Illini Bounced from Big Ten Tourney by Badgers
March 7, 2013
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. - Illinois' Amber Moore drained a three-pointer with 42 seconds left in the game to put the Illini up three, but 11th-seeded Wisconsin hit four free throws in the final 42 seconds to knock No. 6 seed Illinois out of the Big Ten Tournament at the Sears Centre Arena, 58-57. The Orange and Blue trailed by 10 with 5:59 left in the game but went ahead by three with 42.4 seconds left, making that the largest and latest second-half deficit they have overcome this season. But Wisconsin's 21-of-21 effort at the foul line proved to be too much.
"Wisconsin became the most aggressive team in the second half, and that was the difference," Illinois head coach Matt Bollant said. "In the first half, I thought we did a great job of weathering the storm with Karisma (Penn) in foul trouble. We just needed to step up and play aggressively in the second half and we didn't. I think we got caught up in thinking about the end result and quit playing aggressively and attacking, and that really hurt us."
Sophomore Ivory Crawford led the Illini with 14 points, while junior Amber Moore added 13 points, five rebounds and a season-high five steals. Senior Adrienne Godbold chipped in 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds. The Illini shot just 25 percent (7-of-28) from the field in the second half while Wisconsin was 11-of-22 in the final 22 minutes and made 13-of-13 from the line in the second half. Illinois forced 25 Wisconsin turnovers while only committing 11 of its own, but managed just 26 points off those Badger miscues.
Wisconsin grabbed an early 12-6 lead after a layup by Cassie Rochel, but the Illini ramped up the defensive pressure to put together an 18-6 run to to up 24-18 with less than eight minutes left in the half. Illinois kept the defensive intensity high for the remainder of the half, forcing seven Badger turnovers and holding them scoreless in the final 7:26 to push the lead to 30-20.
Karisma Penn picked up her fourth foul on a controversial call just 1:56 into the second half and Wisconsin reeled off six straight points to pull within 31-26. The Badger run reached 17-6, putting UW ahead 37-36 with 11:45 left in the game, as Illinois started the second half 2-of-11 from the field.
The Illini regained the lead at 42-40 when Penn made her first of two free throws with 9:20 to go, but Wisconsin went on a 14-2 run to pull ahead 54-44 a the six-minute mark. Illinois went without a field goal for 5:49 before Taylor Tuck drained a three-pointer that cut the deficit to 54-49 with 4:26 left. After a missed jumper by Wisconsin, Crawford missed a three, GodBold missed a put-back, but Crawford corralled that offensive board, laid it in and - after a media timeout - made the free throw to convert a three-point play to bring the Illini within 54-52.
Neither team scored over the next two minutes, part of a stretch of 5:17 where Illinois held Wisconsin scoreless, before Amber Moore tied the game with a pair of free throws with 1:23 on the clock. Forty seconds later, Crawford slapped the ball away from a driving Morgan Paige and Moore drained a three-pointer to put the Illini ahead 57-54 with 42.4 seconds left.
Alexis Smith fouled Wisconsin's Tessa Cichy, who drained both free throws, then Penn missed a jumper with 15 seconds remaining and Cichy grabbed the rebound. After a timeout by the Badgers, Paige drove the lane and threw up a wild, out-of-control shot but was fouled by Penn with 3.1 seconds on the clock. Paige drained both attempts from the charity stripe for a 58-57 Wisconsin lead, and Moore's halfcourt heave at the buzzer bounced too hard off the backboard as the Badgers knocked the Illini out of the tournament.
Illinois will await its postseason destiny, which will be announced the evening of Monday, March 18.