Illinois WBB Falls at Rutgers

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Piscataway, N. J. - Fighting Illini women's basketball dropped a hard-fought contest at Rutgers on Wednesday (Jan. 13), falling to the Scarlet Knights, 67-54. The Illini fall to 7-9 on the season and 0-5 in Big Ten Play. The Scarlet Knights improve to 3-2 in league play. Redshirt senior Kyley Simmons knocked down five three-pointers in the game, the seventh time this season she's made three or more treys in a game for the Orange and Blue.

"I give credit to Rutgers, they've got a really good defensive team. We just needed to make some more shots in that first half," head coach Matt Bollant said. "We got some open threes and some touches inside, but we just didn't finish. Part of that was Rutgers. They're really good defensively."

The Scarlet Knights came out tough on defense, limiting the Illini to just nine first-quarter points. A three-pointer at the buzzer gave sophomore Chatrice White the team lead with seven points in the period, but Rutgers had taken a 20-9 advantage to start the game. The Illini forced three Rutgers turnovers, but could not capitalize on those. The Scarlet Knights finished the first quarter with a 7-0 run, snapped by White's trey.

Illinois turned up the volume in the second period, almost doubling its first-quarter production. Redshirt senior Kyley Simmons hit two treys in the period, while freshman Jaelyne Kirkpatrick swiped her 17th steal of the season, which resulted in a White layup to cut the Rutgers lead to 10. The Scarlet Knights were strong on the glass, grabbing 20 boards to Illinois' seven in the first half. Five Illini put up points for the Orange and Blue before the halftime break, and Illinois assisted on more than 55-percent of its first-half field goals.

The Orange and Blue continued to spread out the scoring after the break as all seven Illini in the game got on the board before the end of the third quarter. The Illini outrebounded Rutgers 11-10 in the third period of the game, putting the pressure on to close the gap. Freshman Alex Wittinger knocked down back-to-back layups for UI and the Illini held the Scarlet Knights scoreless for more than three minutes at the end of the period, working to chip away at the Rutgers lead. Illinois outscored Rutgers 14-13 in the period, trailing by nine to head into the final period of the game.

"I thought we made a run and had a lot of momentum in the third quarter," Bollant said. "Again, though, we just couldn't quite get that big shot that we needed. I thought Jaelyne {Kirkpatrick} had a good game, three assists and no turnovers. She gave us a lot off the bench. I thought this is the best game that Kyley {Simmons} has played in a while, she knocked down a lot of shots."

The Illini battled through the fourth quarter, forcing three Rutgers turnovers in just the last two minutes of the game. Simmons hit three triples in the final period, and Kirkpatrick added one of her own, but the Illini couldn't overcome the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers shot almost 52-percent for the game, holding Illinois to just over 38-percent. UI was able to force 15 turnovers from Rutgers, while committing just nine of their own to mark the third time this season Illinois has committed single-digit turnovers in a game.

Illinois is back at home on Sunday, Jan. 17, hosting Wisconsin at 2 p.m. The Illini will welcome back all of its campers, and fans can tune into the game on BTN+. Stay tuned to FIGHTINGILLINI.com for all the latest on Illinois women's basketball.

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