Illini to Take No. 10 Seed Into Big Ten Tournament
Feb. 26, 2012
Madison, Wis. -
Sunday was a game of two halves between Illinois and Wisconsin. The Illini led 34-29 at the break behind 50 percent shooting. They also held Wisconsin's leading scorer, Taylor Wurtz, to just four points in the first half and the Badgers as a team to 40 percent shooting and 0-7 from the three-point line in the opening 20 minutes. Wisconsin changed all facets of the game around in the second half, however, in posting a 72-60 victory over Illinois in front of an announced crowd of 7,203 at the Kohl Center.
"I think we thought the game was over at halftime," Illinois head coach Jolette Law said. "We didn't come out with that same fire. I told my team that the first four minutes (of the second half) was going to dictate how the whole 20 minutes was going to go. In those four minutes, Wisconsin didn't back down and we stopped doing the little things that were working for us in the first half."
Wurtz, meanwhile, caught fire for 17 second-half points to finish with 21 while the Badgers' Morgan Paige finished with a career-best 29 points, 18 of which came in the second half. The Badgers were 4 of 7 from three-point arc in the second 20 minutes and converted on 16 of its 17 free-throw attempts for the game. Wisconsin also had a 36-17 advantage in rebounding, including a 19-6 edge on the boards in the second half.
"It looked like it was all white jerseys in the paint and orange jerseys were outside the paint," Law said. "They were crashing the boards and we weren't putting a body on them like we were in the first half."
The positive for Illinois was the play of Adrienne GodBold. The junior has been a consistent force, averaging 15 points per game in her last 11 outings. Against Wisconsin, GodBold scored 23 points on 10 of 16 shooting while making 3 of her 7 three-point attempts and collecting four steals.
"She's a gamer," Law said of GodBold. "Anytime we need a basket or a stop, she's there, but I was hoping everyone else would feed off of it. There were times when the shot clock was winding down, she was confident in taking the three or in posting up. She did all the little things. She's been playing consistently well of late. Hopefully she'll keep it going."
Illinois got 12 points from junior Karisma Penn, but the junior was limited to just 13 minutes before fouling out with 2:12 remaining. Kersten Magrum returned to the line-up for the first time since Jan. 29 and scored seven points while pulling down four boards in 22 minutes of action.
For much of the second half, Illinois was able to answer scores by the Badgers. Wisconsin tied the game at 36 on a three-pointer from Wurtz only to see Lydia McCully give the Illini the lead back with a trey of her own. The Badgers scored six straight points to take a 44-43 lead, but GodBold answered with a three-pointer to push the Illini in front 46-44 with 12:36 to play. Paige hit a three to put the Badgers in front 48-46, but Ivory Crawford fed a streaking Karisma Penn for a basket and subsequent free throw to give Illinois what would be its final lead at 49-48 with 10:46 to play.
From there, Wisconsin went on a 16-4 run, which included nine straight points, to take command of the game with a 64-53 lead at the five-minute mark. The Badgers shot 64 percent from the field in the second half while Paige and Wurtz combined to score 35 after intermission, nine more than the entire Illinois team (26).
Illinois finishes the regular season tied with Wisconsin for ninth in the Big Ten with a 5-11 record to go along with an 11-18 overall mark. Wisconsin (9-19 overall) wins the tiebreaker by virtue of their two wins over the Illini this year and will thus be the No. 9 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, which starts Thursday in Indianapolis. The Illini earn the No. 10 seed and will meet a familiar foe, seventh-seeded Michigan, in the first round starting at 10:30 a.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Last year, Illinois defeated the Wolverines, 55-47 in the quarterfinals of the BTT. Michigan won the only meeting this season between the two schools, 70-50 on Dec 30 in Champaign.
"The message going forward is we have to work for 40 minutes and do all the little things in order to keep playing. Today, we played well for a half then got away from what was making us successful."