Illini hope to win against Badgers Wednesday


Sarena Abdallah

The Fighting Illini Women’s Basketball team stands for the singing of the National Anthem before tip off against The University of Michigan on Feb. 17.

By Gabby Hajduk, Staff writer

Less than three weeks ago, Illinois snapped a nine-game losing streak, earning its second Big Ten win of the season against Wisconsin. Now on a two-game losing streak, the Illini will head to Madison on Wednesday night in an attempt to complete the sweep.
Both teams suffered losses on Sunday, with Illinois falling to Michigan at home 70-56 and Wisconsin lost a road matchup to Ohio State, 70-68. While the Illinois offense lacked consistency against Michigan, senior Alex Wittinger and freshman Mackenzie Blazek fought hard in the paint, an area Illinois has recently struggled with.
Wittinger recorded her eighth double-double of the season with 18 points and ten rebounds while Blazek recorded a career-tying high of ten points. While Wittinger and Blazek have only had a season to grow together, Blazek has taken advantage of learning from the senior.
“(Blazek) has really figured out the hooks to the right, to the left, which you could see (Sunday),” said head coach Nancy Fahey . “She made some shots that as a coach, I thought Mackenzie turned a corner tonight. I thought that was big because she’s been working on it and working on it, so I hope she took a step that propels her for the rest of the year and the next three.”
In the last meeting between Illinois and Wisconsin, the Illini had strong performances on both ends of the court. Eight players contributed in the scoring column, with four in double digits led by Wittinger and junior Brandi Beasley.
Beasley has been a consistent force for the Illini offense this season, averaging 11 points to go along with five assists-per-game. While the junior only scored four points against Michigan, Beasley will be looking to attack Wisconsin with the dribble-drive again.
Despite Wisconsin’s height advantage, Illinois out-rebounded Wisconsin 40-38 while also forcing ten turnovers and recording six blocks. Though Illinois was hot on offense during the contest, Wisconsin was as well.  Three players contributed double-digit scoring, led by senior Marsha Howard’s 19 points.
Illinois will have to lock down in the paint as Wisconsin’s two leading scorers are inside threats. While Howard averages 14 points-per-game, freshman Imani Lewis is just as big of a concern, averaging 12 points-per-game. In the team’s last meeting, the Illini allowed 36 points in the paint while scoring just 22.
With only three games left before the Big Ten tournament, the Illini are still motivated to close out the season with a few wins. The Illini will graduate three players, each of whom are Fahey’s main focus down the final stretch.
“We remind ourselves that there’s three people that are going to be graduating and it’s their last three,” Fahey said. “We owe it to them to finish it off the right way. There are moments that this group of people will never be together again, this is it, we’ve got to keep them motivated, keep playing for each other, get over these lumps and fire back the next day.”