Women's Basketball
Illini Top Marquette in OT Thriller to Advance in WNIT

In addition to her 29 points and 14 rebounds, Jenna Smith also had 3 blocks to tie her own single-seaosn school record. (photo by Beth Unser)
In addition to her 29 points and 14 rebounds, Jenna Smith also had 3 blocks to tie her own single-seaosn school record. (photo by Beth Unser)

March 22, 2010

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Jenna Smith had 29 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Fighting Illini to a 74-72 overtime victory over Marquette Monday night in the second round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) at Assembly Hall. Illinois advances to the third round, where it will face Missouri State in Springfield, Mo., on Thursday, March 25 at 7 p.m.

Illinois (18-14) had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but Smith stepped out of bounds underneath the basket with one second left and the score tied at 64. Marquette (17-16) was unable to get a shot off before the buzzer so the teams headed to overtime.

In the extra period the Illini jumped out to a 69-64 lead right off the bat, but the Golden Eagles wouldn't go away. With Illinois leading 69-67 and just over a minute to play, freshman Kersten Magrum hit her first career three-pointer to extend the lead to five. Marquette answered with a three of its own and had one final chance to win it, down two with 13 second remaining. However, the Illini defense stepped up, batting the ball out of bounds with 0.4 seconds left and then intercepting MU's last-ditch inbounds pass to seal the game.

Smith hit 9-of-13 from the field, 2-of-3 from downtown and 9-of-10 from the line for her 29 points, which give her 2,137 for her career and move her past Deon Thomas' UI men's scoring record of 2,129 points. On March 19 at Western Kentucky, Smith passed Ashley Berggren's UI women's record of 2,089, meaning she's now the career-scoring leader at the University of Illinois, male or female.

Smith also had three blocked shots to tie her own single season school record of 63 and had 14 rebounds for her 20th double-double of the season, which ties the UI single-season record originally set by Lynnette Robinson in 1980-81.

Smith didn't do it alone, however. Fellow senior Lacey Simpson had 12 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals, while freshman Adrienne GodBold was also in double-figures with 11 points. Freshman Karisma Penn also had a solid game with nine points and five boards, while sophomore Lydia McCully did good job running the show, finishing with seven points, six rebounds, three assists and just two turnovers while playing the full 45 minutes.

In the first half, Illinois used a 14-4 run to open up a 27-16 lead with 7:11 remaining. Smith was on fire early, hitting her first six shots of the game and scoring 12 points before the 10-minute mark. Still leading 31-20 with 4:17 on the clock, Illinois suddenly went cold and Marquette took advantage, finishing the half on a 12-0 to lead 32-31 into halftime.

The Golden Eagles scored the first four points of the second half to make the run 16-0 and take a 36-31 lead, and eventually extended the lead to eight, 47-39, with 14:14 remaining. The Illini fought back, however, going on a 12-2 run, capped by a Smith three-point play, to take the lead back with 10 minutes to play. From that point on, neither team led by more than three points, setting the stage for frantic finishes in both regulation and overtime.

Illinois shot 43 percent for the game while holding Marquette to 38 percent shooting. The Illini win avenged a 65-55 loss to the Golden Eagles at Assembly Hall on Dec. 9 of this season and two previous losses to the Golden Eagles in the WNIT, in 2006 and 2008. Illinois advances to the third round of the WNIT for the third time in school history and improves to 5-2 at home in the tournament.

Monday night's game was the front end of a doubleheader at Assembly Hall, as the Illinois men followed with a second round NIT game against Kent State. Total attendance for the doubleheader was 10,032.

Tickets for Thursday's third round WNIT game at Missouri State are available now at the Missouri State Athletics Box Office or by phone at 417-856-7678.