Karisma Penn was 11 of 14 from the field vs. Tulsa.
Nov. 23, 2012
Freeport, Bahamas - Senior Karisma Penn scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while sophomore Amber Moore added 21 points and a team-leading six assists as Illinois held off Tulsa, 82-75, in the first game of the Junkanoo Jam Friday night in Freeport, Bahamas. The Illini advance to meet Iowa State Saturday morning at 9 a.m. CT in the championship game. Iowa State upended Loyola Marymount, 55-33, in the other semifinal game.
"I was really proud of our effort," Illinois had coach Matt Bollant said. "I thought we played extremely hard. KP was really tough to stop most of the night. Amber hit some big threes for us."
Illinois led 38-29 at halftime then out-scored the Golden Hurricane 14-6 to open half to take its biggest lead of the game at 52-35. Penn scored the final eight points of the run.
Tulsa, who falls to 0-4, cut the deficit to 62-58 before Moore took over. Fouled on a three-point attempt, Moore promptly sank three straight free throws, then hit three-points shots from each side of the lane in consecutive possessions to push the lead back to 71-58 with 4:46 to play and Tulsa never really threatened after that. Those were two of Moore's four treys on the afternoon as the junior moved into fourth on the Illin's all-time three-point list.
Illinois head coach Matt Bollant had two points of emphasis coming into the game -- take more free throws and get more rebounds than the opponent. The Illini were able to accomplish both. Illinois had three players in double figures in rebounding paced by sophomore Ivory Crawford, who had 12, including seven on the offensive end. Penn and sophomore Taylor Tuck added 11 and 10, respectively. Illinois went to the line 34 times compared to 19 for Tulsa.
Crawford came into the game as the Big Ten's leading scorer, but left the scoring up to her teammates, instead the Chicago, Ill., native did everything else. In addition to her 12 rebounds, she had a career-best nine assists and three steals.
Tulsa kept it close in the first half thanks in part to four three-pointers from Kelsee Grovey in the first 20 minutes, then chipped away at the Illinois lead in the second half. The Illini committed 24 turnovers, eight on Tulsa steals and senior point guard Taleya Mayberry hit four three-pointers en route to a game high 30 points.
Sophomore Alexis Smith helped Illinois put the game away from the free-throw line, making 7 of 10 from the charity stripe for the game in addition to her five assists.
At 3-1, Illinois is off to its best start since starting the 2009-10 season 7-1. To keep it going, the Illini must beat a 3-0 Iowa State team, a team that Bollant is familiar with. Bollant's Green Bay team knocked off the Cyclones in the NCAA first round in Ames last year. Bollant expects a battle.
"They were a top-25 team last year and return almost everybody so they should be again this year," Bollant said. "I have a lot of respect for them. We are going to have to have another great effort to win the championship."