Women's Basketball
Buzzer Beater Lifts Illini to Win Over Badgers

This lay-up by Karisma Penn as time expired gave the Illini a one-point win over Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon. (Cary Frye)
This lay-up by Karisma Penn as time expired gave the Illini a one-point win over Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon. (Cary Frye)

Jan. 3, 2010

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Freshman Karisma Penn hit a lay-up as time expired to give the Illini a thrilling 53-52 win over Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon at Assembly Hall. Jenna Smith led Illinois with 18 points and eight rebounds and Penn finished with 10 points and eight boards as the Illini improved to 10-3 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten play.

The game was a back-and-forth affair nearly the entire way and culminated in a frantic final minute. With the Badgers up 52-49 and 1:02 to play, Illini senior Lacey Simpson got a key steal, her season-high seventh of the game, and called timeout with 54.6 seconds left to set the stage for the comeback. Penn then knocked down a pair of free throws with 30 seconds remaining to pull the Illini to within one, 52-51.

After a foul on the ensuing inbounds pass, Wisconsin's Rae Lin D'Alie missed the front of a one-and-one and Penn hauled down the rebound, giving the Illini a final possession to try and win it. Illinois first tried to get Smith open for the winner, but when that failed sophomore Lydia McCully missed a jumper with five seconds left and the rebound resulted in a jump ball. The Illini had the alternating possession arrow giving them one more chance with 2.3 seconds left. Inbounding the ball under the Illinois basket, McCully found Penn wide open on the far block and Penn finished the lay-up at the horn.

The buzzer-beating win was the first in the final seconds for the Illini since McCully hit a shot with two seconds left in a win at UW-Milwaukee early last season.

The game was competitive throughout as there were eight ties and nine lead changes. Neither team led by more than five the entire game so it was only appropriate that the outcome was in doubt until the last second.

Wisconsin (11-4, 1-3) led 27-24 at halftime and extended the lead to 33-28 with 15:03 remaining. However, the Illini roared back with a 13-3 run to take a five point lead of their own, 41-36, with 11:33 left in the game. A three-pointer by Wisconsin's Taylor Wurtz (14 points) ended the UI run and the game was nip-and-tuck the rest of the way.

The Illini shot 39 percent for the game and hit 5-of-13 from three-point land, while the Badgers shot 44 percent overall and were 5-of-10 from downtown. The Illini had a slim 29-27 rebounding edge and turned the ball over 15 times, well below their season average of 19.5.

The Orange and Blue attack was more balanced than usual. Smith (18 points) and Penn (10 points) led the way once again, but Simpson (seven points), Whitney Toone (six points), McCully (five points), Adrienne Godbold (four points in 14 minutes) and Fabiola Josil (three points in nine minutes) all contributed to the victory.

The Fighting Illini will head to Bloomington, Ind., to face Indiana on Thursday, Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. ET/6 CT. They'll then return home next Sunday, Jan. 10, to host the Minnesota Golden Gophers at 3:30 p.m. for a game televised live on the Big Ten Network.

Illinois Postgame Notes
1. Senior Jenna Smith extended her school-record streak of consecutive games scoring in double-figures to 52, the third-longest streak in the nation.

2. With 18 points today, Smith went over 1,800 points in her career to become just the fourth Illini in school history to reach that milestone. She finished the game with 1,814 points.

3. Smith also moved into second on the Illinois career free throws made list. She was 2-of-4 on the day and is now 411-for-519 (.792) for her career to move past Lisa Robinson's second place total of 410. Ashley Berggren is Illinois' all-time leader with 562 made free throws.

4. Senior Lacey Simpson had a season-high seven steals on the day and now has 301 for her career. Already the Illinois career leader in steals, she is now the 13th player in Big Ten history to reach the 300-steal milestone.

5. Simpson's three rebounds against the Badgers give her 750 for her career. She remains in ninth on the UI career rebounding list.

6. The Illinois defense held Wisconsin's leading scorer Alyssa Karel to just nine points, well below her season average of 15.0. Prior to today's game, Karel had three-straight games of 20+ points and six consecutive games in double-figures.

7. With the win, Illinois now has 10 wins on the season to equal its win total from a year ago (10-21).