In the past four years, the University of Illinois women’s basketball team has won double-digit games only once.
Huntley graduate Ali Andrews, who is having the best season of her career, is working to change that.
The Illini (9-6) won nine games before the new year and enjoy their best 15-game start since 2006-07.
“We’ve really been focused on a next-play mentality,” said Andrews, a senior forward. “We’re focused on the future. The adversity we’ve faced really helps us build that mentality.”
In a rugged Big Ten Conference, Illinois has taken its share of lumps. Over the past two-plus seasons, the team is 2-36 in league play.
“The Big Ten is the best it’s been in a long time,” Andrews said of the league, which features three top-25 teams this week in The Associated Press rankings and five other teams receiving votes.
Winning in the conference, Andrews said, calls for a blue-collar approach.
“We need to get every loose ball and make every hustle play,” she said. “That’s how we’re going to win.”
Andrews, a three-year starter, is averaging career highs of nine points, 4.4 rebounds and 25.1 minutes a game.
“I’ve definitely been more consistent from the 3-point line,” said Andrews, who is a career 40% shooter from long distance. “I’ve worked a lot on my shot over the past three, four years. I knew that in college I’d have to play on the perimeter more. It’s just having confidence, knowing I can knock it down.”
The last time Illinois won a game in the postseason tournament, Andrews was a freshman.
She hopes to effect change for the Illini with a simple aim.
“My goal is to just be a presence and a leader on the court, and do the little things that matter,” she said.
Local trio paces Greyhounds: A trio of local athletes – Emma Benoit (Hampshire), Liz Alsot (McHenry West) and Marissa Knobloch (Marengo) – have helped Division II University of Indianapolis to a 9-2 start to the women’s basketball season.
Benoit, a senior forward, is averaging 8.8 points and a team-leading 7.4 rebounds a game for the Greyhounds. A sophomore forward, Alsot is averaging 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds while shooting 56% from the field. Knobloch is scoring 2.3 points a game.
As a team, the Greyhounds have the fourth-best defense in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, allowing only 61 points a game.
Steinkamp shines for CUC: Cary-Grove grad Bailey Steinkamp poured in a career-high 26 points last weekend in D-III Concordia University Chicago’s women’s basketball team in an 87-76 loss to Christopher Newport.
Steinkamp connected on 6 of 7 3-point attempts in the game and 9 of 11 total field goals.
A freshman guard for the Cougars (2-7), Steinkamp is the team’s second-leading scorer at 10.8 points a game and has the second-most steals (18) and made 3s (14).
Romeo on a roll: Illinois State junior defensive end Romeo McKnight finished the season with the seventh-highest sack total (12) in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
McKnight, a Crystal Lake Central grad, led the Redbirds (10-5) in sacks for a team that set a school record this season (52).
While helping the Redbirds advance to the national quarterfinals with 16.5 tackles for loss, McKnight earned first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors. His sack total was the third-best single-season total in ISU history.
Wolf leads Augie pack: D-III Augustana College junior swimmer Jeremy Wolf (Woodstock) owns the team’s top times this season in two individual events and is part of four team-best relays.
Wolf currently has the Vikings’ best times in the 100- and 200-meter freestyle events at 48.34 seconds and 1:49.53, respectively. His 100 time ranks 11th in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, according to CollegeSwimming.com.
In relays, he is part of the top Augie quartets in the 200 free (1:28.58), 400 free (3:15.36), 200 medley (1:38.90) and 400 medley (3:38.92). The Vikings have the CCIW’s third-best times in all four relays.
All-decade softball honors: Marengo grad Jessica Turner was named to NAIA Graceland University’s All-Decade softball team by the Iowa school.
Turner, who played two seasons at second base for the Yellowjackets, batted .309 with a .969 fielding percentage as a senior in 2018, when she set a school record for at-bats in a season.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at email@example.com and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.