Almost halfway through a six-game homestand, the Illinois women’s basketball team is on a two-game win streak after defeating Indiana State University on Wednesday night 75-57.
Coming into the night, Illinois had a perfect (4-0) home record, while Indiana State had a perfect (4-0) road record. The Illini went into the contest knowing they had strong competition ahead of them.
“What a game, I have a lot of respect for Indiana State,” said head coach Nancy Fahey. “They were running some good action. We had to make some adjustments to find ourselves defensively.”
Illinois’ victory was once again led by senior Alex Wittinger, who recorded 18 points followed by graduate transfer Sarah Shewan’s 17 points, her season best. Wittinger also had an impact defensively, with five blocks and seven defensive rebounds, eight total on the night.
Juniors Brandi Beasley and Cierra Rice joined the pair, scoring in the double digits with 14 and 10 points, respectively. Beasley also recorded five assists and five rebounds on the night. The point guard highlighted her abilities all over the court, being the driving force for the Illini’s offense.
“I have to hand it to my teammates,” Beasley said. “I had people helping me bring the ball up the court, so for them to be able to take pressure off of me actually helps. So, I feel like it wasn’t just me that had to stay poised and composed; it was a team effort.”
While Beasley credited the team for her performance, Wittinger acknowledged the growth in Beasley’s game.
“(Beasley) does a really good job on staying composed and making sure we’re in what we need to be in, as well as facilitating the ball,” Wittinger said. “She’s gotten better at knowing when to take her shot and knowing when to dish it out, which is something I’ve seen an improvement in and it’s been awesome to watch.”
After Illinois scored the first four points of the game, Indiana State fought back and kept the first quarter close. Both teams traded leads in the first quarter, but Illinois hit three shots from three-point range in the last few minutes to create a one-point lead going into the second quarter.
The Illini took control in the second frame, shooting 67 percent led by a 12-2 run toward the end of the half at 41-32. Shewan put up six points in the quarter, going 4-4 from the free throw line, her second-consecutive perfect free throw performance.
To start the second half, both teams came out strong on defense. Illinois was held to 13 third-quarter points while Indiana State only managed to shoot 28 percent.
With a seven-point lead going into the final quarter, Illinois took over the momentum to close out the game. Illinois held Indiana State to just 10 points and 23 percent shooting and used a 9-3 run to end the game.
Illinois’ victory was fueled by a defense starting to come together, according to Fahey. The Illini outrebounded Indiana State (31-29), the seventh opponent Illinois has outrebounded this season.
“Offensively, I think we only had 13 turnovers and 14 assists, that’s always a good thing, and we did the out-rebounding, which is one of our goals,” Fahey said. “I’m really pleased with how we finished.”
The Illini will be back at State Farm Center after a weekend break to host Murray State next Tuesday at 7 p.m.
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