Illini drop third in four games to Georgia Tech

By By: Stephen Bourbon

After cold shooting correlated to losing two of three games in the Cancun Challenge, it was the defense that faltered for the Illinois women’s basketball team on Wednesday at Georgia Tech.

The Illini (5-4) dropped the contest 93-69 and has lost three of the past four games after jumping out to a 4-1 start to the season.

“Our defense and our rebounding is nowhere close to where it needs to be,” head coach Matt Bollant said. “We have to find a way to change that.”

The Illini jumped out to a quick 16-14 lead with less than 10 minutes left in the first half but Georgia Tech went on a run and Illinois never recovered. The Yellow Jackets went on a 19-4 run over a span of six minutes and Illinois would never get the deficit to single digits the rest of the game.

Illinois couldn’t contain Georgia Tech guard Tyaunna Marshall all game, as the senior finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and four steals.

“We kind of let her get going, let her penetrate and got her confidence going and never really slowed her down,” Bollant said. “We talked continuously about keeping her in front of us and playing her to the right and she consistently beat us to her right.”

Jacqui Grant led the Illini with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Ivory Crawford had 14 points and seven rebounds but finished with six turnovers and shot just 5-for-15 from the field. Point guard Sarah Hartwell, playing against her former team, chipped in nine points and five assists, but five of those points came in the final minute with the game all but decided. Hartwell transferred to Illinois from Georgia Tech after playing sparingly in his freshman season.

“I think that was tough for her,” Bollant said of Hartwell’s return to her old school. “I was glad that she made a few shots for us late but she needs to step up and fight and lead us. She’s really athletic and to play that many minutes, she didn’t fight enough either.”

The Illini defense, built around forcing turnovers as Illinois set the Big Ten record for steals last season, forced 15 Yellow Jacket turnovers — well below the Illini’s average of 24 turnovers forced per game.

Georgia Tech also dominated the rebounding margin, earning a 56-44 advantage on the glass. The Yellow Jackets grabbed 27 offensive rebounds, which led to a big advantage in second chance points and points in the paint.

“The offensive rebounding was obviously the difference in the game,” Bollant said. “I’ve coached some smaller teams in the past and been OK. We’ve given up a few, but to give up 27 is way more than we should give up.”

Stephen can be reached at [email protected] and @steve_bourbon.