CLEMSON, S.C. – Fighting Illini women’s basketball fell to Clemson, 69-67, on Wednesday in a gritty ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup. Illini freshman Arieal Scott led Illinois with 15 points on the day, and she was joined in double-figure scoring numbers by junior Brandi Beasley (13) and redshirt junior Cierra Rice (13). Beasley also added seven assists on the day, and netted a three-pointer for the Orange and Blue to tie the game with just seconds left to play and send the two teams into overtime. Illinois moves to 4-2 on the season and will return to Champaign to host Eastern Michigan on Saturday.
Illini senior Alex Wittinger and Beasley combined for four early points early on Wednesday evening, giving the Orange and Blue an advantage to start the contest. The Tigers, however, responded with a tough defense, holding Illinois to 10 first-quarter points. Clemson shot 63-percent to open the game, taking a 16-10 lead into the second frame.
“I wasn’t pleased with the start of the first quarter and the third,” head coach Nancy Fahey said. “This is a forty-minute game. The fight we have and how we came back, I’m proud of that, but we don’t want to be putting ourselves in that position.”
Illinois quickly picked up the pace in the second quarter as freshman Arieal Scott knocked down four-straight points to help close the gap. Scott added five more points in the quarter, as the Illini were within one of the Tigers heading into the halftime break. UI shot 43-percent from the floor in the second quarter, and held Clemson without a three-point shot in the first half of play. Scott led Illinois at the half with nine points and three boards to start the contest. Wittinger was also among Illini leaders for her six points and five rebounds. She also tallied two blocks before the halftime break.
Junior Ali Andrews gave the Orange and Blue a quick lead out of the halftime break, sinking a layup in the first minute of play. The Tigers, however, were again tough on defense, using an 8-0 run to pull back into the lead. Illini fought throughout the period, forcing eight Clemson turnovers and continuing to hold the Tigers scoreless from distance. Illinois picked up momentum to head into the final quarter, closing the third frame on an 11-0 run. Rice contributed seven of those points to lead Illinois with 11 points through three quarters. The Illini cut the Tiger lead to just five heading into the fourth quarter.
Clemson fought to keep its advantage in the final frame, but the Illini were hot. UI scored eight-straight points, including knocking down consecutive three-pointers, to take the advantage. Clemson pressured the Illini after a media timeout, using a run to take back their lead. UI did not let up, pulling within three before the final timeout of regulation. Beasley knocked down a clutch three-pointer for the Orange and Blue with just nine seconds on the clock, tying the contest at 63 and forcing overtime. Illinois held the Tigers to just 27-percent shooting in the fourth quarter, also using four three-pointers to cut into the home team’s lead.
The Illini and the Tigers fought through the overtime period, keeping the game close until the final seconds. Illini graduate transfer Sarah Shewan knocked down a free throw for Illinois with just 10 seconds to play, pulling the Orange and Blue within one point. Clemson, however, secured its victory with a free throw just a few seconds later.
The Illini scored 14 points off of turnovers, forcing 24 Clemson miscues on the day. The Illini racked up 15 steals as a team, led by Wittinger who finished with nine points, 11 boards, six blocks and four steals. Illinois held the Tigers to just one three-pointer on the day.
Illinois returns home on Saturday to host Eastern Michigan in a 2 p.m. contest. The Illini will host a craft fair on the concourse as part of the Holiday Hoops promotion, and fans can take photos with Santa beginning at 1 p.m. The Orange and Blue will also welcome back Fighting Illini women’s basketball alumni for the contest, recognizing the group of returners at halftime.
FOLLOW THE ILLINI
-Illini junior Brandi Beasley knocked down a three-pointer with 9 seconds on the clock to tie Wednesday’s game at 63 and send it into overtime. The last time the Illini played and overtime game was Nov 29, 2014 in a 78-76 loss to Oklahoma at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
-The Illini held the Tigers to a season-low one three-pointer. The Tigers were scoreless from three-point range until the fourth quarter.
-Junior Alex Wittinger recorded a season-high four steals and six blocks in the contest.
-Junior Courtney Joens matched her career high with three steals in the game. She’s reached that number three times in her career, with the last time being at Nebraska on Jan. 10, 2018.
-Junior Brandi Beasley dished seven assists on Wednesday, marking the third consecutive contest she’s recorded seven or more dimes.