ILLINI FALL TO INDIANA IN OVERTIME THRILLER

by | Dec 30, 2018 | RRSN News | 0 comments

ILLINI FALL TO INDIANA IN OVERTIME THRILLER

CHAMPAIGN – Fighting Illini women’s basketball opened Big Ten play on Friday evening, falling to the Indiana Hoosiers in an overtime heartbreaker, 85-83. The Orange and Blue used a strong third-quarter effort to even the score and pull ahead of visiting Indiana. The Hoosiers fought back to force overtime and earn their first conference victory of the season. Senior Alex Wittinger and junior Brandi Beasley led the Illini with 19 points each, and freshman Mackenzie Blazek grabbed a career-best 10 rebounds on the night. The Illini move to 8-4 on the season and 0-1 in Big Ten play.

“I saw a lot of heart from the kids tonight in coming back,” head coach Nancy Fahey said. “I wish we could have hung onto that better, but the kids fought hard. It’s disappointing because we are a team on the brink of doing some special things, but we have to finish the deal.”

The Illini started the night strong, using a 7-2 run in the first quarter to take an early lead over Indiana. The Hoosiers pushed back, however, capitalizing from three-point range to open play and take a six-point lead into the second frame. Redshirt junior Cierra Rice and senior Jaelyne Kirkpatrick led the Orange and Blue with five points to start the night.

Indiana continued to push before the halftime break, extending their lead to 15 in the second quarter. UI pressured back, however, knocking down seven-straight points to cut into the visitors’ lead. Illinois was 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the first half, and shot 45-percent from the floor to open the game. Beasley led Illinois with 11 first-half points on Friday night, knocking down 5-of-8 from the floor.

The Orange and Blue came out of the halftime break on fire, starting the period on a 10-2 run. UI was tough on defense out of the break, and continued to fight offensively, tying the game at 57 with just over three minutes left in the frame. Indiana fought back, but the Illini capitalized from the charity stripe to end the quarter. Illinois knocked down seven free throws to end the frame, and Beasley capped off the quarter with a layup to give the Orange and Blue a seven-point lead before the final quarter. The Illini shot 73-percent from the field in the third frame, and held the Hoosiers to just 14 points on 33-percent shooting.

The Illini continued to extend their lead in the fourth quarter, using a 6-2 run to pull out to an 11-point advantage. Indiana picked up the pace, however, and worked to use the free throw line to their advantage. The Hoosiers knocked down 5-of-7 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter to cut into the Illini lead. UI continued its tough defense in the fourth quarter, led by Blazek who contributed seven rebounds in the period. Indiana tied things up at 76 with just over two minutes to play, and a free throw put the visitors in the lead. Beasley responded with a free throw of her own to send the game into overtime for the third time this season. Friday’s game marks the first time in program history that an Illini squad has played three overtime contests in one campaign.

The two teams continued to keep things close throughout the overtime period. Indiana struck first in the extra frame, but the Illini scored three-straight points to take back the lead. The two teams traded buckets and kept the score close, but the Hoosiers came out with the victory.

Three Illini scored in double-figures on the night, led by Beasley and Wittinger. Rice closed play with 18 points overall, and knocked down 6-of-7 from the free throw line. The Orange and Blue shot 88-percent from the charity stripe, making 22-of-25 attempts overall. Wittinger and Shewan were among the three Illini that were perfect from the line, knocking down 6-of-6 and 4-of-4 shots, respectively.

NEXT UP

The Orange and Blue will travel North to take on the Wildcats of Northwestern on New Year’s Eve. Tip-off in Evanston is set for 2 p.m. on December 31.

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