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Illinois women’s basketball road woes continue

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Illinois women’s basketball road woes continue

Illinois' Alex Wittinger (35) shoots a jumper against Wake Forest at State Farm Center on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

Illinois' Alex Wittinger (35) shoots a jumper against Wake Forest at State Farm Center on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Alex Wittinger (35) shoots a jumper against Wake Forest at State Farm Center on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Alex Wittinger (35) shoots a jumper against Wake Forest at State Farm Center on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

By Jacob Diaz, Staff writer

On a day when they were honored before the game, Northwestern’s seniors led the way in a 66-53 win against the Illinois women’s basketball team.

The win on Senior Night brought a sigh of relief to the Wildcats, who ended a four-game losing streak with the win and may have saved their chances at a spot in the NCAA tournament. Northwestern is currently a bubble team, but it has struggled as of late after a great start.

This season has been emotional for the Wildcats. After a 15-5 start to the season, tragedy struck the team when sophomore Jordan Hankins passed away on Jan. 9. The Wildcats’ next game was postponed, but the team came back strong in a win over Rutgers.

However, since then, the team has dropped four of six and may still miss out on the NCAA tournament.

Northwestern senior forward Nia Coffey led the way with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Coffey’s double-double was almost matched by fellow senior Ashley Deary, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.

The Illini could not get any momentum against the Wildcats who scored first and never lost that lead. Rebounding and foul troubles continued to plague the Illini. Northwestern out-rebounded Illinois by 12, including a 12-6 advantage in offensive rebounds.

But Illinois gave the game away was at the free-throw line.

Illinois committed 23 personal fouls, sending Northwestern to the line 28 times over the course of the game. The Wildcats punished the Illini for their lack of discipline, converting on 24 of those 28 chances.

“I thought the difference in the game was them getting to the free throw line,” head coach Matt Bollant said. “We just couldn’t seem to get the calls as far as drawing fouls. We shot eight to their 28, and they outscored us by 19 on free throws. Obviously, Coffey is really good attacking the rim, her length made a difference for them.”

The Illini continued to struggle away from home and still have yet to win a game away from the State Farm Center. This is the team’s 13th straight road loss dating back to last season and its ninth straight loss overall.

Other than a few sparks at the beginning of the first and third quarters, the Illini offense sputtered to put points on the board against a tall Wildcats team. Northwestern has 10 players listed at 6-feet tall or over (compared to Illinois’ four), and used their length to frustrate the Illini all night long.

Freshman Petra Holesinska shot 2-11 on the night but took over as point guard late in the game. She found fellow freshman Brandi Beasley for four assists in the second half.

“Petra didn’t have the shooting night that she wanted to have, that we needed her to have,” Bollant said. “She does see the floor really well, and Brandi cuts really well. The two of them could be special; they both pass really well, and they both have a really good feel for the game.”

Beasley scored 14 points on 5-11 shooting, but otherwise, struggled. The guard had only one assist and seven turnovers. It was far from the gaudy numbers the Illini have grown accustomed to seeing from Beasley recently.

“Offensively we struggled,” Bollant said. “Part of that was Northwestern and their defense. We just didn’t really ever get going. When we did get some open shots, we didn’t knock them down.”

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@Jacob_Diaz31

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