Illinois dominates Merrimack College

Kennedi+Myles+drives+past+a+Merrimack+defender+during+Illinois%E2%80%99+game+against+Merrimack+at+State+Farm+Center+on+Tuesday.

Photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Kennedi Myles drives past a Merrimack defender during Illinois’ game against Merrimack at State Farm Center on Tuesday.

By Brendyn Jones, Staff writer

Freshman Kennedi Myles notched her fourth double-double of the season, as the Illinois women’s basketball team (7-2) hung on to secure a win against Merrimack College 75-72. Myles led all Illini scores and rebounders with 23 and 12 respectively, and her scoring output set a new season-high for the freshman forward.

Throughout the game, Illinois dominated the board against Merrimack. The Illini finished the game with a total of 52 rebounds compared to Merrimack’s 31. This rebounding performance led the Illini to 20 offensive rebounds that turned into 23-second chance points for the team. Senior Ali Andrews contributed 10 rebounds, while sophomore guard J-Naya Ephraim grabbed nine. 

Myles says that physical play and technique lead to offensive rebounds and second-chance points.

“I just knew that they were a shooting team, so just knowing that the ball was going to hit harder off the rim,” Myles said. “Just being physical, making sure we finish high, finish strong. (Denia Davis-Stewart) was long, athletic and a good player. Making sure we ball fake and going up high on her because she’s a very good shot blocker.” 

Even though the Illini out-rebounded the Warriors by a large margin, Illinois’ inability to guard the three, especially in the first half, kept the game close throughout the second half. Merrimack was able to shoot 13-31 from three. Head coach Nancy Fahey talked about how the shots that were made weren’t contested and that contesting shots was a focal point going into the second half. 

The Illini also was not able to shoot the three as well as they usually do. Coming into the game they made eight 3-pointers a game on 38%, but against Merrimack, Illinois shot 3-of-14 from the arch.

Fahey attributed the lack of Illinois 3-pointers to the zone defense that was being played on the Illini but goes on to mention how it created shots in other areas.

“Their zone is more of a spread-out zone, and so what we saw was the middle, by the Big Ten logo, was where we wanted to go because that’s what they were giving us,” Fahey said, “So, the way they bumped down in the corner, you couldn’t get the ball there, but that left them vulnerable right in the middle… The kids really reacted to that well.”

The game also saw the return of Brandi Beasley to the starting line up. Beasley, who is the leading returning scorer from last year, missed the first three games with a concussion and when she returned to playing she played off the bench at first. Beasley scored 10 points on 4-9 shooting with two 3-pointers. 

“It just feels good to be back,” Beasley said. “I’ve been putting in a lot of work. I was kind of frustrated when the incident happened, but it just feels good to be back with my team.”

The team will be back in action on Sunday against Evansville at the State Farm Center. Evansville is 2-5 on the season, with their wins coming against Brescia and Marshall universities. 

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