CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (UI Release) – Illinois extended its winning streak to four games and earned its seventh-straight victory at State Farm Center with a 78-43 drubbing of Southern Illinois on Thursday. Freshman Jacqui Grant led a very balanced attack with a game-high 15 points, while senior Amber Moore and junior Ivory Crawford each chipped in 14. Freshman Sarah Livingston added 10 points and seven rebounds as the Illini improved to 4-1 on the season.
Illinois has out-scored its opponents by an average of 42.5 points per game during its current four-game winning streak. The victory also marked UI’s fifth in a row over Southern Illinois, although it was only the second meeting between the schools in the 21st century.
“I’m proud of our team, I just feel like we’ve grown,” head coach Matt Bollant said. “In the second half, they made a little run, I think they cut it to 18 or 16, and we called time out and challenge them. We said, ‘You know they’re bouncing around, they’ve got a lot of confidence. We haven’t done that this year where we have really taken away confidence with our defense. Let’s step up and let’s have some good possessions defensively, both in man and buzz, and see if we can take some things away and see if we can dictate.’ And that’s exactly what we did.
“We came out and got some turnovers. It started with Ivory on the defensive end kind of being in the right spot a couple of times and then she had a couple good takes. Then Amber stepped up and made a couple threes in the round and it went from 21 to 29 really fast. I thought that stretch was really important for our team.”
Sophomore guard Sarah Hartwell was a few bounces of the ball away from a triple-double, posting nine points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Taylor Tuck added eight points and nine boards. Moore also grabbed seven rebounds and had three steals, and Livingston added three blocks. In all, six Illini had eight or more points, and seven Illini had at least four rebounds.
Illinois never trailed in the game and led by as many as 39. The Illini had runs of 12-1, 13-0 and 13-0 at different points throughout the game. Illinois out-rebounded the Salukis 56-44 and forced 21 turnovers. Illinois dominated in the paint, holding a 46-22 advantage and out-scored SIU 25-5 off turnovers.
Illinois led 16-7 at the 12:32 mark of the first half before reeling off a 7-1 spurt that put the Orange and Blue up 23-8 with just over nine minutes left in the half. But SIU made a run toward the latter part of the half as the Illini had a few defensive lapses, with the Salukis pulling within 28-21 and forcing an Illinois timeout with 3:51 left.
But the Illini regained their composure and finished the half with a 13-0 run, holding SIU to 0-of-9 from the floor and forcing four Saluki turnovers in the final 3:30 to give Illinois a 41-21 halftime lead.
The Illini extend their lead to 25 on a jumper by Crawford with 13:19, but SIU scored the next five points to get within 53-33 with 12:23 left in the second half. But Illinois scored 13 straight points to pull ahead 66-33 at the 8:53 mark. Crawford scored six of those 13 and Gleason added four, with a trey by Moore accounting for the other three. The Illini led by 30 or more for most of the rest of the game, finishing the 78-43 win by scoring 25 of the final 35 points.
The Illini head to Cancun, Mexico, next week for three games at the Cancun Challenge. Illinois will face Arizona State on Nov. 28, Arkansas State on Nov. 29 and No. 12 North Carolina on Nov. 30.
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