Illinois drops both Big Ten weekend matchups
January 29, 2019
The Illinois women’s basketball team continued its Big Ten losing streak Sunday as the team was defeated in its second matchup of the season against Northwestern by a score of 64-56.
Coming into the game, the Illini were on a five-game losing streak after dropping the contest against Michigan State. The Illini have played the Wildcats earlier this season in Evanston, where they lost 68-45.
The Wildcats came into the State Farm Center Sunday with the best scoring (57.1 PPG) and field goal percentage defense (35.2 percent) in the Big Ten.
The loss served especially tough to swallow, as the Illini held the lead for most of the game.
“Boxing out is something we talk about all the time,” said guard Brandi Beasley. “Today, it was terrible, to tell it how it is. That’s pretty much what cost us this game because we had the lead. Second and third chance opportunities put them back in the game.”
The Illini showed up in spurts throughout the game but failed to close out the game come crunch time.
In the first quarter, the Illini started hot as they capitalized on easy transition opportunities and were able to convert on tough shots. After being honored pre-game for reaching 1,000 career points, Beasley came out ready to play as she highlighted the first quarter with a coast-to-coast play that ended with a pull-up jumper in transition. The Illini shot 53 percent from the field while holding the Wildcats to just 33 percent, ending the first with an 18-14 lead.
“Just watching film helps me mentally. I feel like it helps see what’s open on the floor and understand how their defense plays,” Beasley said. “I actually sat down and watched film by myself before the game today.”
As the second quarter began, there was no shortage of defensive plays.
The two teams both played scrappy defense by drawing blocking and hand checking fouls, which gave the refs a busy second quarter. The Illini only trailed for 12 seconds the entire first half, a strong offensive effort after failing to lead at all during their last game at Michigan State.
Both teams also cooled off shooting, as the Illini shot 38.5 percent from the field while the Wildcats only shot 31.4 percent. The Illini ended the first half with their first lead against a Big Ten opponent all season up 34-25.
To start off the second half, the Wildcats rallied hard to get back into the game. With the Illini getting baited into shooting fouls, the Wildcats began to chip away at the lead. Nonetheless, the Illini stomped out the momentum with a flashy play of their own. Beasley showed out in the third quarter as she made another highlight play by taking a steal coast-to-coast and finishing it off with a crafty Euro-step that sparked a 10-0 run. However, Northwestern drilled a buzzer-beater three to end the quarter and swing the momentum in its favor despite the 51-40 Illini lead.
“I feel like I did a great job starting off, pushing tempo, keeping my team aggressive and looking for my teammates to get them good looks,” Beasley said.
In the final quarter of play, the Illini struggled with foul trouble and grabbing defensive rebounds as the Wildcats clawed back to tie the game halfway through the quarter. As the Illini began to cool off offensively, the Wildcats found their stroke and went on a 16-0 run to give them their first lead of the game. The Illini began to fizzle in the fourth as they failed to score a basket until there were two minutes left and ended the quarter shooting just 10 percent. The Wildcats continued to extend the lead and topped off the comeback with a 64-56 victory.
“It was a message of the boards,” Fahey said. “They had 21 second-chance points. It was a barrage in the third and fourth quarter. I just shot them straight, that’s what the message was. It was a winnable game if we boxed out.”
Next on the docket for the Illini is a road trip to Columbus as they take on the Ohio State Buckeyes on Thursday.