Illini Win Another at the Buzzer
Feb. 12, 2012
Bloomington, Ind. - Lydia McCully's rebound basket with 0.6 seconds remaining gave Illinois a 61-60 victory over Indiana Sunday in Bloomington. The Illini led by as many as eight points in the second half, but trailing by four in the final minute, needed scores on its final two possessions to pull out the victory.
Illinois (10-16 overall, 4-9 B1G) has now won four of its last six games, all of which have been decided in the final minute. Indiana (5-20, 0-12), meanwhile, is still is looking for its first Big Ten victory of the season.
"At this point, we're used to close games and buzzer beaters," McCully said. "We feel it's our turn to start getting those games to go our way. We have a lot of confidence now."
Indiana out-rebounded Illinois 47-32 on the day, but the Illini got four big rebounds in the final minute. Adrienne GodBold converted a rebound basket, was fouled and made the subsequent free throw with 43 seconds left to cut the deficit to 60-59. After Karisma Penn blocked a shot on the other end, GodBold got the rebound with 18 seconds left and led the fast break. Although the Illini weren't able to convert on the break, GodBold got another board to save the possession with 10.8 seconds remaining.
After Illinois called timeout, Penn, who led the Illini with 23 points, got free for a shot from the left elbow. Although the shot didn't go in, McCully leapt and with one motion put in the miss with under a second remaining.
"I didn't want to lose," McCully said. "I'm not used to crashing (the boards). The ball was in the air and someone had to go get it. We passed it and rotated the ball. KP had a great look. I just went to the hoop, hoping for the rebound."
"They had a big front line, but I told my kids we need to make contact and rebound," Law said. "Rebounding is not about height, necessarily; it's about who wants it more and who is quickest to the basket. At the end, they refused to lose."
Penn had a monster game with with seven rebounds, four assists, six blocks and six steals to go along with her team-best 23 points. The junior made 9 of 12 free throws for the game, including two with over a minute to play to cut the four-point Indiana lead in half. McCully added 13 points on 6 of 8 shooting while sophomore Alexis Burke (10 points) scored in double figures for the fifth time in her last six games. For Penn, it marked the second straight game that she played a full 40 minutes, which has been a focus of she and her coach.
"I told her not to concentrate on getting 25 points or 10 rebounds," Law said of her preseason All-Big Ten performer. "If you're in the game for 40 minutes, because of the player you are, you will end up getting those points. I just need her presence on the floor."
"Coach Law used to tell me how many points and how many rebounds she wanted to me to have," Penn said. "Now she just says, `Play a full 40 minutes.' Now I don't worry about going after every block. I just wanted to play smart."
Aulani Sinclair led Indiana with 17 points off the bench. The Hoosiers were in front most of the first half, leading by as many as 11 at 23-12. The Illini chipped away, getting a basket by Penn off a shovel pass from McCully at the end of the half to take a 33-32 lead into intermission.
Indiana made just 3 of its first 16 shots in the second half as Illinois extended its lead to 48-40 with just under nine minutes to play. The Hoosiers then scored eight straight points, the last six from Sinclair to tie the game at 48-48 with 6:07 left. The game was tied at 50, 52 and 54 before Sasha Chaplin (14 points)'s two free throws with 2:00 remaining gave Indiana a 58-54 advantage.
Penn was fouled on a post move and made two free throws, but Indiana's Jasmine McGhee put her team in front again by four with a jumper that just snuck above the rim with 56 seconds left. However, Illinois' rebounding efforts saved the game for the visitors.
Eight of the 13 conference games for Illinois have been decided by six points or less or in overtime. The Illini lost the first four, but have now won the last four.
"My kids are playing together," Law said on the difference. "They understand what we're looking for. I think everyone is stepping up. These wins build our confidence. I have always believed in this team, but we're finally putting it all together. I know if we play as one unit we can be a very dangerous team the rest of the season."
Illinois has three games remaining in the regular season starting Thursday night at Minnesota.
"I think we're hungry," McCully added. "We have focused a lot on staying positive. The reality is we should be one of the top teams in the Big Ten. The season is not over and we have nothing to lose at this point."