Illini Rebounding Too Much To Overcome (Women’s Basletball)

Matt Baker

By Matt BakerThe Daily Northwestern

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – With 14 minutes left in Sunday’s game at Illinois, Northwestern was in the middle of an 11-3 run. When junior Sara Stutz drained a 3 from the left side to cut the deficit to 16 points, the Illini fans sighed, fearing their lead might slip away.

Illinois drove the ball down the court and missed a shot, but Erin Wigley grabbed one of her eight rebounds and made the put-back to dash NU’s momentum and hopes of a comeback.

Illinois dominated NU on the boards all game, out-rebounding the Cats 50-23 to hand NU its 15th straight loss.

“We’ve got to box out,” coach Beth Combs said. “We talk about it every single freakin’ day in practice. You’ve got to box out.

“We can give up size, we can give up height, but positioning you can control. That’s not a matter of being outsized or outmanned down low. We talked about it at the half and did a better job with that in the second half.”

Coming into Sunday’s contest, Illinois ranked second in the Big Ten in rebounding (41.7 per game) and rebounding margin (+7), while NU ranked last in the conference in every rebounding category.

It showed.

The Illini’s 11 offensive boards led to 18 second chance points for Illinois. Illini center Jenna Smith had as many offensive rebounds (7) as NU’s entire team, and forward Danyel Crutcher had almost as many rebounds in the first half (10) as the Cats (11).

The Illini also dominated in the post, tallying 30 points in the paint to NU’s 12.

“Everyone was crashing (the boards),” freshman Kaitlin McInerney said. “I think our problem is that a few people box out and not all five players. If you let four people box out and let one go, that’s the person that’s going to get the rebound.”

Opposing teams have out-rebounded the Cats by an average of more than 10 a game during their 15-game losing streak.

But Sunday’s minus-27 rebounding margin was their worst of the season, and the 50 rebounds Illinois grabbed was the second-highest total by an NU opponent of the year. Georgia Tech grabbed 51 boards in its 82-68 victory over the Cats on Dec. 18.

“We’ve got to get better,” Combs said. “Rebounding’s an attitude. Wanting the board, wanting to get it is an attitude, and it’s something we need to work on.”

Senior A.J. Glasauer said rebounding is one of the factors NU needs to improve if it wants to avoid finishing in the bottom two of the Big Ten for the seventh year in a row.

“It’s the little things we talk about, turnovers, rebounds, and you see it in the score always,” Glasauer said. “Those are things we’ve got to work on.”

Reach Matt Baker at [email protected]