Illini Top Gophers in Another Thriller, 64-62
Jan. 10, 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois' senior duo of Jenna Smith and Lacey Simpson carried the Illini for most of the game, but it was freshman Adrienne Godbold's old-fashioned three-point play with 10.3 seconds left that proved to be the difference in the Illini's 64-62 victory over Minnesota Sunday afternoon at Assembly Hall. Smith finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds, giving her 1,001 boards for her career, and Simpson tied her career-high with 19 points to help Illinois (11-4 overall, 3-2 Big Ten) move into a tie for second place in the Big Ten standings.
Trailing 62-61 after a pair of free throws by Minnesota's Jackie Voigt with 29.4 seconds left, Illinois worked the ball around for a shot. With about 12 seconds left, GodBold drove into the lane from the left wing and hit a shot in traffic while getting fouled. After hitting the free throw, Minnesota had one last chance to win it, but Brittany McCoy's three-pointer as time ran down was short and Kiara Buford's tip attempt at the buzzer was off the mark.
Sunday's game was the third straight to come down to the final seconds for the Illini. On Jan. 3, freshman Karisma Penn hit a lay-up at the buzzer to give the Illini a 53-52 win over Wisconsin, and then on Thursday sophomore Fabiola Josil missed a three-pointer at the buzzer in a two-point loss at Indiana.
Illinois trailed by nine points at the break and by as many as 15 points in the second half, after a Voigt three-pointer gave the Gophers a 41-26 lead with 18:27 left in the game. However, the Fighting Illini began chipping away at the lead and eventually pulled to within one, 52-51, after a free throw by Penn at the 6:07 mark.
From there the game was a dog fight, with Illinois taking its first lead since early in the game when Smith hit a jumper to make the score 56-55 in favor of the Illini with 3:04 to play. A little over a minute later, Simpson got a huge steal and bucket to give the Illini a 60-57 lead with 1:45 remaining and then Minnesota converted a three-point play by McCoy and a pair of free throws before GodBold's heroics played out on the final possession.
It was the third time this season that Illinois overcame a second-half deficit of at least 15 points to win. On Nov. 29. The Illini trailed Alabama by 15 points with 15:25 left before going on to win 64-55, and then on Dec. 2 at Wake Forest the Orange and Blue trailed by 17 with 18:32 remaining and ended up winning 65-50.
Simpson, meanwhile, entered the game as the Big Ten's steals leader and added five more to her total today. She hit 8-of-14 from the field, including two huge threes in the final 8:21 of the game to tie her career-high of 19 points. She also was the primary defender on Minnesota's leading scorer Kiara Buford, who was held to two points on 1-of-6 shooting after entering the game averaging 15.1 points per contest.
As a team, the Illini shot 52.2 percent in the second half and 42.3 percent for the game. Defensively, Illinois allowed the Gophers to shoot 43.8 percent overall and 50 percent from three-point range, but also forced 23 turnovers that led to 26 points on the offensive end.
GodBold finished the game with seven points and two assists in 18 minutes and sophomore Macie Blinn provided a spark during Illinois' second half run, contributing a three-pointer, an assist and another jumper during the run that got the Illini back in the game.
The Fighting Illini will now hit the road for a pair of Big Ten matchups. First, they'll head to Columbus to face No. 6 Ohio State on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. ET/6 CT before going to Madison next Sunday to face Wisconsin at 1 p.m. CT.