Illini women’s basketball loses to Indiana

For the fifth consecutive home game, the Illinois women’s basketball team was not able to close.

Down 17-14 with 14:45 left in the half, Illinois (9-13, 2-7 Big Ten) dug itself into a hole as Indiana (16-6, 3-6) went on a 17-1 run. The Hoosiers never looked back on their way to a 77-58 win. Strong two-way play by junior guard Ivory Crawford helped cut the deficit to 12 at the half, but the Illini were never able to get the deficit back to single digits. 

Crawford recorded 12 of the Illini’s 31 first half points to go with two blocks and four steals. She finished with 16 points, two blocks and five steals for the game.

“In the locker room we talked about giving up 90 points to Ohio State,” head coach Matt Bollant said. “I would hope that our effort and intensity on the defensive end would be really good to start the game … but to give up 34 points in the first nine minutes was really disappointing.”

The second half was no different from the first, as Indiana held Illinois at bay with efficient shooting and outscored the Illini in second chance points. The Hoosiers were able to score 16 second chance points to the Illini’s four.

“Give credit to (the Hoosiers) for a great response,” Bollant said. “You learn a lot about kids in the way they respond. They were disappointed in how they played against Northwestern and they came out today determined to be different.” 

Indiana received a complete team effort in the win, as four players finished in double figures. The Hoosiers exploited the Illini’s lack of size in the paint during man-to-man coverage, feeding senior center Simone Deloach in the post for nine of the team’s 28 points in the paint. When Illinois switched to its “Buzz” defense, Indiana would kick the ball out to one of its 3-point threats in Larryn Brooks, Taylor Agler and Alexis Gassion. The trio combined for 10 3-pointers on the day and 51 of the team’s 77 points. They also shot 50 percent from beyond the arc.

Generating turnovers was once again not a problem for the Illini, as they forced the Hoosiers to cough up the ball 21 times to Illinois’ 12. Cleaning up on the glass, however, proved to be difficult as the Hoosiers nearly doubled Illinois’ output, grabbing 45 rebounds to the Illini’s 26.

“We’ve got to rebound as a team,” Bollant said. “We’re just not big enough to not have five people rebounding, and that hurt.” 

Freshman forward Jacqui Grant, who had been hot offensively, failed to record double digits in points, scoring four points on 2-of-9 shooting and grabbing four rebounds. She had averaged 19.3 and 8.0 rebounds per game in her previous three games entering Sunday. Bollant said after the game that she had been feeling ill coming into the game, but added that “she would be the first one to tell you that there are no excuses.”

When asked about the team’s confidence during the current stretch, senior guard Amber Moore said the team has to stay positive and continue working on defense.

Bollant delved into his bench midway through the second half for a spark and said he liked what he saw and that he would consider redistributing minutes played among the starters.

“We’ve got to think about what’s best for the team,” he said. “The way those five (bench players) ended the game today, I thought that was some of our best defense. Does that make me want to get them back out on the floor as quick as possible? I’m certainly considering that.”

Blake can be reached at [email protected]