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Illinois women’s basketball not satisfied after win over Chicago State

Illinois+forward+Alex+Wittinger+%2835%29+pulls+up+for+a+jumper+during+the+game+against+Fort+Wayne+at+State+Farm+Center+on+Friday%2C+Nov.+10%2C+2017.+The+Illini+won+64-50.
Illinois forward Alex Wittinger (35) pulls up for a jumper during the game against Fort Wayne at State Farm Center on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. The Illini won 64-50.

Illinois forward Alex Wittinger (35) pulls up for a jumper during the game against Fort Wayne at State Farm Center on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. The Illini won 64-50.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois forward Alex Wittinger (35) pulls up for a jumper during the game against Fort Wayne at State Farm Center on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. The Illini won 64-50.


Though the Illini claimed a 66-56 victory over Chicago State, head coach Nancy Fahey made it known that she expects more out of her team.

“There was a portion (where) Chicago State just played harder than us, and that’s where it got close,” Fahey said. “I called the timeout and encouraged them not to get outworked. All that said, we just couldn’t knock down perimeter shots, and that tightens a team up.”

Her two standout performers of the night, junior Alex Wittinger, with 19 points and 14 rebounds, and sophomore Ali Andrews, with 15 points and eight rebounds, agreed with their coach’s take on the game. Wittinger was especially critical of the team’s execution.

“We did not execute,” Wittinger said. “Our offensive plays (led) to turnovers and our defense could have executed better, especially boxing out in our zone, not giving up second-chance points.”

Andrews had a more simplistic take on the game.

“I think we worked together well as a team; execution is a big thing for us right now,” Andrews said. “Just executing plays and when you’re open, knock it down.”

Although scoring 66 points is not a textbook Fahey team performance, Wittinger credited her teammates with getting her open looks, despite most of them not falling.

“Our team did a good job finding us open,” Wittinger said. “Moving off the ball is always key, so I think we did that decently tonight.”

Missed shots were the theme of the evening as leading guard-scorer Brandi Beasley was held to just nine points on three of eight shooting from the floor. Shooting specialist Courtney Joens was also held in check as she shot just three of 10 from the field, including one of seven from distance.

While the Illini came out strong, the Cougars were able to stick around. Fahey’s team was forced to slow the pace to control the game, which contradicts her preferred up-tempo style.

“First half, we made a ton of one-pass shots, and that’s fine if you’re on a roll, but we weren’t rolling,” Fahey said. “Instead of just going four-out, running around and feeling better, there are things that they have to absorb, and that’s what you see.”

Fahey felt her team got a bit too comfortable with its advantage, which allowed the Cougars to hang in the game. The Illini were outscored in both second-half quarters, which Fahey was not pleased with.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well in the second half. Once you start tightening up on the perimeter, everyone tightens up. Ali, in the first half, hit shots and felt good; we were up,” Fahey said. “Second half, I think we came out flat. That’s something we have to think about: up seventeen, how to maintain that lead and not get comfortable.”

Going forward, Fahey knows there are a lot of things to correct, but her most immediate concern is the number of unforced turnovers, as the Illini had several possessions in which they threw passes away that led directly to Cougar buckets.

“The turnovers unforced, that is a big concern for me,” Fahey said. “You secure a rebound then throw the ball to the other team, we can’t have those. Those unforced ones are damaging”

While it was not perfect, it was the second victory for Fahey as head coach. Although unable to implement her fast-paced brand of basketball so far, with a 2-1 record, the Illini are already off to a better start through three games than they were last year.

@MilesP_H

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