Early turnovers doom women’ basketball team to 8th straight loss

By By: Stephen Bourbon

The Illinois women’s basketball team couldn’t snap its eight-game losing streak against Indiana, even with a career performance off the bench from forward Nia Oden.

The Illini (9-18, 2-12 Big Ten) got a career-high 10 points from Oden but still lost 79-61 to the Hoosiers (18-9, 5-9 Big Ten) on Saturday.

In the team’s previous game against Michigan on Feb. 16, guard Taylor Tuck set a career high with 18 points off the bench. While the Illini are getting strong individual performances, head coach Matt Bollant said the team needs to improve as a unit.

“I was really proud of Nia, she played with a lot of energy. She gave us some life, which is what we’re looking for,” Bollant said. “But we need more basketball players, you’re just not going to win on the road with only one or two (players) playing well. We needed a lot more, and we didn’t get it tonight.”

Larryn Brooks had 20 points and nine assists for Indiana, and senior Simone Deloach added 14 points and eight rebounds in her final home game for the Hoosiers. Indiana leads the conference with 7.6 3-pointers per game and showed that prowess Saturday. The Hoosiers drained nine shots from behind the line and finished at a sizzling 57.7 percent from the field for the game.

“We just didn’t get enough stops,” Bollant said. “We’re fairly athletic, we’re just not very proactive. We really struggle to see what’s happening in front of us and then we’re a step behind a lot. They’re trying to hustle and trying to play with energy, but we just don’t see the play a step ahead of time and that really hurts us.”

The Hoosiers jumped on the Illini right out of the gate, opening up the contest on a 20-5 run. Illinois pulled within eight with less than four minutes remaining in the half, but Indiana closed on a 13-4 run to push the lead to 43-26 going into the break.

A catalyst to the Indiana offense was forcing Illinois turnovers and turning them into points. The Illini coughed up 13 turnovers in the first half and the Hoosiers converted them into 24 points. Other than guard Sarah Hartwell, every Illinois player that saw action in the first half turned the ball over at least once.

“It was one or two for everybody, we just kind of took our turns,” Bollant said. “We had done a pretty good job of taking care of the ball, but that really hurt us in the first half. We only scored 26 points but could’ve been 35 or 40 if we had taken care of the ball.”

In the second half, Illinois could never close the gap to single digits, and Indiana snapped its three-game losing streak.

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