Women's Basketball
Illini Advance to WNIT Quarterfinals with Impressive Win Over MSU

Karisma Penn had 17 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks to help Illinois advance to the quarterfinals of the WNIT on Thursday night.
Karisma Penn had 17 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks to help Illinois advance to the quarterfinals of the WNIT on Thursday night.

March 25, 2010

Box Score

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Illinois used a plethora of weapons to down Missouri State on the road Thursday night at JHQ Arena. Senior Lacey Simpson and freshman Karisma Penn each scored 17 points and senior Jenna Smith had a monster all-around game to lead the Illini to a convincing 65-53 win over the Lady Bears in the third round of the WNIT. Illinois (19-14) advances to face Illinois State in the quarterfinals this Sunday (2 p.m.) at Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill.

The Illini defense was the story of the game. Paced by 13 steals and a school record-tying 12 blocks, Illinois held the MSU to 31 percent shooting and a season-low 53 points. The Lady Bears entered the game shooting 43.5 percent as a team and averaging 76.8 points per game. Their leading scorer, Missouri Valley Conference MVP Casey Garrison, was shut down for most of the game thanks to stellar defense by Simpson. Garrison entered the game averaging 20.3 ppg, but was held to 10 by Simpson on 4-13 shooting. Six of those 10 points came in the final few minutes when the game was already decided.

The game was close in the early going, but Illinois broke it open with a 12-0 run that spanned the last four minutes of the first half and the first two of the second half. Illinois led 25-23 with 4:21 left in the first half after a pair of free throws by MSU's Jaleshia Roberson. The Illini proceeded to score the last four points of the half to take a 29-23 lead into the break and then scored the first eight points of the second half to push the lead to 37-23 at the 18:03 mark. MSU's Christiana Shorter broke a 6:30 scoring drought with a free throw, but Smith answered with a three for the Illini, to push the lead to 40-24. The Lady Bears finally hit a field goal at the 14:26 mark, ending a nearly 10-minute drought without a bucket.

Missouri State (22-11) fought back with a 16-6 run to cut the UI lead to 46-40 with 8:33 remaining, but Illinois immediately countered with a 12-0 run to put the game away. For the game, Illinois shot 46 percent from the field and 85 percent from the line, while holding the hosts to 31 percent shooting overall and 17 percent from behind the arc.

Simpson hit 7-of-12 shots for her 17 points and also added five steals and five rebounds, while Penn was 5-of-7 from the field and 7-of-8 from the line for her 17 points. Penn just missed out on a double-double with nine rebounds, while also adding four blocks. Sophomore Lydia McCully also had a big game for the Orange and Blue, hitting 5-of-10 from the field for a season-high 14 points while running the show at the point guard spot.

Smith, meanwhile, was well below her scoring average with 11 points, but made up for it with 17 rebounds, a career-high tying six assists and five blocks. She now has 68 blocks on the season to break her own Illinois single-season record of 63, and she upped her career rebounding total to 1,209 to move into second on the Big Ten career rebounding list. Earlier in the day she was named a finalist for the State Farm Coaches All-America Team.

The win advances Illinois to the quarterfinals of the WNIT for the first time in school history, where they will face a familiar foe in Illinois State. The Fighting Illini and Redbirds met earlier this season at Redbird Arena, a game Illinois won 62-51. Ticket prices for the quarterfinal game are $9 for general admission and $6 for under 18. Tickets may be purchased in person at the Illinois State Athletic Ticket Office in Redbird Arena, which is open Friday until 5 and Saturday from 10-2, over the phone by calling 309-438-8000 or online at GoRedbirds.com.

Illinois-Missouri State Postgame Notes
1. Jenna Smith had five blocks on the night to establish a new UI single-season blocks record. She now has 68 on the year to break her own mark of 63 set last season.

2. Smith's 17 rebounds tonight give her 1,209 for her career and move her into second place on the Big Ten's career rebounding list. She passed former Minnesota Golden Gopher Janel McCarville's total of 1,206 and is now behind only Denise Jackson's (Indiana) conference record of 1,262.

3. Smith's double-double of 11 points and 17 rebounds is her 21st of the season, which gives her sole possession of the UI single-season double-doubles record. She entered the game in a tie with Lynette Robinson's total of 20 in 2980-81.

4. With five steals on the night, Lacey Simpson moved closer to breaking the Big Ten career steals record. She now has 367 career thefts and is within five of Stacey Thomas' conference mark of 372 from 1997-2000.

5. Karisma Penn had 17 points to bring her season total to 356 and move her up to fifth on the UI freshman scoring list. She moved past Robbyn Preacely's total of 343 in 1992-93 and is within 10 of Anne O'Neil's fourth place total of 366 in 2000-01.

6. Penn's nine rebounds moved her up to fourth on the UI freshman rebounding list. Her season total of 184 moves her ahead of Danyel Crutcher's 176 boards in 2004-05.

7. Lydia McCully scored a season-high 14 points tonight. Her pervious high was 12 at Minnesota on Jan. 31 and was just one off her career-high of 15 set last season.

8. Illinois tied a single-game school record with 12 blocked shots on the night. The mark they equaled was set earlier this season in a game at Purdue on Feb. 4. The Illini have now blocked an even 200 shots this season, well above the previous school record of 156.

9. This year marks the first time Illinois has advanced to the quarterfinals of the WNIT and tonight's win marks the first time an Illinois team has won three games in a single postseason WNIT or NCAA Tournament

10. Illinois will face Illinois State in Normal, Ill., in the quarterfinals. The two teams met there on Nov. 24 of this season, with the Illini coming away with a 62-51 victory at Redbird Arena.