Illini women’s basketball seeks consistency in final stretch

Illinois+Ivory+Crawford+goes+for+a+contested+three-pointer+during+the+game+against+Ohio+State+at+the+State+Farm+Center+on+Feb.+14.+The+Illini+won+66-55.

Illinois’ Ivory Crawford goes for a contested three-pointer during the game against Ohio State at the State Farm Center on Feb. 14. The Illini won 66-55.

After a comeback win at Purdue on Saturday, Illinois women’s basketball now sits at 14-14 (5-11 Big Ten). While .500 is a step up from last season, head coach Matt Bollant expected more of his unit. 

With only two games left in the regular season, it’s odd to think that Illinois has been primarily battling one issue since mid-November: consistency. 

Illinois has fought consistency problems in nearly every possible way this season, especially since Big Ten play began, and evident in only one back-to-back win in conference play .

Junior point guard Kyley Simmons is averaging 37 minutes per game and has only missed one game. Simmons was a bit taken aback by the fact that her team has only won two straight conference games once all season, but she wants to use her leadership to make sure the momentum from the Purdue game carries into the rest of the season. 

Inconsistency is most obvious in the win-loss record, but it has also affected Illinois in less obvious ways. Since day one, lack of consistency in the overall playing rotation has been an issue and hard to avoid due to a lack of depth. The Illini had even less depth during a seven-game stretch of conference games when Ivory Crawford, who averages more than 30 minutes of court time a game, was out with a knee injury. 

“We won two early (games) with Iowa and Penn State and then lost Ivory for a while, so I’m hoping now we can be a little more consistent with our best player being back,” Bollant said. 

Aside from lineups, the other major inconsistency has been offensive production, even in the Purdue win when Illinois only had 16 points at halftime. The Illini have only scored more than 65 points in four of their 16 conference contests, only losing one of those four. With her leadership role now even greater, Simmons sees that playing a key role once again, this time on the offensive end. 

“I just need to get us calmer in our offensive, slowing us down a little bit and getting that great shot instead of one pass and throw it up there,” Simmons said. “Me just being the calming effect and keep reassuring my teammates (will help on offense).” 

Bollant hasn’t shied away from acknowledging the lack of consistency in multiple areas of his team’s game at times. However, all it takes late in the season and in the Big Ten tournament is for a team to get hot at the right time. 

“Offensively, we’re looking to be a little bit better, and we had good defensive effort against Purdue and Ohio State,” Bollant said. “So we’re just seeing if we can be a little more consistent.”

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