Illinois women’s basketball drops fifth straight

Since losing senior leader Ivory Crawford to a knee injury almost two weeks ago, the Illinois women’s basketball team has been in a scoring slump.

Illinois has only cleared 60 points once during its current five-game losing streak, and continued that trend in a 70-57 loss at Michigan on Monday night at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The loss dropped the Illini to 11-9 overall and 2-6 in Big Ten play.  

Sixty points has been a key number so far this season. Illinois has scored more than 60 points in all 11 of its wins.

Illinois ended up outscoring the Wolverines 33-31 in the second half, but a 15-point halftime deficit was too much to cut into.

“Early, they put us in a hole and it took a lot of energy to cut it to 10,” Illinois head coach Matt Bollant said. “Each time we did, they seemed to have a different person make a play.”

The main issue seems to be the inability of Illinois’ other scoring threats to put together solid offensive games on the same day. While Jacqui Grant totaled 17 points in the loss, Kyley Simmons finished with only six, while Amarah Coleman and Brittany Carter were both held to eight.

“We need better guard play; we didn’t get great guard play tonight,” Bollant said. “Certainly Brittany and Kyley are capable, but they didn’t have their best tonight.” 

Illinois has also been having issues with its bench production, which was a theme that continued in Ann Arbor. Illinois scored a total of eight bench points — six coming from rarely used guard, Ashley McConnell, who Bollant said gave the team a great boost coming off the bench.

In addition, stopping Michigan’s offensive attack was no small task. The perimeter and post combo of Katelynn Flaherty and Cyesha Goree both outplayed their season averages. Senior forward Goree averages a double-double, and added another to her season total by pouring in 19 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.

“Goree was really tough to guard and we didn’t do a great job of keeping her from getting touches,” Bollant said. 

Freshman Flaherty scored 21 points in 29 minutes, about six and a half points above her season average coming into the game.

Michigan shot just under 54 percent from the field and the Illini couldn’t stand up to the Wolverines on the glass. After Grant’s 10 boards, the next highest total on Illinois’ side was Chatrice White with six, who leads the team in rebounds on the season. Grant’s 17 points and 10 boards were enough for her second straight double-double. The Wolverines won the rebounding battle by 13, which was aided by the Illini only shooting 21 percent from behind the arc. 

Although it was the fifth-straight loss for Illinois, Bollant didn’t see the game as a completely lost effort.

“We didn’t quit, we stayed with it,” Bollant said. “We’ve had a few (games) where we just haven’t played well in the first half. We have to figure out how to bring that energy and joy and excitement (early).”

Brett can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @BLerner10.