Wisconsin picks up second conference victory with win over Illinois

Junior guard Suzanne Gilreath will have to shut down Green Bay's backcourt in their game Saturday.

Junior guard Suzanne Gilreath will have to shut down Green Bay's backcourt in their game Saturday.

Image By: Jon Yoon

It’s always a difficult task to win on the road, Big Ten or not. So it must have been a jubilant feeling in the locker room for the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team ( 2-8 Big Ten, 9-14 overall) as they took down the University of Illinois Fighting Illini (0-9, 9-14) 70-61 in Champaign, Ill.

The Badgers’ victory marks their first conference road-victory since March 1, 2015, when they took down the Penn State Nittany Lions 62-56 in State College, Pa.

After a nearly even first quarter that was characterized by rugged shooting, the Illini went on a 10-3 scoring run to extend their lead to 24-16 early in the second quarter. UW, not phased by the adversity at all, however, responded promptly with an 11-3 scoring run of its own to close the deficit to 28-27 at halftime.

In the second half, however, the Wisconsin offense exploded and its defense came through as the Badgers were able to use a strong 22-15 third quarter to grab the lead and fended off any chances of a late Illinois comeback with a narrow 21-18 fourth quarter to coast their way to their second Big Ten victory of the season.

UW was led by sophomore guard, sixth man, Suzanne Gilreath, who scored a career-high 27 points shooting 9-of-14 from the field and set another career high by converting on seven of her 12 three-point field goal attempts.

The Illini defense kept Wisconsin stars Marsha Howard and Cayla McMorris in check as they made it tough for UW to score. But Gilreath stepped up coming off the bench as her three 3-pointers in the third quarter with both Howard and McMorris out of the game with foul trouble helped the Badgers achieve a 49-43 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Outside of Gilreath’s eruption, UW had a balanced attack on offense as sophomore forward Courtney Fredrickson was second on the team in scoring with 10 points and seven rebounds, while graduate senior center Kendall Shaw, freshman point guard Niya Beverley and McMorris paced the Wisconsin offense with nine, eight and eight points respectively.

In the first half, Beverly appeared to have sustained a serious knee injury but was able to return to the game to help spur a 7-0 Badger scoring run to put them up 36-33 midway through the third quarter.

UW did the best it could to limit star Illini player Alex Wittinger who finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Ultimately, Wisconsin prevailed in outshooting the Blue and Orange 40.4 percent from the field to 32.8 percent as well as outrebounding the Illini, 44-32. That makes a great recipe for victory.

The Badgers return home to the Kohl Center for a Wednesday night showdown against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at 7 p.m.

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