Of course it ends with a blowout loss.
That's typical of this year for Illinois’ major revenue programs. The women's basketball team proved to be no exception, as they were pummeled by Penn State — along with everyone else in the Big Ten — 83-57 in its first game of the Big Ten Tournament last Wednesday.
It wasn't all doom and gloom for this basketball program, however, as there were some truly bright spots that could make some noise in the 2018-19 season.
Alex Wittinger proved to be one of the best players in the country no one has heard of. She finished her magnificent season with 21 points and 11 rebounds against the Nittany Lions, and she tied a program-record with 125 offensive rebounds this season. Wittinger also blocked 75 shots, second all-time in a single season for Illinois.
It's not just her defensive capabilities that impressed, however, as she turned out to be one of the most offensively efficient players in the country as well.
Alex Wittinger ranks in the top 6% in the nation in Off Reb Rate (13%) and 22nd in ORB/Gm (4). She’s also in the top 7% in scoring at 15 PPG #Illini @B1Gwbball @IlliniWBB @NorthstarGH @NorthTartan https://t.co/igfkVs3XBa https://t.co/mYVcsB4UaO— Her Hoop Stats (@herhoopstats) March 6, 2018
This is also a reminder that she's only a junior and will be returning next year to wreak even more havoc on opposing Big Ten defenses.
You can't mention Wittinger without talking about her partner-in-crime all season, Brandi Beasley, who proved this year that she is ready to take the next step as a leader and a scorer for this team.
She also finished the season with 21 points in a losing effort, and although she wasn't quite as consistent as Wittinger, she showed what she can do time and time again as a point guard and a future building block.
This is something Illinois fans should be excited about looking ahead to next year because Nancy Fahey has done a pretty remarkable job recruiting in her first season in Champaign, and these two will be back next season better than ever.
Look out, Big Ten, 'cause the Illini Women are coming. The future is bright. Really.