Illini women’s basketball drops 9th in a row in 72-65 loss to No. 16 Nebraska

The bleeding just won’t stop for the Illinois women’s basketball team.

For the ninth consecutive game, the Illini (9-19, 2-13 Big Ten) have not been able to get a win, this time losing 72-65 to No. 16 Nebraska (22-5, 12-3) on the road.

“I thought it was a good basketball game,” head coach Matt Bollant said. “I’m proud of our team. We asked (the team) before the game to play with heart, play with energy, play with joy and play with enthusiasm, and we did that.”

The Illini lost their lead midway through the first half and never regained it, but stayed within striking distance throughout the majority of the game. The Illinois offense couldn’t get things rolling late, as the Illini trailed by three points with 1:23left in the game. A few missed free throws here, and a few turnovers there gave the Cornhuskers a two-possession lead with little time remaining, sealing Illinois’ fate.

Once again the Illini had trouble stopping their opponent’s post player, this time being senior forward Jordan Hooper. Hooper showed her all-around offensive game by hitting five 3-pointers en route to scoring 29 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Illinois’ scorers Ivory Crawford and Amber Moore combined for 32 points, but took 34 shots combined. Freshman guard Taylor Gleason had one of her best games as an Illini, as she scored 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go along with six assists, three rebounds and two steals.

“Jordan Hooper is a great example of what college athletics is all about,” Bollant said. “What an unselfish kid and great teammate. … Jordan Hooper deserves to have every great thing happen to her. … I think she’s as valuable to her team as anybody.”

Illinois outplayed Nebraska from a statistical standpoint offensively, putting up better team shooting percentages in field goals and 3-pointers, but free throws proved to be the difference between the two teams. The Cornhuskers got to the line 17 times and hit 14 of their shots, while the Illini only hit 3-of-10. Six of Illinois’ missed free throws came in the final 2 minutes, 30 seconds of the game.

Despite the loss, Bollant commended his team’s effort.

“As a young team, sometimes the other teams hit us in the mouth or made plays, and we haven’t always responded the right way,” Bollant said. “Tonight we did. We kept fighting and kept believing. We got down 11 in the second half and got it down to two. I thought we were patient offensively, which we haven’t always been, and I think we did a good job taking care of the ball. … For a young team, I thought we were pretty impressive playing on the road in a tough environment.”

Blake can be reached at [email protected]