Karisma Penn scored 20 points to lead Illinois past Miami (Ohio).
March 21, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Junior Amber Moore tied her season high with 25 points and Illinois used a 14-4 second-half run to grab a 73-60 win over Miami (Ohio) in the first round of the Women's NIT at the Assembly Hall on Thursday. Along with Moore's big night, seniors Karisma Penn and Adrienne Godbold added 20 and 15 points, respectively, meaning the Illini's three upperclassmen combined for 60 of the team's 73 points (82.1 percent) on the night.
With the victory, the Illini (17-13) advance to face Eastern Illinois (20-11) in a WNIT second-round game that will be played at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 25, at the Assembly Hall. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students, and are available by calling 1-866-ILLINI-1 or at the Illinois Ticket Office at Assembly Hall.
"It's a good win for our team to start the postseason and it's been a couple years since they've won in the postseason, so it's a blessing to still be playing," Illinois head coach Matt Bollant said. "I thought in the first half, Karisma (Penn) got us going and helped us build that lead. Obviously, 'The Buzz' was a difference-maker for us in the first half.
"Then, in the second half, we struggled to get going, but I thought the shot of the game was when the lead was down to four and Amber hit a three to get it back to seven. We were a little bit tight and struggling to run good offense, and that shot kind of got us going."
The win improves Illinois' record in WNIT openers to 7-1 all-time and the Illini are 9-7 all-time in the tournament. Moore made a season-best eight field goals in 17 attempts (47 percent), and made a season-high five three-pointers for the fifth time this season. She also grabbed six rebounds and had four assists in 38 minutes.
Karisma Penn was a force inside for the Illini, scoring 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting in a 40-minute effort. She hauled in eight rebounds, blocked four shots - her most since Dec. 21 - and had three steals. Adrienne Godbold added 15 points and eight rebounds and played 37 minutes despite receiving her fourth foul with 11:54 left in the game.
The Illini held Miami (19-13) to 33.9 percent shooting (20-of-59) on the night and 19 percent (4-of-21) from three-point range, impressive defensive work against a team that entered the night averaging 44 percent and 35 percent, respectively. Illinois limited RedHawk point guard Courtney Osborn to 4-of-12 shooting and forced the Miami backcourt into 15 turnovers, part of a 26-turnover night for MU, its second-most of the season.
In comparison, the Illini shot 44 percent from the floor (27-of-61) and 35 percent (7-of-20) from distance. In the first half, Illinois limited Miami to 6-of-27 (22.2 percent) shooting after the RedHawks made their first three shots of the game. While MU went cold, the Illini made 15-of-26 (57.6 percent) first-half field goals.
Miami hit the court running, scoring the game's first eight points, before Illinois found its legs. Then it was all Orange and Blue, as they reeled off an 18-2 over 5:21 to go ahead 18-10. Amber Moore carried much of the load during the run, scoring 10 of the 18 points.
The RedHawks got within four at 18-14, but Illinois scored 17 consecutive points to gain some distance. The Illini held Miami scoreless for 5:10, missing eight consecutive shots and committing three turnovers during that timeframe. After the RedHawks snapped out of their drought, the teams played evenly to halftime, where Illinois led 37-22.
Miami started hot in the second half, too, scoring the first nine points, before Moore drained her third trey of the game to push the lead back to 40-31. The RedHawks scored five straight points to pull within four, but Illinois doubled its lead by trading threes for free throws on consecutive trips.
The RedHawks kept battling, though, cutting the Illini lead to 51-48 with 10:31 left. But Illinois stayed calm, rattling off a 14-4 run to provide some breathing room at 65-52 with 6:29 remaining. The run was a balanced effort, with Moore contributing five, GodBold adding two buckets, Alexis Smith hitting a 15-footer, Ivory Crawford nailing two free throws and Taylor Tuck adding one foul shot.
Miami ran out of gas at that point, never getting closer than 11 and allowing Illinois to expand the lead to 17 at two different points before Bollant emptied the bench. The RedHawks scored the game's final four points to reach the 73-60 margin at the buzzer.