Illinois women’s basketball collapse in fourth quarter against Michigan State

By Matt Gertsmeier, Staff writer

Matt Bollant was disappointed with his team’s performance in the fourth quarter – and rightfully so.

He is used to seeing his team outscored in the fourth quarter. The Illini average about 17 points in the fourth quarter and of their 28 games, they have been outscored 17 times.

Illinois (9-19, 2-15) was outscored again in Wednesday’s 71-43 loss against No. 20 Michigan State (21-7, 12-4), but it was well below its fourth quarter average.

The Illini scored two points off 1-of-15 shooting in the final quarter of Bollant’s lowest scoring game in his four years at Illinois. Michigan State outscored Illinois 27-2 in the fourth.

“I think the fatigue did show up,” Bollant said. “Especially with ‘Tree (Chatrice White) and Alex (Wittinger), they battled so much inside, they looked tired in the fourth quarter. That’s when you need some other players to step up.”

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    White, who averages around 18 points and nine rebounds, only scored 10 points and snagged five boards. Wittinger, who is still recovering from a broken thumb and now a torn ligament in her left hand, mustered up two points off 1-of-7 shooting.

    Six players scored for Illinois, but only White and senior guard Kyley Simmons eclipsed double-digits. Simmons led Illinois with 19 points in her final game at State Farm Center.

    White and Wittinger combined for Illinois’ nine blocks on the night. The Illini also stole the ball 11 times, but struggled to stop Michigan State’s Aerial Powers. She led the Spartans with 26 points.

    Before Powers exploded for 11 points in fourth quarter, it looked as though Illinois was going to pull of an upset.

    Illinois started the third quarter on a 12-2 run and took a 36-35 lead with a little over four minutes left in the quarter. The Illini shot 50 percent from the field and 60 percent from deep, which helped them outscore the Spartans 17-11 in the third. The Spartans held a three-point lead at the end of the quarter.

    Bollant thought his team had a chance at coming away with its third conference win of the season before the start of Illinois’ fourth quarter collapse.

    “I just said at halftime, ‘We’ve got a shot here’,” Bollant said. “Certainly in the third quarter I felt like we had a shot. Even going into the fourth quarter I thought to start, we were down a couple points, and thought if we have a good quarter we’ve got a shot, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.”

    Fifteen of Michigan State’s 27 fourth quarter points were from three-pointers and five of its baskets came off an assist. The Spartans finished the game with 17 assists and 54 rebounds. The Illini finished the game with three assists and 30 rebounds.

    Simmons had Illinois’ lone basket of the fourth quarter, and it came with about five and half minutes left to play. Simmons said there was nothing the team could do about the 6.7 fourth quarter field goal percentage except to keep firing away.

    “Just got to keep shooting the ball,” Simmons said. “Nothing you can do, you can’t control your misses and makes, you just got to keep believing. Coach does a really good job of helping us believe it’s going to go in and you’ve just got to believe in yourself and keep shooting.”

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