The Daily Illini

Illini fall to Minnesota, go winless in the Big Ten

Despite a game-changing third quarter, Illinois still turned up empty-handed against Minnesota Sunday afternoon in a 84-75 battle on Senior Day.

The Illini ended their regular season 0-16 in the Big Ten and are now 9-21 overall going into the Big Ten tournament Wednesday. According to coach Nancy Fahey, the Illini may have fallen short today, but they made significant improvements all season.

“It was a close one today, but we spent time this entire season making improvements,” Fahey said, “We aren’t where we want to be, but we fought hard today.”

Senior guard Kennedy Cattenhead cut off Minnesota’s early 5-0 run in the first quarter with about seven minutes on the clock. Junior forward Alex Wittinger helped in a scoring run to inch the Illini closer to the Gophers’ early lead.

Fahey said that the approach to match against Minnesota was different than previous games.

“We came out slow but ended up fighting a lot harder and getting our shots in by the fourth,” Fahey said. “We got tripped up by fouls and ended up coming up short trying to make-up on offense.”

Minnesota picked up four quick points in the second quarter, but Illinois responded with a five-point run to make the score 27-19 in the first few minutes. The Illini gained momentum with the help of freshmen Addaya Moore and Jnaya Walker. Moore snagged three rebounds within her first three minutes on the court, while Walker collected four.

Minnesota out-rebounded Illinois 31-21 in the first half. The Illini went 3-for-14 from the three-point line against the Gophers that went 5-for-19, and Illinois also out-performed Minnesota from the free throw line, going 11-36 against 9-36 on Minnesota’s side.

Fahey said that the second half showcased things that Illinois couldn’t execute as well in the beginning of the season.

“The second half was strong,” Fahey said. “It just shows you that this program is capable of things at the next level.”

Illinois stretched their lead 48-41 with a jumper from Cattenhead that was met with another three-point jumper from Wittinger. But despite the significant scoring run, Illinois felt pressure from Minnesota with about two minutes left in the quarter. The Gophers snuck in with the late run, tightening the score to 55-53 to start the fourth.

Illinois would lose its lead scorer with about six minutes left on the clock – Wittinger collected her fifth foul with 20 total points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal.

With 45 seconds left in the contest, sophomore forward Ali Andrews knocked down a three-pointer with an assist from Rice, helping the Illini inch closer to Minnesota 79-72.

But despite the effort to battle back, Illinois fell short against Minnesota. Wagner knocked down two final free throws, sealing the Illini’s fate to an 84-75 result against the Gophers.

Illinois was able to hold Minnesota within one point of its season average of 85 points-per-game. The Illini went 28-for-70 from the floor and 10-for-26 from the arch. Overall, Minnesota out-rebounded Illinois 53-36 and had fewer fouls, collecting only 13 to Illinois’ 26. Each team collected seven steals apiece.

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