Illinois women’s basketball almost hangs on with No. 7 Ohio State

By Daniel Dexter, Staff writer

Against the No. 7 team in the country, the struggling Illinois women’s basketball team was able to hold its own for all but the last five minutes of Monday’s game.

The Illini (8-13, 1-9 Big Ten) came into the game understanding that few expected them to come out with a victory against the surging Buckeyes (17-4, 9-1), who have won their last four games. Illinois put on a strong performance through the majority of the game, but Ohio State managed to secure a lead late in the fourth quarter for a 80-70 victory.

“This game showed how hard we worked and to stay within 10 points of the No. 7 team in the country was a pretty big accomplishment,” center Chatrice White said. “We’re not really looking at that. We just have to find a way to play a complete game.”

The team got out to a quick start behind the hot shooting hand of guard Brooke Kissinger, who sank her first three 3-point shots in the first quarter. The team as a whole connected on five of its 3-pointers and ended the first quarter of play with a 21-20 lead.

Kissinger credited the team’s ball movement for giving her the open looks for her treys. She added that the team has continued to improve its passing as the season has gone on, which has contributed to the team’s more competitive games in recent weeks.

After a tough second quarter, in which the Buckeyes dropped 29 points to take an eight-point lead going into the half, Illinois put up what head coach Matt Bollant called one of the team’s best defensive quarters of the season.

Illinois contained Ohio State to just 10 points in third quarter on 20 percent shooting and didn’t allow a single three. The team tried stifle the Buckeyes’ leading scorer Kelsey Mitchell, who scored just nine points in the second half.

Illinois was able to close the gap to 59-58 after the third quarter and even briefly grabbed the lead again early in the fourth quarter, but the team’s shooting woes returned late in the final quarter. The team shot just 23.5 percent in the quarter and scored 12 points, as Ohio State regained the momentum.

“Late in the game, I felt that we were moving it as well and didn’t always get quite the shot we were looking for,” Bollant said. “We had some good possessions, but we didn’t finish it.”

The Buckeyes went on an 11-4 run in the last five minutes of the game to seal the victory. After the game, Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said that Illinois played better than its record showed – a compliment Bollant agreed with.

This was Illinois’ fourth straight loss, and the team remains in last place in the Big Ten. With a Northwestern team that has lost its last five games coming to State Farm Center on Thursday, the team will have one of its best opportunities for its second conference win.

“We’ll get a win eventually,” Kissinger said. “We will just keep battling hard at practice and get them Thursday.”

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