LIVE! Rutgers at Illinois women's basketball

LIVE! Rutgers at Illinois women's basketball

FINAL: Rutgers 71, Illinois 60

Illinois will have to wait even longer for its first Big Ten winning streak in four years.

For the third consecutive game, the Illini trailed by double digits at the halftime break. This time, it was due in large part to Rutgers' 23-0 run in the first quarter that buried Illinois into a hole it could never recover from despite a late comeback attempt. 

Illinois (9-6, 1-3 Big Ten) trailed 44-29 at halftime, and the Scarlet Knights (12-3, 4-0) maintained that advantage throughout most of the final 20 minutes.

The Illini received 13 points from Courtney Joens, followed by 10 points from Ali Andrews and eight points from Alex Wittinger.

Arella Guirantes led a balanced Rutgers offense with 15 points.

After 3Q: Rutgers 58, Illinois 41

Momentum has been hard to come by for Illinois. 

The Illini have been unable to string together good possessions on both ends of the floor, which has allowed Rutgers to hold onto its double-digit advantage.

The Scarlet Knights have been aided by 12 second-chance points, helped by a 29-19 rebounding advantage. 

HALF: Rutgers 44, Illinois 29

Illinois will require another second-half comeback to make it two wins in a row in the Big Ten.

The Illini, who were able to cut their deficit to 10 points with 79 seconds remaining in the first half, had some of their momentum stalled by Rutgers finishing the second quarter on a high note on Noga Peleg Pelc's three-pointer and Caitlin Jenkins' layup. 

Illinois trailed by 17 points in the third quarter at Minnesota on Sunday before outscoring the Gophers 37-16 in the final 17:01 to storm back for a 66-62 victory in Minneapolis.

Courtney Joens led the Illini in the first half against Rutgers with seven points, while the Scarlet Knights received 12 points from Arella Guirantes. 

Rutgers 39, Illinois 29, 1:19 second quarter

Courtney Joens has heated up just when Illinois needed her to do so.

Joens' back-to-back three-pointers in the second quarter have cut the Illini's 17-point deficit down to 10. 

Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer decides to call timeout, likely realizing how important the final minute of the first half will be. 

After 1st quarter: Rutgers 28, Illinois 11

Alex Wittinger's two free throws with 3:07 left in the opening period stopped the bleeding, but the damage had already been done.

Thanks to a 23-0 run, Rutgers turned what had been an early  four-point deficit into a double-digit lead.

Illinois never really got a chance to run its offense with six first-quarter turnovers limiting their opportunities on that end of the floor. 

Wittinger scored 4 of the Illini's 11 points. 

Rutgers 13, Illinois 4, 5:32 left in first quarter 

The start was perfect for Illinois, with Brandi Beasley knifing into the paint for a 10-foot jumper and Alex Wittinger spinning around for a hook shot.

Then, the Illini's opportunities dried up on the offensive end, and Rutgers heated up. The Scarlet Knights used a 13-0 run to take a nine-point lead over the Illini.

Nancy Fahey called timeout after Charise Wilson's three-pointer punctuated Rutgers' run. 

Rutgers at Illinois, 7 p.m. today (WDWS 1400-AM)

CHAMPAIGN — Ending an 18-game losing streak? Check. Illinois women's basketball accomplished that feat during its season-opening 88-60 victory over Alabama A&M on Nov. 7 at State Farm Center.

Snapping a 29-game Big Ten regular season losing slid? Check. The Illini did so with a 66-62 win at then-No. 12 Minnesota on Sunday.

Now, fresh off Nancy Fahey's first Big Ten win, the Illini (9-5, 1-2 Big Ten) try to establish their first conference winning streak since 2015 when they host Rutgers (11-3, 3-0) at 7 p.m. tonight inside State Farm Center. 

Illinois gained a huge boost in confidence after Sunday's win, celebrating upon the team's return to Champaign-Urbana late Sunday evening. But, the Illini also want to build off that win

"We have been working hard for a really long time," junior guard Brandi Beasley said Tuesday. "It felt good to finally show people how hard we've been working. That win just meant a lot to us because we know we can compete with these teams and people just don't see us as competitors, as a team that can compete against ranked teams such as Minnesota like we just beat. It feels good to prove people wrong and just show them we've been working."

The Scarlet Knights, who have won six straight games including a 73-65 triumph at then-No. 4 Maryland on Dec. 28, present a unique mix of size and speed.

6-foot-2 forward Stasha Carey (10.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and 6-foot-3 center Victoria Harris (6.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg) patrol the paint, while Charise Wilson (7.8 ppg) and Ciani Cryor (9.8 ppg) offer quickness from the guard position.

What also stands out about Rutgers is its depth, as the Scarlet Knights have 11 players who are averaging at least 10 minutes per game and seven players with 20 or more minutes per game. 

For the Illini, Beasley has been on a roll of late, averaging 13.7 points in Illinois' first three Big Ten games. Her 5.4 assists per game for the entire season also lead the Big Ten.