Illinois women’s basketball looks to snap four-game losing streak


Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Brandi Beasley (1) dribbles the ball at the top of the key during the game against Maryland at State Farm Center on Thursday, January 26.

By James Boyd, Staff writer

Over the past two games, freshman Brandi Beasley and sophomore Alex Wittinger have been the only players on the Illinois women’s basketball team to score in double-figures.

In those two outings, Illinois lost by 45 points to No. 3 Maryland and 16 points to unranked Penn State. The Illini only averaged 57.5 points during that stretch, and managed to shoot just 31.6 percent from the field.

On Wednesday, Illinois will have a chance to turnaround its offensive output at home against Michigan. Head coach Matt Bollant has acknowledged his team’s shooting woes throughout the season, and mentioned that his team can’t rely solely on Beasley and Wittinger.

“I think Petra (Holešínská) will be ready to go,” Bollant said. “Ali (Andrews) and Courtney (Joens) gave us a lift in the first half (against Penn State), and Jaelyne (Kirkpatrick) got a couple baskets early. But we need them to play two halves. We need some consistency from three, four, five or six players instead of just one or two.”

Holešínská is Illinois’ third leading-scorer at 9.6 points per contest, and has raised her scoring production during Big Ten play. The freshman guard is averaging 11.7 points against her conference foes, but hasn’t scored double figures since Illinois lost by 28 points on the road against Minnesota.

Michigan will enter State Farm Center with an overall record of 17-5 and is 6-2 in conference play. Its only losses were at the hands of No. 11 Ohio State and No. 3 Maryland. Bollant has previously said that the Buckeyes and Terrapins have the potential to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, and the Wolverines are sitting right behind them at third place in the Big Ten standings.

Katelynn Flaherty spearheads a Wolverine offense that leads the Big Ten in three-point field goal percentage and made threes per game. The junior guard is averaging 20 points per game and has knocked down a team high 66 three pointers.

“We just gotta make sure we’re contesting everything (and) that nobody is getting open shots,” Wittinger said. “She’s not the only one that can shoot. There are multiple people that have really good percentages from the three-point line.”

Freshman Kysre Gondrezick leads the Big Ten in three-point field goal percentage and is ranked fifth in the conference in three-point makes. Michigan’s third leading scorer was also named Big Ten Player of the Week, Big Ten Freshman of the Week and USBWA Freshman of the Week for her strong outing against Northwestern.

Illinois has been battling the flu during its four-game skid and Bollant said that his team still won’t be fully healthy when it takes on Michigan. Junior Kennedy Cattenhead and sophomore Jaelyne Kirkpatrick did not practice Tuesday, and it remains to be seen if the two will suit up at game time.

Wittinger admitted that the flu has had an effect on her team, but applauded Beasley for fighting through the sickness and continuing her impressive freshman campaign.

“It’s tough. You just gotta keep going because there’s nothing you can really do about it,” Wittinger said. “Not that we can use that as an excuse either though. You gotta show up (to play), however your feeling.”

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