CHAMPAIGN, Illinois — With 7:02 remaining in the third quarter, IU found itself leading last-place Illinois by just five points. The Hoosiers had committed four turnovers and missed their first six shots of the second half before sophomore guard Jess Walter hit a jumper for IU’s first points of the half.
It was a fitting moment for the Hoosiers to take a timeout and reevaluate Wednesday’s clash with the Illini, however IU Coach Teri Moren decided to let her team play through a dry spell.
Freshman forward Kym Royster, who has had an up-and-down first season in Bloomington, bailed her team out in the third frame. Royster scored all 10 of her points in the third quarter to lift IU past Illinois, 80-68.
The Hoosiers (16-9, 8-5) led, 62-54 at the end of the third quarter before they opened the final frame on an 17-8 run to pull away from the Illini (8-16, 1-12). IU has won six of their last seven games to seize sole possession of fifth place in the Big Ten.
Royster tallied 10 of IU’s 18 points in the third quarter as the 6-foot-2 forward finished in double figures with 10 rebounds. Wednesday marked Royster’s first career double-double.
“Kym was huge for us,” sophomore guard Tyra Buss said. “She showed a lot of emotion too, which is good. She got those and-ones and it shows how she’s progressing. She’s a freshman, but not really a freshman anymore.”
Buss, Illinois’ all-time leading scorer in high school, finished with a game high 21 points in her first collegiate game inside the State Farm Center. The Mt. Carmel, Illinois, native was held scoreless in the third quarter. Buss also missed all four of her shots to start the second half.
Three of Royster’s four baskets were made while being fouled inside. Royster converted a pair of 3-point plays to keep the Hoosiers afloat in the third quarter.
The freshman has had strong moments this season, particularly in a 17 point, eight rebound outing at Minnesota earlier in the year.
“It just means she listened,” Moren said. “Coach Rhet and I both had her in the office and talked to her about her consistency and how terrific she has been from time to time. There are times where Kym doesn’t show up.”
There have also been games where Royster struggles to find playing time within a crowded rotation. She has been held scoreless in seven games this season.
“It’s been kind of like a rollercoaster,” Royster said. “I haven’t shown consistency. Before this game, I’ve talked with the coaches about my consistency. I think that’s what motivated me tonight to play as hard as I did. I just have to go into every game with consistency.”
The Hoosiers’ win against the Illini was the second road win of the season. IU has had its struggles with playing on the road in the past, but Moren said the team’s first Big Ten road win since 2014 against Northwestern earlier this season gave the Hoosiers confidence.
“This is a group that has a little bit of confidence.,” Moren said. “I think the Northwestern game certainly showed us that we can win on the road, and then we go home and beat two really good teams.”
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