The goal of the IU women’s basketball team on Jan. 24 was to win all upcoming home games after a tough road stretch.
The result: four wins in four games.
The most recent was the team’s closeout game against Illinois on Thursday night.
The Illini, who were 0-11 in the Big Ten coming in, brought a lot of physicality onto the hardwood of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Illinois junior forward Alex Wittinger began the game on fire against IU junior forward Kym Royster in the paint. Wittinger had eight first half points compared to Royster’s two.
The second half, however, was a different story.
Royster came out and scored the first five points of the half for the Hoosiers. The Illini then went on an 11-5 run to cut IU’s lead to six and threaten a fifth consecutive win for the cream and crimson.
Then, Royster began to pound the offensive class along with senior forward Amanda Cahill to get their team second chances at much-needed baskets.
Royster and Cahill scored all the Hoosiers’ 14 points in the third — Royster had nine.
The fourth quarter was much of the same for Royster as she scored six of the team’s first nine points to begin the quarter.
At that point the Hoosier lead was up to 13 and IU just had to stay smart in the final five minutes. They did just that and secured the 70-54 victory. Royster finished with 19 points and six rebounds, five of which were offensive.
“I’ve just been trying to make it an emphasis to get us second opportunities,” Royster said. “We’ve been talking about starting and closing quarters better so I’m just trying to do anything I can to help with that.”
It wasn’t just the offensive end of the floor where Royster proved effective.
The aforementioned Wittinger, who was having her way with Royster in the first half, was held to just one point in the second half and fouled out with two minutes remaining.
“She’s very athletic,” Royster said. “I think we did a good job on her in the second half.”
Royster wasn’t the only one guarding Wittinger either. Cahill, who led the Hoosiers with 20 points, also helped shut down Wittinger.
IU Coach Teri Moren said she thought both Cahill and Royster did a good job keeping Wittinger quiet. Anytime Wittinger caught it, Moren wanted her team to crowd her as much as they could.
The last three games Royster has averaged 16.7 points per game after struggling to land in double-digits in the four games prior.
“Kym has regained her confidence that she lacked before we came home,” Moren said. “We were intentionally trying to get to her the ball in the second half after Wittinger picked up her fourth foul. Then, her ability to offensive rebound tonight was huge.”
This win gives IU a 13-12 overall record and has evened their Big Ten record to 6-6 on the season. The Hoosiers will go on the road for the first time in two weeks Monday to play their second game against the Purdue Boilermakers.
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