Alexis Burke scores the game-winning basket with 3.2 seconds remaining.
Feb. 9, 2012
Champaign, Ill. - Alexis Burke's driving lay-up with 3.2 seconds remaining capped a 12-point comeback and a 66-65 victory for Illinois over No. 10 Ohio State at the Assembly Hall. The win marked the first for Illinois against a ranked team since defeating the Buckeyes in the 2008 Big Ten Tournament and the first over a top-10 team since defeating No. 10 Minnesota in 2003. That also marked just the third loss for Ohio State (21-3, 8-3) in the 2011-12 season.
For Illinois, the victory was a long-time coming. After some tough losses down the stretch earlier in the season, the Illini have now won three straight games that have come down to the end, none bigger than Thursday night.
"Our kids played hard for 40 minutes," Illinois head coach Jolette Law said. "We finally played a 40-minute game against a great team. It came down to not blinking in the last four minutes."
On Jan. 22 in Columbus, Illinois also came back from 12 points down to tie with five minutes to play only see Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis and Tayler Hill make three-point shots down the stretch for a 96-84 victory.
After Illinois controlled most of the first half, leading 34-29 at the break, Ohio State again built a 12-point second-half lead only to see the Illini battle back to tie. This time, however, Illinois made the shots and got key stops down the stretch to win.
Trailing 56-44 with 8:51, Illinois went on a 12-0 run to tie at 56 with 4:46 remaining.
"I told them that it's all about composure and calmness," Law said of the message to her team at that point. "We've been here before. We have to get stops. We can't trade baskets with them. We can't get rattled. We must make sure we ID Prahalis and Hill and make someone else beat us."
Despite Ohio State shooting 52 percent for the second half and making 5 of 9 three-pointers, the Illini were able to overcome the hot-shooting by out-rebounding the Buckeyes 36-28 (16-7 on the offensive boards), forcing 21 turnovers and limiting the visitors to just six free-throw attempts for the game.
"I think this time we controlled the tempo," senior guard Lydia McCully said. "When we played them in Columbus, their defense created their offense. Today our defense created our offense."
That defense started with Adrienne GodBold, who posted a career-best seven steals to go along with a game-high 16 points.
"My goal was to not let them to throw it over the top," GodBold said. "I didn't want to pressure their guards too much on the in-bound. We've been working on keeping the ball in front of us in practice."
The other difference according to Law was keeping junior Karisma Penn on the floor and out of foul trouble. Penn played all 40 minutes and scored 11 points, but she was able to draw the double team on offense and finally slow down Ohio State post player Rachel Adams (18 points) down the stretch.
Even after the Illini tied the game, it looked as if Ohio State, looking to move into a first-place tie for the conference lead, was going to hold on. Prahalis (17 points) scored five straight points to give OSU a 63-58 lead with 2:29 remaining.
Penn drew the double-team on the next possession and flipped the ball to a slashing GodBold for the score. Burke got a rebound and pushed the ball ahead to GodBold for another deuce to make it a 63-62 game with 58 seconds remaining. Prahalis missed a baseline jumper and McCully got the rebound, was fouled and hit both ends of the one-and-one to put Illinois in front 64-63 with 39 seconds remaining.
After Hill willed her way to the hoop to regain the lead for Ohio State with 19 seconds left, it set up the final possession for the Illini. Burke drove to the basket and hit a turnaround under the rim for the game-winner and the celebration was on.
"I knew we were down one and we just needed a two, so I just tried to get to the basket," Burke said. "I was really focused on finishing and getting a `W'."
McCully finished with 12 points and five assists in addition to her big free throws late. GodBold, the team's leading scorer on the night, maturely put the win in perspective.
"It feels good, but we have to focus on finishing the season well, so we don't want to get overly excited," she said.
Illinois (9-16, 3-9 B1G) has four games remaining in the regular season starting with Sunday's game at Indiana. Tip-off is at 1 p.m. CT.