Illini thankful for perfect 2-0 record over fall break
November 27, 2017
While much of the country celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, the Illinois women’s basketball team celebrated a few wins.
Illinois traveled to the University of New Mexico’s Thanksgiving Tournament last week. The team snagged a 65-59 win over UC-Irvine in its tournament debut, followed by a thrilling 68-67 victory over Wichita State. Illinois is now 5-2 overall.
In its opening game of the tournament — and the first meeting with UC-Irvine in program history — sophomore Brandi Beasley tallied a season-high 16 points and eight assists while junior Alex Wittinger locked down her third double-double on the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds. It marks the 17th of her career.
Overall, the team dropped 15 assists and sunk 16 free throws under a 76 conversion percentage from the line Friday night.
Throughout the showdown, Illinois had a consistent field goal average against UC-Irvine, hitting 75 percent in the first half and just above 76 in the second. However, the Illini sunk three out of 12 3s in the first, while only making two in 10 during the second half.
At halftime, the Anteaters led the Illini in a tight 28-27 battle. Despite a major lead change just before halftime, Illinois had a lethal 10-0 run right at the start of the second quarter. UC-Irvine answered the run with three 3-point goals that narrowed the point gap to one.
During the third quarter, the Illini came out shooting with a 9-0 run, widening their lead to 44-38. Junior Jaelyne Kirkpatrick pumped out five consecutive points in the third, while Wittinger led with six.
The game wrapped up in the fourth with a perfect performance from Illinois at the free-throw line, going six-of-six with seven consecutive points from Beasley at one point in the quarter.
On Saturday, Illinois stole a narrow 68-67 victory that placed the program at 2-1 in total meetings with Wichita State and held the 0-6 team from a single win this season. Sophomore Ali Andrews had a solid performance for the Illini, collecting a whopping 26 points and going 6-for-8 in 3s. The Illini were able to hold onto their slim fourth-quarter lead with a pair of Andrews free throws.
In the first quarter, the Illini got off to a fast start with an 8-2 run. Andrews led the team with eight points as Illinois tied the first period together with 19-14 advantage. The momentum continued into the second quarter. Illinois held Wichita State to nine points against its 14, allowing the Shockers a 29 shooting percentage in the quarter.
It was the third quarter that turned the tides for both teams, however. Illinois felt the pressure from Wichita after a massive 11-2 run that tied the game at 37. Although the Illini narrowly escaped a setback, the Shockers tallied 23 points in the third. The period ended with Illinois holding onto a thin 48-46 lead.
Illinois was barely able to pull away in the fourth quarter. The Shockers muffled an early Illini run, bringing the contest back to a single point difference with about two minutes on the clock. It was back and forth runs until it came down to Andrews free throws that would secure the Illini win.
Overall, Illinois had a 39 percent shooting performance over Wichita State, and went 13-14 at the free-throw line. Illinois tallied 17 fouls, 11 turnovers, two blocks and eight steals.
Illinois is now 2-0 in the tournament.