The Daily Illini

Illinois women’s basketball looking to put it all together against Purdue

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Illinois' Alex Wittinger (35) goes up for a jump shot during the game against Maryland at State Farm Center on Thursday, January 26.

Illinois' Alex Wittinger (35) goes up for a jump shot during the game against Maryland at State Farm Center on Thursday, January 26.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Alex Wittinger (35) goes up for a jump shot during the game against Maryland at State Farm Center on Thursday, January 26.

By Jacob Diaz, Staff writer

For one half of Thursday night’s game, the Illinois women’s basketball’s offense flowed with a speed not seen since its last win — Jan. 15 against Nebraska.

In that victory, Brandi Beasley ran the offense with ten assists, and the Illini had significant scoring from more than two players.

Since that game, though, things have been different for the Illini. The ball wasn’t moving quickly enough, players were taking and missing bad shots, and the players not named Beasley and Alex Wittinger were having trouble getting on to the scoresheet.

But against Michigan, the Illini rediscovered what made their offense tick: ball movement. Starting with point guards in Beasley and Jaylene Kirkaptrick, the team extended possessions and found better shots.

Five Illini finished in double digits in scoring. Ali Andrews had her best offensive performance of the season, and Kennedy Cattenhead returned from the flu.

“(Having Cattenhead and Andrews playing well) helped me a lot,” Beasley said. “It takes the pressure off of me, being the point guard. Not having so much focus on me opens everybody else up, and when they knock down shots the offense spreads out.”

But Illinois couldn’t keep up its shooting pace in the second half, losing 86-70.

However the team will look to continue its offensive streak Sunday afternoon against Purdue.

Purdue is one of the best defensive teams in the conference, allowing only 57.8 points-per-game.

The one place where Purdue’s offense could cause problems to Illinois head coach Matt Bollant’s team is in the backcourt, where guards Ashley Morrissette and Dominique Oden are both averaging double digits in scoring. The Illini struggled to contain the Wolverines talented backcourt Thursday.

“(Defense) is the one area that we have to improve.” Bollant said. “We’re gonna switch up and not just play zone, play a little more man. That was one of the things with our freshman, we just weren’t ready to guard the Big Ten in man, but now we’ve gotten better at practice and we’ll be able to switch it up a bit more.”

The switch to more man-to-man defense could be significant, especially against Purdue. Illinois tried to play zone against Michigan’s backcourt, but gave up open three after open three.

More man-to-man should force Purdue to look inside more, where Wittinger will be lurking.

Wittinger, the conference’s leading blocker, will be looking to rebound from an unusually quiet scoring night against Michigan.

“We didn’t get her enough looks (in the second half)” Bollant said. “They were doubling her a lot, and sometimes she was a little slow seeing the double team, so we didn’t take advantage of that.”

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@Jacob_Diaz31

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