CANCUN, Mexico — In Matt Bollant’s brief tenure as Illinois women’s basketball coach, his Illini have displayed an uncanny ability to bounce back quickly from losses.
Illinois did so again Friday afternoon, recovering from a 24-point beatdown one day earlier to handle Arkansas State 70-54 in the Cancun Challenge.
“We were a lot more aggressive (Friday) and more confident,” Bollant said. “We weren’t ourselves (Thursday). A lot of that was Arizona State, who showed it (Friday) by knocking off a ranked North Carolina team. We were more ourselves and defended a lot better (Friday) for 40 minutes.”
With the win, Illinois improved to 12-3 under second-year coach Bollant in games following a defeat. That mark includes a 2-0 ledger this season.
The Illini clung to a 29-28 halftime lead before racking up 41 points in the second half to pull away. The UI defense did its part, too, limiting the Red Wolves to six field goals and 26.1 percent shooting in the second half.
Illini junior guard Ivory Crawford scored 20 points, the fifth 20-plus game of her career. She also contributed six rebounds and four assists with no turnovers.
“Ivory Crawford was great throughout,” Bollant said. “We need to see this Ivory on a consistent basis. ... She just took care of the basketball and gave us another handler.”
Teammate Amber Moore scored 13 of her 17 points in the second half. Alexis Smith, making her first start after missing the Illini’s first five games with an ankle sprain, went 6 for 9 at the foul line and scored 10 points.
UI freshman Jacqui Grant kept her seasonlong double-figure scoring streak alive with 11 points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds before fouling out with about three minutes remaining.