Holešínská, Peebles lead Illinois to defeat Austin Peay

By Brendyn Jones and Brendyn Jones

Freshman Jada Peebles and redshirt junior Petra Holešínská combined for 37 points as the Illinois women’s basketball team defeated Austin Peay 76-62. This marks the third win in a row for the Illini to start off the season.

This game was determined by runs, with each team having both scoring droughts and spurts affecting the outcome. Luckily, for Illinois, the team had the final run in the fourth quarter to close out the game.

“We knew it was going to be a fast-paced game, that we had to be able to handle their pressure,” said head coach Nancy Fahey. “They hurt us at times, but I thought we rebounded really well. And also, just contesting that three-point line. So, I thought it was a great game to grow and to get better. So, we love the W.”

Illinois ran away with the first quarter, outscoring Austin Peay 20-2 in the first 10 minutes with senior Ali Andrews and Peebles contributing five points each in the quarter.

The second quarter was where Illinois struggled the most in the game, having a scoring drought that lasted 6:12 right in the middle of the quarter. This allowed Austin Peay to go on a 13-point run and catch up to the Illini. The run was made possible by their aggressive full-court press defense, which, at times, smothered the Illini, forcing them into turnovers. The team totaled 12 turnovers in the first half, with a good number of them coming from the full-court press.

Illinois ended the half only up by five, after leading by 18 to start the second quarter. However, they were able to cut turnovers to seven in the second half, finishing the game with 19.

“After halftime, we just all got together,” said sophomore guard J-Naya Ephraim. “We came together as a team. Everybody was just hyped. And we were like, ‘This is the stuff we practice every day in practice.’ So, we weren’t really worried about (the full-court press).”

The third saw Austin Peay’s deep threat at its best. Coming into the game, Austin Peay was averaging 43.9% from beyond the three-point line. The Illini did a good job of limiting their makes in the first half, holding them at 3-17 from the three-point line. But in the third, Austin Peay guard Maggie Knowles shot 3-4 on threes in the last three minutes of the quarter to keep the team’s deficit to five.

Illinois held them to 9-39 from deep in the game, limiting Austin Peay’s successful strategy they had been using early in the season.

In the final quarter, Illinois held Austin Peay to eight points on a 17.6 field goal percentage, and the Illini put up 17 in the fourth to close out the game 76-62.

Despite the close match, the Illini never trailed in the game. Fahey said the turnovers were a product of Illinois’ resolve.

“When you’re playing a team that does that pressing and it bothers you a little bit, you kind of figure there is going to be a couple of times you might turn the ball over,” Fahey said. “I just think it shows you the resolve. This team is trying to change the mentality, that people can run at you and make runs, but you can fight back.”

Throughout the game, Illinois ran the break well, scoring 27 fast break points in the game compared to Austin Peay’s four.

Peebles continues to impress early in her freshman season, after a rough first game against Chicago State. She registered her second double-digit effort of the season, pouring in 18 points on 7-10 from the field, 2-2 from the three, and 2-2 from the free-throw line. She also played a game-high of 38 minutes for the Illini.

The Illini will be back at State Farm Center on Saturday to host the Redbirds, who are 1-1 on the season with a loss to Marquette.

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