Despite losing junior guard Kiana Johnson to suspension before the opening tip, the No. 24 women’s basketball team survived a late run to defeat Illinois on the road, 69-53.
Junior forward Becca Mills scored a career high 22 points. Freshman guard Tori Jankoska also had 22 points and was 8-of-11 from the field.
Prior to the game, MSU announced Johnson is suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. No further details are known at this point.
Junior guard Ivory Crawford led Illinois with 20 points and seven rebounds.
The Spartans led by as many as 23 in the second half, but 23 turnovers helped Illinois narrow the score to nine with five minutes remaining.
Similar to the last game against Illinois, Mills got it going early, scoring on a layup and a jumper to get the Spartans going.
Redshirt freshman guard Aerial Powers and Bell added to the point total to give MSU an early 8-2 lead.
After Jankoska nailed a 3-pointer to put the Spartans up 11-2, Illinois whistled a timeout with 17:01 on the clock.
Illinois came alive a bit out of the timeout, cutting the lead to 15-9. But Jankoska nailed her second 3-pointer of the game with 14:23 on the clock, extending the lead back to nine.
The Fighting Illini continued to fight, engineering an 10-2 run and taking advantage of three Spartan turnovers. Taylor Gleason’s jumper narrowed the lead to seven, and Amber Moore nailed another to trim the lead to five, 24-19, with 8:33 remaining.
Crawford’s layup made it a three-point game, but Mills and Agee scored on consecutive possessions to make it a seven-point game.
Bell’s jumper with 3:47 remaining stretched the lead back to 11 once again, 32-21. After two free throws by Oden, Mills hit two free throws and a layup to make it a 13-point lead.
Then, senior forward Annalise Pickrel hit a 3-pointer and Jankoska got to the rim for a layup, and the Spartans had an 18-point lead with under a minute left and entered halftime with a 41-24 lead..
Jankoska hit two early back-to-back 3-pointers in the second half to give the Spartans a 19-point lead, 51-32.
She was hot in the second half, making a layup with 12:36 remaining to make the score 54-33.
Turnovers continued to be a problem for the Spartans, however. Pickrel had the ball stolen and Moore drilled a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 14, 59-45, with 6:30 on the clock.
Head coach Suzy Merchant called timeout with 6:10 remaining after Pickrel turned the ball over on the next possession.
Illinois continued to push, cutting the lead to nine after a couple of of free throws and 3-point play by Alexis Smith with 5:07 on the clock.
Mills hit a couple free throws to end a six-minute scoring draught, but Crawford nailed a jumper to cut the lead back to nine with 3:22 on the clock.
With 2:20 to play, Jankoska came up clutch, stealing the ball from Moore and laying it in to make it a 13-point lead. Mills sealed the win with a minute to go, completing a 3-point play to make it a 68-52 lead.
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