It was the same story, different verse for the Illini Women's Basketball team this weekend. It was the Alex Wittinger and Brandi Beasley show once again as the duo provided most of the scoring in two lopsided losses.
Game one on Thursday against No. 15 Maryland to open Big Ten play for Illinois was brutal from start to finish. The Terrapins notched 100 points — Maryland's third-straight game scoring 100 or more — on their way to a 35-point rout.
In all honesty, the 100-65 score probably could have been more, as Maryland started subbing in around the third quarter and let its foot off the gas.
The Terrapins, led by Kaila Charles (24 points) and Blair Watson (22), played an extremely efficient offensive game, shooting 48 percent from the floor (42 percent from 3), and outrebounded Illinois by 20.
For Illinois, Alex Wittinger (12 points and 10 rebounds) and Brandi Beasley (16 points in 31 minutes) again led the charge for an Illinois team that is struggling mightily against top competition.
Beasley is a bonafide star right now, and Wittinger is a force down low, but the biggest detriment to Illinois' game are two-fold: lack of overall size in the middle (despite Wittinger being a solid post player) and, most importantly, no contributions from the bench.
Ali Andrews and Petra Holesinska have added some moments here and there, but not nearly enough.
Which leads us to the second of two losses, as Sunday's loss to Northwestern showed us exactly why first-year head coach Nancy Fahey has her work cut out for her going forward.
A fairly even matchup on paper, both teams exchanged blows in an ugly, turnover-filled first quarter where the Wildcats took a 12-9 lead. The second quarter proved to be the difference in the game, as Northwestern outscored Illinois 23-12 on it's way to a 74-59 victory. The scoring for the winning squad was led by Abi Scheid, who poured it on with 20 points and was joined by her teammate Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah (great name!) with 16.
For Illinois, it was deja-vu, as Brandi Beasley led the team with 19 points, followed closely by Wittinger with 16. Holesinska added 12 points, but no other Illini finished in double digits, and again they were outrebounded (34-29).
The lone bright spot was Wittinger's three blocks, giving her 165 for her career, passing Lacey Simpson for third on the Illinois’ all-time blocked shots list.
Better times are sure to be had, but right now it's a rough go for the Illini.
Illinois returns to the court Wednesday in Piscataway against Rutgers.