Women's Basketball – Illini Stumble Against Spartans, 63-56

Carter Tallies 19, White 16 in Defeat

 

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Illinois fell behind early and couldn’t overcome the deficit, falling 63-56 to Michigan State at the Breslin Center on Thursday. Brittany Carter had a team-high 19 points and Chatrice White had 16, but MSU’s Aerial Powers had a game-high 33 points and 11 rebounds.

 

The Illini (11-6 overall, 2-3 in the Big Ten) shot just 29.6 percent (21-of-71) and 4-of-21 (19 percent) from three-point range in their second full game without leading scorer Ivory Crawford. MSU (9-8, 1-5) shot 40.8 percent (20-of-49) from the floor and made 18-of-23 (78.3 percent) free throws, making four more than Illinois attempted. The Illini forced the Spartans into a season-high 29 turnovers but MSU out-rebounded UI by a 50-33 margin.

 

“We just dug ourselves too big of a hole in the first half and couldn’t overcome that,” Illinois head coach Matt Bollant said. “It took us too long to be the most aggressive team. I thought we were that in the second half, but we were never able to get over the hump. We were plus-16 in turnovers but just didn’t hit enough shots to make them count.”

 

The Illini started cold from the floor, missing their first six shots before Brittany Carter drove the lane for a layup to pull within 4-3 of MSU. But the Spartans scored the next 11 points to open a 15-3 lead at the 10:50 mark.

 

That’s when Illinois snapped to attention as Carter drew a foul and made both free throws, then drove inside for another layup. Carter then stole it and found Simmons for a three-pointer on the left wing. After a Spartan layup, Simmons drove right side and found an old-fashioned three-point play to pull within 19-13 at the 7:48 mark.

 

The Illini got within 24-19 after Grant stole a pass and tossed it ahead to Coleman for an easy layup, but MSU scored four straight points to go back up nine, 28-19. Chatrice White got her lone bucket of the first half when she slipped to the rim off a screen, but the Spartans scored the final nine points of the half – finishing the first 20 minutes on a 13-2 run – to lead 37-21 at the break. Illinois missed its last four shots of the first half, committed a turnover and didn’t get a shot off before the buzzer in the final 2:30.

 

A trey by MSU’s Aerial Powers pushed the Spartan lead to 40-21 but that’s when the Illini asserted themselves, going on an 11-0 run to pull within eight. Chatrice White made a nifty move inside for a layup, then Grant stole it and Simmons took it all the way in for a layup, drawing the foul and converting the three-point play.

 

After a couple of empty possessions each way, White drew a foul and made both free throws, then Simmons got a rebound and found Carter for a layup on the fast break. After a White steal and Carter pitched ahead to Grant for a layup, the Illini pulled within 40-32 at the 14:04 mark, forcing an MSU timeout.

 

MSU got a layup after the timeout, but White got her own layup and put it in, drawing a foul on Powers and finishing the three-point play. The teams traded buckets then MSU went back up nine on a Becca Mills jumper on the baseline. But Carter responded with a trey from the right corner, pulling Illinois within 46-40 at the under-12 media timeout.

 

The Spartans scored the next four points to stretch their lead to 50-40, but the Illini hung in with layups by Grant and Coleman sandwiched around an MSU bucket. The teams traded baskets with MSU going back up 10 on a Powers layup, 56-46. Carter drained a trey from the left corner with 4:56 to go, pulling Illinois within seven. Carter got a steal before the final media timeout but the Illini missed three layups on the other end.

 

But White fouled Powers on a three-pointer in the left corner and she made two of the three free throws, pushing the MSU lead back to nine at 58-49. After three empty Illinois possessions, Powers drew a foul and hit two more free throws. White drained a three from the right wing, pulling the Illini within 60-52 with 40 seconds left. But MSU salted the game away at the free throw game, hitting 3-of-4 in the final minute to finish the 63-56 victory.

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