ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A hard-fought midweek victory at Northwestern offered the promise of a springboard to better things.
Instead, the Illinois women’s basketball team wasn’t able Saturday to build on its success in Evanston. A Michigan team that dominated on the boards and at the foul line saw to that.
Slumping Illinois was outrebounded by 18 and outscored by 17 on free throws in absorbing a 69-60 Big Ten defeat at Crisler Center. The Illini (8-10, 1-4) lost for the fifth time in their last six games.
“Defensively, I don’t think we played with the energy and enthusiasm that we saw Wednesday at Northwestern,” UI associate head coach Mike Divilbiss said. “I think we continue to struggle in the area of giving and investing in your teammates, and playing for each other.
“It’s an area that we’ve gotten a lot better at, but it’s still rearing its head.”
The Illini were strong out of the gate, building an 11-4 lead less than six minutes into the game. But Michigan (13-5, 4-1) responded with a 14-0 run en route to a 33-29 halftime lead.
The Wolverines, who won for the sixth time in their last seven games, led by as many as 14 in the second half. Illinois rallied to within 59-53 on a three-pointer by Jacqui Grant with 5:47 left but could get no closer as Michigan went 7 of 8 at the foul line thereafter. For the game, the Wolverines sank 20 of 24 free throws.
Junior guard Ivory Crawford led the Illini in points (19) and rebounds (seven), and did not commit a turnover in 37 minutes.
Grant contributed 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 4 of 4 from three-point range. The three-point conversions were a career high for the freshman center. Senior wing Amber Moore also reached double figures for Illinois, scoring 15 points.
Although outrebounded 40-22, Illinois pressured Michigan into 15 turnovers and scored 14 points off those mistakes.
“We played well enough offensively to win but with the number of possessions that there were, we shouldn’t have given up 69 points,” Divilbiss said.