Illini women’s basketball’s Hartwell benched

When Illinois women’s basketball coach Matt Bollant said he’d consider re-managing his team’s minutes after a 77-58 home loss against Indiana on Feb. 2, he meant it.

In the previous two games, Bollant gave big opportunities to a plethora of players with little experience, specifically freshmen Taylor Gleason, Ashley McConnell, Sarah Livingston and junior Nia Oden. Most of the team’s feature players haven’t taken too big of a hit to their minutes leading up to the Indiana game, with the exception of sophomore guard Sarah Hartwell.

Hartwell has been noticeably absent in the Illini’s past two games, as she has played a combined three minutes after beginning the season as a starter and regularly logging upwards of 25 minutes per game.

Bollant said he thought Hartwell did not give the team the boost of energy it needed when she came off the bench for two minutes against Indiana, nor was she “giving to her teammates” while sitting on the bench.

Hartwell could be the shot of offense Illinois desperately needs right now. Hartwell has showed promise on the offensive end, especially in the early stages of the season. She scored in double digits in the team’s first four games of the season. Her offensive decline came shortly after the return of junior guard Alexis Smith, who resumed ball-handling duties from Hartwell. In the team’s last two games with little play from Hartwell, the Illini averaged 57 points per game. Winning games isn’t easy in the Big Ten if a team can’t crack 60 points easily.

 

McConnell still finding herself on offensive end

It may take a few more games for guard Ashley McConnell to adapt to the college level. The freshman has struggled on the offensive side of the ball since Bollant decided to put her in the starting five. McConnell played a staggering 53 minutes in the team’s past two games after having played only 42 minutes combined in the team’s other 22 games. McConnell has been one of the contributors to Illinois’ offensive struggles as of late, as she has yet to record a point during live ball play. She scored her first college points against No. 24 Michigan State on three made free throws but has shot 0-of-12 otherwise.

“I think Ashley is going to make some of those shots,” Bollant said. “She’s a good shooter; I think she’s going to make some more.”

 

Grant remains out

Freshman Jacqui Grant, who recently emerged as a pivotal player for Illinois, will miss the Illini’s game on Feb. 13 at Iowa. Grant contracted mono a week ago and has missed the team’s last two games. The forward is third on the team in scoring at 13.4 points per game, second in steals (2.0 per game), first in rebounds (6.0 per game) and first in blocks (1.5 per game).

Blake can be reached at [email protected]