MADISON, Wis. — The Illinois women’s basketball team won five Big Ten games all of last season.
On Thursday night at Michigan, Matt Bollant’s first Illini team has a chance to win their sixth Big Ten road game.
Illinois on Sunday held off Wisconsin 64-56, its school-record-tying fifth conference road win this season.
“Winning on the road takes a mentality and that’s one of the ways our players have grown a great deal,” Bollant said. “We beat Ohio State — they had won 31 straight at home — and that kind of got our swagger going and we started calling them ‘Road Warriors,’ and you could just see them take that identity on. For us to win five in a row (on the road in the Big Ten) is just huge.”
The Illini can thank Adrienne GodBold, a 6-for-7 showing from the free throw line down the stretch and a defense that held Wisconsin without a field goal for the final 5:49 of the game that helped them allowed them to hold on.
GodBold scored 14 of her 18 points in the first half. The senior also had 13 rebounds (six offensive), six steals and blocked a shot.
Karisma Penn (15), Amber Moore (14) and Ivory Crawford (10) also scored in double figures for the Illini (13-8), who are in a third-place tie in the Big Ten at 6-3.
“Today was kind of a grind-it-out day as our third game in a week,” Bollant said. “Wisconsin is a very physical team that tries to control the tempo, so today was one of those days where you just have to find a way (to win). We lost a couple of those games in the first semester, so for us — for three games in a row now — to step up and make the plays and defend well down the stretch (is great).”
Illinois, which led 34-31 at halftime, forced 27 Badger turnovers — including 15 in the second half — and turned them into 21 points.
“The last two games, we’ve made some adjustments to (the “buzz” defense) late in games that have really helped us,” Bollant said. “We did a much better job of finding their shooters in the second half. And when we did go man, Adrienne got a big steal and layup for us.”
Penn added six rebounds and five steals for the Illini, who get their lone shot against Michigan on Thursday. The Wolverines are 16-5 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten.