Jenna Smith, Jolette Law, Lacey SimpsonCHAMPAIGN – Anyone questioning their own abilities with an attitude to just give up might take a glance at the University of Illinois women’s basketball team. Head coach Jolette Law is a fighter and refuses to lose. Unfortunately, Law and the Fighting Illini, have done their share of losing this season.

The Illini are winners of only four games so far this season and are still searching for their first conference win. Things didn’t get much better Thursday night as they got lit up from beyond the three-point arc by Iowa’s Kristi Smith who scored 15 of her 17 points from behind the line.

Law, in her second season as coach of the Illini, could very easily give up and begin preparing for next season. Illinois has the No. 2-rated recruiting class scheduled to hit campus for the 2009-10 season. But throwing in the towel right now would go against everything Law believes in and has been preaching to her team since the slide began.

Illinois’ last win came against Milwaukee on a last-second shot that gave it a three-point win. Since then, the Illini have been anything but impressive. But if one thing has remained constant, it is the team’s competitiveness and determination to never give up. The sense of urgency Law always speaks of when referring to the fight in her Illini shined in Thursday’s loss possibly brighter than the smiles on the faces of the Hawkeyes following the win.

Down by as many as 17 in the second half, the Big Ten Conference matchup had the appearance of another blowout. It was to the point where most teams would call it a night and say, ‘Let’s get through the game, take the loss, come back tomorrow and regroup.’ It was clearly the attitude, at least on the side of the winning team that the game was in the bag. The scoreboard showed otherwise.

With just 23 seconds remaining in the game, the Illini found themselves down by only eight with a real possibility of pulling out the win or at least tying it up and sending it to overtime.

It was just another example of the competitiveness and urgency this year’s Illini team has decided it will play with. Ending the season by giving up will, in the end, do nothing for the program. But finishing on a positive note will show younger players that they at least tried. Having one of the top recruiting classes in the nation prepared to come in next season means a whole lot in terms of talent, but will mean little if the Illini have nothing to build on from this season. Despite sleepless nights, loss of weight and mounting frustration, Law truly feels blessed and grateful to have players who refuse to give up. Next year’s team will, too.

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