When Michigan women’s basketball coach Cheryl Burnett reviews film of last night’s game against Illinois, someone may have to tell her which part she’s watching.

Jessica Boullion
Freshman LeQuisha Whitfield and her fellow Wolverines fell to Illinois last night in their conference home opener. (AARON HANDELSMAN/Daily)

The Wolverines had multiple stretches during the game where they couldn’t score at one end or make stops at the other.

Though Michigan put together a few good spurts in the middle of each half, Illinois proved too strong, handing the Wolverines a 70-51 loss at Crisler Arena.

The defeat marked Michigan’s fourth straight, and its 28th consecutive loss in the Big Ten, a streak dating back to the 2004-2005 season.

After a Wolverine basket knotted the score at two, Illinois took the lead and never looked back. The Illini went on a 15-4 run to open play and hit eight of their first 10 shots from the field.

But Michigan quickly turned the tables. Following two Wolverine buckets, sophomore Melinda Queen hit a 3-pointer to bring her team within six, 21-15.

That was as close as the Wolverines (7-9 overall, 0-3 Big Ten) would get the rest of the way.

Illinois (12-3, 2-1) came back to life during the last five-and-a-half minutes of the opening period, scoring on five consecutive possessions going into the break. The Illini held Michigan to one basket during that span, closing the first half on an 11-2 run to take a 35-21 lead.

According to Burnett, her team had more to do with the half’s poor ending than Illinois did.

“Our frustration is that when we get back into a game, our next two or three possessions are possessions where we just put our head down, which is totally opposite of what it should be,” Burnett said. “We want to stay very aggressive, but let’s make sure that we’re making some good decisions once we get back in (the game).”

Michigan looked better in the second half of their Big Ten home-opener, but poor shooting coupled with the Illini’s defensive discipline doomed the Wolverines. Illinois came in committing just 14 fouls a game – good for sixth best in the country.

Last night was no different, and the Wolverines failed to attempt a free throw until minutes into the second period.

Junior co-captain Janelle Cooper said her team must penetrate more to get to the charity stripe.

“I don’t think it was (Illinois) not fouling,” Cooper said of Michigan’s lack of free throws. “I think it was just us not being aggressive. If we were more aggressive, we’d be at the line a lot more.”

But it wasn’t just the free throws. The Illini held the advantage in nearly every aspect of the game. They shot 53 percent (26-of-49) from the floor – nearly 20 percent better than the Wolverines.

Illinois also outrebounded Michigan 40-23.

Still, the Wolverines still had a few bright spots. Freshman point guard Sireece Bass led the team in scoring for the first time, tallying a career-high 10 points.

On the defensive end, sophomore Ashley Jones had a few big blocks, including one that found the front row in the second half.

“We were working really hard at some points, and we got a couple blocks and couple steals,” Jones said. “If we could just do that for 40 minutes, we’ll definitely win ballgames.”

Burnett agreed, but said the Wolverines can’t afford to perform the way they did against a team like Illinois.

“We saw some good signs, but of course it’s not what we need to beat a team that shoots 53 percent for the game.”

Illinois 70
Michigan 51

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