The Illinois women’s basketball team hasn’t won a Big Ten game this year.
That didn’t change Sunday afternoon when No. 10 Ohio State (19-1, 6-1 Big Ten) handed the Fighting Illini (6-14, 0-7 Big Ten) their seventh straight loss, 96-84. While the Buckeyes walk away with a victory, the Illini kept the game close until late in the match.
“They’re as athletic as any team in the country,” OSU coach Jim Foster said.
Before coming into Sunday’s game, the Fighting Illini had lost their last five games by a total of 18 points, including one overtime game.
“We’re almost there, I just got to push them to get better,” said Illinois coach Jolette Law.
At the end of the first half, the Buckeyes had a 44-36 lead, but it was in the second period of the game when the Buckeyes would be tested.
Illinois cut the lead to four points after junior guard Tayler Hill was called for a flagrant foul. OSU then answered with consecutive 3-point plays from freshman guard Raven Ferguson and freshman forward Kalpana Beach to give OSU an eight-point lead with nine minutes left in the second half, but the lead wouldn’t last.
With less than six minutes in the game, Illinois senior guard Lydia McCully hit both foul shots to knot the score at 76. The tie was short-lived though, as Hill and senior guard Samantha Prahalis drained consecutive 3-point shots to give the Buckeyes a six-point lead.
“It comes with us being veteran guards and having the experience,” Prahalis said. “When the score is close like that, we need to score. We need to get a good shot.”
The three points were among 10 Prahalis had in the final five minutes of the game.
Prahalis led all Buckeye scorers with 28 points and six assists, followed closely by Hill, who added 26 points.
While OSU only shot 48.6 percent in the first half, OSU rallied in the second half to finish with 96, their highest point total of the year. Sunday’s score was also the largest point total the Buckeyes have put up since 2009. The 84 points were the highest point total any opponent has scored against the Buckeyes this season.
The Fighting Illini were led in scoring by junior forward and Ohio native Karisma Penn, who contributed 23 points. Penn was followed by junior guard Adrienne GodBold, who added 18 points and seven rebounds.
Sunday’s win increases OSU’s winning streak to four, but the team is still a game behind Purdue for the conference lead. The top two teams in the Big Ten will face each other Feb. 12, when the Boilermakers travel to Columbus, Ohio.
OSU will face the Fighting Illini again February 9.
The Buckeyes return to action Thursday at Indiana. Tipoff is at 8 p.m.