Illini lose momentum against Big Ten opponents


Photo Courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

Forward Ali Andrews dribbles past a defender during a game against Ohio State on Sunday. Illinois fell to Ohio State 77-47.

By Claire O'Brien, Staff Writer

The Illinois women’s basketball team heads into the spring semester with a 10-8 record (1-6 in the Big Ten).

After dropping the Big Ten opener to Northwestern, Illinois compiled a 1-5 record the rest of Winter Break. Illinois concluded 2019 with a 108-72 loss against Iowa in Iowa City. The Illini were led by freshman forward Kennedi Myles, who had 18 points.

Illinois has historically struggled against the Iowa, with the Illini’s last win in the series coming in December 2016. The Illini found themselves behind early, down 27-14 after the first quarter. At the half, the Illini were down by 19, 57-38. Iowa dominated the remainder of the game and cruised to a 108-72 win.

Illinois began 2020 by taking a trip east to Bloomington, Indiana, to play the then-No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers.

Like the Iowa game, Indiana took an early lead. The Illini faced a 22-8 deficit after the first quarter and entered the half down 43-19. Illinois lost 83-42, and senior guard Brandi Beasley led Illinois in scoring with 11 points.

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    After visiting Iowa and Indiana, the team played two games in Champaign.

    Illinois played its first game in Champaign this calendar year on Jan. 9. The Illini took on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, losing 75-51. Rutgers joined the Big Ten in 2014, so the Illini have only played the Scarlet Knights a handful of times, with the Illini’s only win of the series coming in 2017.

    Rutgers continued its success against Illinois, with Illinois down after the first quarter, 27-11. The Illini had a stronger second quarter, outscoring the Scarlet Knights 15-9.

    The teams’ luck flipped in the third, and the Scarlet Knights outscored the Illini 26-2. Redshirt junior guard Petra Holešínská led Illinois against Rutgers with 18 points.

    The Illini began 2020 0-1 at the State Farm Center, but this statistic was short-lived. The Minnesota Golden Gophers visited the Illini Jan. 12. Illinois came into the matchup 0-4 in the Big Ten and had defeated Minnesota, 66-62, on Jan. 6, 2019.

    Illinois began the Minnesota game on a strong note and was up 19-16 to start. The Illini finished the first half with a 36-32 lead.

    The rest of the game was tight, with Illinois and Minnesota scoring 17 points each in the third to keep the advantage at four points in the Illini’s favor. In the closing seconds, Beasley stole the ball from Minnesota and went to the charity stripe to preserve a three-point lead for Illinois.

    Despite an Illinois win, the Illini were outscored in the fourth quarter by the Golden Gophers, 22-21. Holešínská again led the Illini in scoring with 28 points.

    After a Minnesota win, Illinois went back to the state to its east to play Purdue on Jan. 16. Historically, Illinois has struggled against Purdue, with its most recent win against the Boilermakers coming on Feb. 21, 2015.

    The Illini continued to struggle against the Boilermakers, with Purdue jumping out to a double-digit lead. Illinois was down 37-26 at the half.

    Illinois cut Purdue’s lead to seven in the fourth, but the Boilermakers went on to win 81-67. Beasley led Illinois in scoring against Purdue with 18 points.

    With a 1-5 record in Big Ten play, Illinois went to Columbus, Ohio, to play Ohio State for its last game of Winter Break on Jan. 19. The Illini last defeated the Buckeyes on Feb. 14, 2015, and lost to the Buckeyes 78-70 in the teams’ previous matchup.

    Illinois was off to a fast start, complete with a 6-0 run at the end of the first period to enter the second quarter down 16-14.

    In the second period, Ohio State got a quick basket before going on a scoring drought for about three minutes. Illinois also got a field goal early on but went on a scoring drought of its own to keep the second quarter low-scoring.

    At 3:50 in the second quarter, senior forward Ali Andrews hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 20-20. It would be the first time an Andrews three-pointer would tie the game that afternoon.

    In the closing minutes of the second quarter, Ohio State went on another three-minute scoring drought. Ohio State’s guard Kierstan Bell hit a three-point shot with 10 seconds left in the second to give Ohio State a 32-26 lead at the half.

    Illinois came back strong in the third quarter, with a three-point deficit almost five minutes left in the quarter.

    At 4:57, Andrews hit a three-point shot to tie the game at 37-37. Ohio State promptly called a timeout.

    At that stage of the game, Andrews was leading all scorers with 14 points and was the only player in the game who had scored double-digit points.

    After the tie, Ohio State guard Jacy Sheldon made a layup to give the Buckeyes the lead. Sheldon made a three-point shot to give the Buckeyes a five-point lead heading into the media timeout.

    The Buckeyes went on a 14-0 run following the tie, while the Illini had a scoring drought. Ohio State took its largest lead of the afternoon at 14 points, and Illinois entered the fourth quarter down 51-37.

    The fourth period didn’t go well for Illinois. Illinois finally broke its scoring drought at 8:53 left in the game.

    Ohio State continued to dominate the game, taking a 20-point lead during the fourth quarter.

    In the game’s closing minutes, Ohio State went on a 7-0 run while holding Illinois scoreless for the last 2:26 to win 77-47.

    Andrews led the Illini with 14 points and four three-pointers but didn’t score after the tie in the third quarter.

    “It was really exciting to be able to help my team out,” Andrews said. “We weren’t able to keep that momentum up, but we can fix that for next game.”

    The loss moved the Illini to 10-8 overall and 1-6 in the Big Ten.

    Despite the losses on the court, Illinois had some bright spots during practices.

    Senior guard Taylor Edwards was awarded a scholarship in practice, according to a tweet from Jan. 14.

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