No. 20 IU women’s basketball did just enough to pick up a road victory over Illinois on Thursday, hanging on late to win 59-54.
The win was IU’s 20th of the season — the fastest IU has ever reached that mark in program history.
“Sometimes all the wins aren’t pretty,” Moren said. “Tonight we’re leaving here with an ugly win. But we’re happy.”
The Hoosiers came out flat and never got their offense going at a consistent rate — a testament to the Illini’s lock-down defense.
Illinois came out confident after its win last time out over Penn State, and it showed. The Illini led most of the first half and carried a 27-25 lead into halftime.
The Hoosiers, who scored 83 points on the Illini on Jan. 5, appeared stumped by the 2-3 zone of the Illini after one quarter of play. The Hoosiers managed just 10 points and turned the ball over eight times, including four straight possessions.
Five of the eight turnovers were credited as Illini steals. The constant disruption forced the Hoosiers out of any offensive rhythm, and they went scoreless for the final 2:53 of the first quarter.
“The turnovers really hurt us in the first quarter,” IU head coach Teri Moren said. “We got out to a fast start but then started giving it to the team in white, which was frustrating.”
It seemed like IU was headed for a critical upset loss when Illinois blew the lead open to 17-10 two minutes into the second quarter. Like most of the night, the Hoosiers were helped by a run that cut the deficit to one before Illinois pushed their lead back out to nine points.
IU finished the half on a 7-0 run to get back within two points and opened up the third quarter on a 9-0 spurt to grab it’s biggest lead of the game.
During those offensive outbursts, junior guard Ali Patberg racked a team high 17 points while sophomore forward Aleksa Gulbe scored 15. Gulbe became a go-to option for IU in the paint, scoring all but one of her points from the post.
It seemed like those efforts would go to waste in the fourth quarter when IU failed to score until the five minute mark. But Illinois did not do much better as that basket at the five minute mark tied the game at 47.
Neither team shot over 40% for the game. Both offenses barely moved along until IU caught a break on a flagrant foul with 3:31 to go.
Illinois junior guard Petra Holesinska was called for a flagrant 1 foul in the fourth with game tied at 49. IU’s junior guard Jaelynn Penn hit two free throws and on IU’s ensuing possession got a layup by Gulbe to go up by four in a matter of seconds.
The four-point swing pushed the Hoosiers in front for good as the game became a free throw contest for the final two minutes.