The Daily Illini

Women’s basketball seaches for first Big Ten win

By Meghan Rest, Staff writer

Silencing the thunder of Ohio State, senior guard Kelsey Mitchell might be the trick to picking up Illinois first conference win of the season.

The Illinois women’s basketball team will host no. 16 Ohio State Tuesday night for the first time this season. So far, the Illini have come up empty handed in the Big Ten. But according to coach Nancy Fahey and senior forward Ali Ball, if the Illini hone in on some of the Buckeyes’ key player, they might have a chance to topple a top-25-ranked team.

Mitchell is one of the Buckeye’s offensive cornerstones. This season she reached 3,000 total points scored and was named a finalist for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Nancy Lieberman Award for the fourth year in a row. Mitchell has highlighted this season by netting an average 35-points-per game shooting about 49 percent from inside the arch.

Fahey said that while Mitchell has a huge target on her back, several other Buckeyes are capable of producing similar scoring averages. Senior guard Asia Doss has averaged 34 points-per-game so far this season, along with fellow senior Linnae Harper who nets an average of 31 points-per-game. Junior guard Sierra Calhoun is trailing them with about 29 points-per-game.

According to Fahey, the Illini are anticipating the defensive challenge OSU presents.

“We’re gonna scheme accordingly,” Fahey said. “You just can’t turn the ball over. If you turn the ball over and let this be an up and down game, I think that’s where they really win.”

Mitchell and company are known to be lethal from the three-point line, Fahey said. But managing the basketball well around the arch should held hinder scoring for the Buckeyes.

“(You have to) take care of the basketball and get them in half-court situations,” Fahey said.  “Scheme how you’re gonna scheme and obviously (Mitchell) has a step-back three that so far no one I’ve seen has been able to defend.”

Ohio State is coming to Champaign off of an 84-65 loss to Southern Florida. According to Ball, Southern Florida edged Ohio State in a rebound battle. The Buckeyes snagged 26 boards, while the Bulls tallied 46.

“We need to shoot the ball well and rebound definitely,” Ball said. “Defensively and offensively. That was a big key for South Florida, is that they out-rebounded them by 20.”

Ball also noted that putting brakes on Mitchell would be crucial to winning, but there basketball isn’t an individual sport. The Illini will have to do more than just watch OSU’s veteran guards.

“Obviously they’re really athletic, but we need to definitely bring that offensive rebounding mindset to it and run the ball,” Ball said.

Picking up a win against Ohio State would be a drastic shift in the tides for Illinois. With no Big Ten wins in over a year, Ball says that snagging a victory over a ranked-team would be a sweet way to pick up their first win.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for us, obviously they’re a really good team,” Ball said. “I mean anything can happen, that’s the beauty of the game. First Big Ten win, I mean that’s been the goal since the beginning of January, I think everyone wants that more than anything at this point now.”

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