shooting hand, which she suffered before a game against Northwestern on Feb. 4.

Wittinger scored six points in 31 mintues in her second game back after missing two the previous week. She shot 25 percent from the field, but collected nine rebounds — the second most on the team.

Head coach Matt Bollant said Wittinger had trouble finding her rhythm against Rutgers, which he attributed to her youth and her lingering injury.

“One of the things she needs to get better at when she misses some shots, and she missed a couple early, is it takes her a while to get going after that,” Bollant said. “It took her until the second half to really get going. I love her heart and how hard she plays, but sometimes as a freshman when you miss some shots, you let it affect you.”

Illini struggle to get to foul line

The Illini made four trips — for seven shots — to the line against Rutgers, sinking four of their attempts. Wittinger, center Chatrice White and guard Kyley Simmons were the only Illinois players to make it to the charity strike.

The Scarlet Knights went 11-for-15 from the foul line. Of those 15 shots, six were taken by guard Tyler Scaife.

Bollant said his team struggles to get to the line because the guards have trouble driving to the basket to draw contact. The team’s main post threat, White, was the only one to make it to the foul line more than once.

“Our guards don’t attack the rim well enough,” Bollant said. “We had two free throws out of our guards. That’s not good, especially when Rutgers was playing pressure man-to-man. … Our guards need to get better at it. One of things you can do when you are not making shots is get to the foul line to change things.”

Illinois receives praise from Stringer

Although Illinois played well in the second half, it still lost by nine points to a middle-of-the-pack Rutgers team. It was the team’s seventh straight loss, putting it solidly in last place — two games behind its next opponent, Wisconsin.

Despite the loss, Illinois received praise from legendary Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer, the third winningest coach in women’s basketball history. She said that Illinois’ record in no way represents how good of a basketball team it is.

“Contrary to their wins and losses, you can have such a down attitude that you lay down and you don’t do anything, but I think it’s credit to the Illinois coaching staff as well as to the players,” Stringer said. “They’re playing with a fighting spirit and that’s hard to do. My thought anyway is that you only lose in your mind; they didn’t play like losers.”

Bollant said he appreciates the compliment from a coach he greatly admires, and although he isn’t a believer in moral victories, he was proud of the way his team competed.

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