George Washington Tops Illinois 70-57

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CHAMPAIGN -- (FightingIllini.com) Despite battling to the finishFighting Illini Women's Basketball dropped its third consecutive game on Monday afternoon, falling 70-57 to George Washington University in a hard-fought contest. Three Illini scored in double-digits and the Illini forced 25 Colonial turnovers, George Washington's second-highest total of the season. Freshmen Alex Wittinger and Jaelyne Kirkpatrick earned their first-career starts of the season in the game, and Wittinger recorded a career-high four steals to go along with it. Sophomore Chatrice White also earned her fifth-consecutive double-double on Monday, finishing with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

"I was really pleased today, I thought we fought really hard," head coach Matt Bollant said. "I was really proud of our team. We didn't get the result we were looking for but I thought we fought and played as hard as we have played in a while with the energy that we played with on the defensive end. I thought Alex {Wittinger} played really well today, she had 14 points and seven rebounds, she guarded one of the best players and held her to just 3-of-10 shooting and forced five turnovers. Overall, I'm proud of our team for their fight, and we'll get better with our execution." 

Illinois had its hands full on Monday afternoon, as the George Washington Colonials proved to be a tough matchup right from the start. George Washington held Illinois to just one field goal to start the game, going on a 9-2 run to kick things off. Down seven points, Illinois began to chip away at the George Washington lead, coming within one point at the end of the quarter. Kirkpatrick and White sunk back-to-back layups to close the first quarter and keep things close. White led the Illini with seven first quarter points, while redshirt senior Sarah Hartwell also contributed five points for the Illini.

Kyley Simmons knocked down a three-pointer to give the Orange and Blue a lead early in the second quarter. George Washington would not let it stick, however, as the Colonials went on a 10-0 run to regain their lead. The run was snapped with a Hartwell layup, and Simmons followed that up with a three-pointer for good measure. The Colonials worked to extend their lead in the second period, but the Illini battled to stay close. Illinois answered George Washington's buckets in the period and trailed by just five heading into the halftime break. Illinois held the Colonials scoreless for the final three minutes of the 2nd period, forcing five turnovers in that time span. 

The Illini scored 12 points off of 13 George Washington turnovers in the first half of the game, and Chatrice White was already well on her way to her fifth consecutive double-double in the first half as well as she tallied nine points and seven rebounds before the break. Hartwell was also a major contributor for UI as she put up eight first-half points. The total marks the most she has scored since putting up 12 points against Southern Illinois earlier this month. 

Out of the break, Wittinger started the scoring for the Illini, but the Colonials headed out on another run. The Orange and Blue put a stop to that, however, holding George Washington without a bucket for almost three and a half minutes in the third quarter and forcing three turnovers during that time. Illinois came within one point with less then three minutes left, but the Colonials battled to pull away. The Illini forced eight George Washington turnovers in just the third quarter, and the Colonials had committed a total of 22 before heading into the final period. Illinois has forced 20 or more opponent turnovers three times this season. 

George Washington took off at the end of the game, going on a 9-0 run to take an 11-point lead over Illinois halfway through the final period. With White and Wittinger fouling out of the game, Illinois was unable to keep up the scoring late in the game. The Colonials dominated on the boards, outrebounding the Illini 56-35, but the Illini recorded 12 steals in the game while forcing 25 George Washington turnovers in all. Illinois put up 18 points off of those miscues, and scored 34 points in the paint. 

"We're 7-4 this season, but our non-conference strength of schedule is the best it has ever been since I've been here," Bollant said of Illinois' non-conference slate. "Obviously the Big Ten is the best it has ever been, but I do feel like we've played a tough schedule."

The Illini will open conference play on Thursday, Dec. 31 in a 2 p.m. game against Maryland. Fans will receive a free New Year's Eve hat at the game. 

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