Illini Come Up Just Short at San Juan Shootout
Nov. 25, 2011
Guaynabo, P.R. - "If you want to be the best, you have to play the best," said Illinois head coach Jolette Law after her team's game Friday afternoon at the San Juan Shootout. "These games are measuring the things we are trying to preach every day. It's coming down to the little things, the block outs, the free throws and the turnovers. At the next level, when you make a mistake, they capitalize."
The seven teams on Illinois' schedule so far are a combined 22-5. That is no consolation to Law and the rest of the Illini, who suffered their fifth loss in seven games despite leading for the majority of the game. In the end, however, Arizona State out-scored Illinois 12-3 in the final seven minutes to pull out a 51-50 victory over Illinois in Guaynabo, P.R. The Illini got 23 points and 16 rebounds from Karisma Penn, but Penn's long-range shot at the buzzer hit the backboard and bounced out.
"I'm really hurt by this game because I felt this was our game to win," Law said. "I'm trying to build the confidence in our players that we can win if we just trust and stick to the game plan."
Illinois out-rebounded Arizona State 44-37, held the Sun Devils to 35.7 percent shooting and didn't allow a Sun Devil to reach double figures in points.
The Illini were especially impressive defensively midway through the second half, holding the Sun Devils scoreless for seven-a-half minutes and without a field goal for nearly nine minutes in erasing an early 36-30 second-half deficit. Illinois used a 12-0 run to go in front 42-37 with seven of those points coming from Penn. Amber Moore (12 points) hit her fourth three-pointer of the game as the lead reached 47-39 at the 6:59 mark of the game.
"We were communicating and talking and we were on the same page," Law said of that stretch of pressure defense. "If we continue to play team ball and Illini basketball, we can win,"
Arizona State took its first lead of the second half at 49-48 on a free throw by Janae Fulcher with 51 seconds to play. The Illini countered with a drive and lay-up by Penn to regain the lead at 50-49 with 33.6 seconds left on the clock. The Sun Devils, however, beat the pressure and found Fulcher for the eventual game-winning basket on a turnaround shot in the lane. After an Illinois turnover and foul, the Sun Devils missed a free throw and Illinois threw in with 3.5 seconds to play, but Penn's desperation shot was too long.
Illinois, who had 19 turnovers for the game, falls to 2-5 on the season while Arizona State improves to 4-0 on the year.
"We held a team way below their scoring average today and in the end, it shouldn't have come down to the last six seconds," Law said. "I want to continue to teach and play these games, so I can show my kids we're not that far off."
Illinois led much of the first half, pushing the advantage to as many as five on two occasions, the last coming at 28-23. The Illini-out-rebounded the Sun Devils 20-11 in the opening 20 minutes with Penn scoring 13 while pulling down eight rebounds.
"I love the way they responded after the Green Bay game," Law said. "We came in and were focused. Unfortunately, the last three minutes of this game was plagued with turnovers and people were scared to take shots. We tried to force it into Karisma too much instead of taking what the defense was giving. Having said that, I'm going to try to build on the positives. We still have a lot of season left and I feel like we are close to overcoming our weaknesses. When that happens, I'm confident we'll start to win."