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Illinois women’s basketball prepares to face Wake Forest

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Illinois women’s basketball prepares to face Wake Forest

Illinois' Alex Wittinger shoots a jumper over Indiana's Lyndsay Leikem during the game against Indiana at the State Farm Center on February 10. The Illini lost 70-68.

Illinois' Alex Wittinger shoots a jumper over Indiana's Lyndsay Leikem during the game against Indiana at the State Farm Center on February 10. The Illini lost 70-68.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Alex Wittinger shoots a jumper over Indiana's Lyndsay Leikem during the game against Indiana at the State Farm Center on February 10. The Illini lost 70-68.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Alex Wittinger shoots a jumper over Indiana's Lyndsay Leikem during the game against Indiana at the State Farm Center on February 10. The Illini lost 70-68.

By James Boyd, Staff writer


Thanksgiving break began with a 20-point victory for the Illinois women’s basketball team. But, that momentum was cut short when it faced Mercer.

The Illini managed to score just 33 points – its lowest total of the season – and struggled to find any offensive rhythm against the Bears’ stout defense. They lost 51-33.

The team will try to bounce back Wednesday against Wake Forest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Illinois shot the ball at just 23 percent, including a 3-31 performance from the three-point range, and scored just seven points in the final period. Head coach Matt Bollant said that his team had a lot of good looks at the rim but just couldn’t get anything to fall.

“I think we missed some good shots early and then we just pressed a little bit,” Bollant said. “Once you make one shot, it can be a little bit contagious, but we just never did get going.”

Freshman Petra Holesinska started her second straight game but she missed all seven of her shots and was held scoreless. Bollant said that she needs to continue to take shots within the flow of the game, and added that the entire team needed to relax a bit during its upcoming game against Wake Forest.

“I think as coaches we need to help them try to be loose and not get tight ourselves,” Bollant said. “One of the things I said is, ‘This game is fun. Make sure you keep it fun.’ If it’s a good shot and it’s in rhythm and we miss it than move on to the next one and believe the next one is going in.”

Despite the Illini’s struggles against the Bears, sophomore Alex Wittinger posted her fourth consecutive double-double. She scored a team-high 12 points and snagged a career-high 16 rebounds in just 27 minutes of action. She will try to continue that trend against Wake Forest, but will also look to improve in the foul department.

Wittinger said that sometimes she is just too aggressive when rebounding and said that causes her to pick up some unnecessary fouls. She added that against Wake Forest — and the rest of the season — she would need to be smarter

“If I’m just not in the position, then (I need to) get back on defense,” Wittinger said. “I think I just need to learn that when I am in trouble I need to just back off a little.”

Freshman Brandi Beasley played the entire game against Mercer and was limited to five points. However, she was not discouraged by her performance. She said that her team played well enough to win, and added that the loss only made them want to bounce back against Wake Forest.

Illinois played a solid defensive game against Mercer, holding the visiting team to a 29 percent performance form the field. Beasley spear-headed that effort by guarding the Bear’s best player.

“I feel like defense translates into offense, so if you do your part on the defensive end it translates into buckets,” Beasley said. “I take a lot pride in defense.”

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