Illinois women’s hoops downs Valparaiso

By Joey Figueroa

On a record-setting afternoon in Chapel Hill, Indiana, Illinois women’s basketball rode a fast start and hot shooting to an easy 80-58 victory over Valparaiso.

The Illini sank a school record 15 3-pointers, and their 53.6 percent mark from beyond the arc was the second-best mark in school history when Illinois attempts at least 10 shots in a game. Senior guard Brittany Carter led the way on offense for Illinois with 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including a perfect 4-for-4 from 3-point range, to go along with six rebounds and six steals.

Head coach Matt Bollant said he and the coaching staff had a personal talk with Carter earlier in the week.

“Brittany came and talked to us about her role on the team this week, and we told her, ‘Just go be a basketball player,’ and she sure did today,” Bollant said. “It’s great to see us shoot the ball like we did.”

The Crusaders keyed in on freshman center Chatrice White early and limited her to just 11 points on 5-of-15 shooting, but with the way the Illini were shooting the ball from deep, points in the paint weren’t a concern. Eight different Illini made a 3-pointer, including three by junior guard Kyley Simmons to go along with her six assists.

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    “We really came out on edge to start the game and our shots were falling,” Bollant said.

    The Illini set the tone from the opening tip, as senior guard Ivory Crawford nailed a corner three to open the scoring. That would be the beginning of an 18-0 Illini run, and the Crusaders failed to make any significant cuts into the lead for the rest of the game. Illinois extended its lead to as much as 29 in the second half before emptying its bench to end the game with an 80-58 victory.

    Along with its hot shooting, Illinois continued its suffocating defense and held its opponent to under 60 points for the fifth time this season, something it did just five times all of last season.

    Valparaiso didn’t reach double-digits in scoring until 11 minutes into the game and mustered just 19 points in the first half. The Illini pressured the ball early and often and forced 11 of the Crusaders’ 23 turnovers, while holding them to barely over 37 percent from the field.

    It was an all-around effort for the Illini, who even saw solid play from their bench. Senior guard Taylor Tuck had eight points and three assists in just 13 minutes and highlighted a good reserve effort that totaled 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting.

    The Illini will now have about a week off to focus on classes and will have good victory under their belts heading into finals.

    Joey can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @joeyfigueroa3.