Illinois women’s basketball team’s season ends in Big Ten tourney

By Matt Gertsmeier, Staff writer

Kyley Simmons likes to play with Spalding basketballs. Most of her teammates must not.

Simmons put 21 points off of 8-12 shooting in No. 14-seeded Illinois’ 75-66 loss to No. 11-seeded Penn State in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.

Center Chatrice White and Simmons combined for 47 points against Penn State. White and Simmons combined to shoot 56 percent from the field. But the rest of the team shot 8-for-24. Only four other Illini scored in the game.

“(We) needed someone else to step up and make shots,” head coach Matt Bollant said. “We got some open threes, I thought Brooke (Kissinger) had some good takes and didn’t make enough. Needed someone else to come along. I thought they fought. We just needed another scorer. A third scorer would have been great.”

Scoring was not an issue for Penn State.

    Subscribe to our sports newsletter!

    Teniya Page led the Nittany Lions with 18 points and nine assists. Three other players on Penn State scored in double figures as Penn State shot 44 percent in the game.

    Except for the final score, Illinois and Penn State were pretty much even in every other category. Penn State recorded 35 rebounds, 18 assists, four blocks and four steals, while Illinois had 33 rebounds, 15 assists, five blocks and four steals.

    White said she thought Illinois had a chance of pulling off the win for most of the game.

    “Penn State has a lot of length and has a lot of great players,” White said. “Teniya Page is a great point guard, but I just felt the whole game we were with them. We went on a couple runs and it just wasn’t enough tonight, but still a fun game.”

    Wednesday’s loss to Minnesota puts an end to Illinois’ season. Illinois finished Bollant’s fourth year with the team 9-21 with a conference record of 2-16.

    With only nine scholarship players entering the season and three players’ seasons being cut short due to injury, this was not an easy season for Bollant’s Illini.

    “A lot of coaches when they go through struggles, would be anxious to get the year done and I didn’t feel that way at all,” Bollant said. “I was hoping we could make a run here because I wanted to be around our players some more because they’ve made it easy to coach and love who they are and just how they carried themselves throughout the year.”

    Wednesday not only wraps up the Illini’s season, but it also was the conclusion of Simmons’, Sarah Hartwell’s, Simone Law’s, Eriel Davis’ and Alexis Viliunas’ careers.

    Simmons led the senior bunch, averaging 12 points, three assists and starting every game this season for Illinois. Simmons said she learned a lot in her career, but this year especially.

    “There’s not going to be anything like it in life,” Simmons said. “To be blessed to play for amazing coaches who come to the gym with a smile on their face the next day no matter what that’s what has made this year doable for me and has made me realize that even though in life, things aren’t going to go your way, you’re just going to have to fight through them.”

    [email protected]