CHAMPAIGN – Fighting Illini women’s basketball defeated the Murray State Racers on Tuesday night, 84-52. Senior Alex Wittinger led Illinois with 22 points on 11-of-13 shooting from the field, also pulling down a team-leading seven rebounds. She was joined in double-figures by freshman Mackenzie Blazek, who recorded a season-best 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting. Freshman Arieal Scott and junior Ali Andrews also added 11 and 10 points each, respectively. Illinois assisted on 66-percent of its field goals on the night as 11 different players dished one or more dimes in the game. The Orange and Blue improve to 7-2 on the season and will host SIUE on Saturday at 6 p.m.
“Good game tonight,” said head coach Nancy Fahey. “I was really pleased with the 23 assists. I just think that shows the identity of this team, sharing the ball. I also think we took steps defensively; we’ve been trying to increase our defensive intensity and play 40 minutes, and I thought they did a good job with that. I think we took some steps forwards tonight.”
Illinois played tough defense right off the bat on Tuesday evening, holding the Racers without a field goal for more than six minutes to start the game. Illinois pulled out to an 8-0 lead during that span. Wittinger and Andrews combined for eight of Illinois’ 14 first-quarter points on Tuesday, and junior Courtney Joens grabbed four rebounds in the first frame for the Illini.
Illinois continued to hold off the Racers, outscoring the visiting team, 28-13, in the second quarter to take a 42-19 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Orange and Blue held Murray State to just 22-percent shooting in the first half of play, also forcing six Racer turnovers. The Illini capitalized with nine points off of turnovers in the first half, and allowed none from Murray State. Seven Illini contributed to UI’s halftime advantage, while eight players dished at least one assist as well.
The Racers pushed back after halftime, working to cut into Illinois’ lead. Murray State capitalized from the charity stripe in the third quarter, making 5-of-6 free throws before the fourth frame. The Racers forced seven Illini turnovers, but the Orange and Blue shot 55-percent in the quarter to maintain their advantage.
The two teams traded buckets throughout the fourth quarter, but the Racers could not catch the Illini. UI’s 32-point margin of victory marks the largest for the Orange and Blue this season, and since earning a 78-41 victory over Rutgers in 2017. Junior Brandi Beasley led the way for Illinois with four assists on the night, while redshirt junior Cierra Rice contributed three dimes to Illinois’ season-high total of 23.
The Illini will host SIUE on Saturday, December 15. Fans who attend Illinois men’s basketball’s 1 p.m. contest can use their ticket stub to attend the women’s basketball game at 6. The Illini will also be offering $3 tickets in exchange for a toy donation, collected on behalf of Toys for Tots of Champaign County.
FOLLOW THE ILLINI
– Illinois defeats Murray State 84-52 Tuesday at the State Farm Center to move to 7-2 on the season.
– Tonight’s win is the largest margin of victory for the Orange and Blue this season and the widest for Illinois since defeating Rutgers 78-41 on January 7, 2017 at the State Farm Center.
– Illinois’ 7-2 record is the best start to the season for Illinois since 2015-16.
– 6-0 is the best start at the State Farm Center since 2014-15.
– UI sent back a season-high eight shots in the contest, led by Alex Wittinger who recorded three blocked shots.
– The Illini tied a season-best with 23 assists and saw 11 different players dish at least one dime.
– Illinois shot 56.5-percent from the field, its second-best mark of the season. The Illini have shot 56-percent or higher in back-to-back games.
– Tonight was the fifth time this season the Illini have had at least four players finish the game scoring in double-digits.
– Senior Alex Wittinger led the Illini with 18 points on 11-13 shooting. The 85-percent clip from the field is the best of Wittinger’s career.
– Freshman Mackenzie Blazek set a new career-best with 10 points, going a perfect 5-5 from the field.
– Blazek also logged a career-high 20 minutes against the Racers.
– This is the 5th double-digit scoring performance of the season for Scott and the fourth for Andrews.
– Redshirt junior Cierra Rice set a new career-best with two blocks.