Illini leave it to Beasley in win over Indiana State

Illini leave it to Beasley in win over Indiana State

CHAMPAIGN — A composed Brandi Beasley was a good Brandi Beasley for the Illinois women's basketball team on Wednesday night.

The Illini had to make quick decisions against Indiana State, which pressured Illinois for much of the first half during its eventual 75-57 nonconference victory over the Sycamores in front of 981 fans at State Farm Center.

And Beasley often made the right call.

The 5-foot-6 junior point guard's take to the basket jumpstarted a key late second-quarter push that afforded the Illini (6-2) some breathing room entering the locker room at halftime.

With Indiana State (4-3) pestering Illinois, resulting in five first-half turnovers, Beasley slashed into the lane and scooped in a layup while drawing contact from Tierra Webb, who was judged to be inside the restricted circle underneath the basket.

A vehement protest from Sycamores coach Vicki Hall ensued, but to no avail as the officials agreed on a blocking call against Webb.

A 14-2 run over a stretch of four minutes and 12 seconds, which included four points from Beasley, helped buoy the Illini to a 41-32 advantage at the break after the hosts shot 59.3 percent in the game's opening 20 minutes.

Beasley has "gotten better at knowing when to take her shot, and knowing when to dish it out," said senior Alex Wittinger, who led Illinois with 18 points. "That's an improvement that I have seen in her. That's been awesome to watch."

Beasley supplied 14 points and five assists, with Illinois also receiving contributions from the likes of Sarah Shewan (17 points) and Cierra Rice (10 points). Wednesday night's win is the second in a row for the Illini, who get a five-day break before hosting Murray State at 7 p.m. next Tuesday.

"I was actually just talking to my coaches (before the game) about being able to find that balance between setting my teammates up to score and hunting my shot," Beasley said. "I feel like it wasn't just me that had to stay poised and composed. It was a team effort."

While Illinois struggled to find its rhythm in the third quarter, mostly as a result of six turnovers, the Sycamores climbed back into the game, cutting the Illini's lead down to three points.

Still, Illinois had an answer, and it came mostly by scoring inside the paint. Wittinger found space along the baseline and made three consecutive jump shots, and Shewan added a layup of her own.

The Illini, who were fresh off back-to-back overtime games, including a 72-66 home triumph over Eastern Michigan last Saturday, made sure Wednesday's game was free of late drama.

With Illinois leading by seven entering the final period, backup point guard J-Naya Ephraim, who spelled Beasley, swiped an errant pass from Tamara Lee and took it the other direction for a fastbreak bucket.

Illinois eventually pulled ahead 65-51 after Rice drained a three-pointer and Beasley hit a layup with 5:45 remaining in regulation.

Indiana State keeps "you off balance all the time," coach Nancy Fahey said after her Illini posted 13 turnovers against 14 assists. "We made some good adjustments, and finally found our place defensively. I was really pleased with how we finished it."