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    Late Spurt Sinks Illini in 69-62 Loss to Colorado
    Alexis Smith led the Illini with a career-high 17 points.

    Alexis Smith led the Illini with a career-high 17 points.

    Dec. 1, 2012

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    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois took a 60-57 lead with three minutes left but Colorado capitalized on four Illini turnovers to score 11 consecutive points and grab a 69-62 win at the Assembly Hall on Saturday. The Buffaloes stayed perfect on the season, moving to 6-0, while Illinois fell to 4-3.

    Sophomore Alexis Smith led the Illini with a career-high 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting, while senior Karisma Penn and sophomore Taylor Tuck each added 11. Each team turned the ball over 27 times and Illinois blocked five shots, including three by Penn.

    "We struggled in the first half; It just seemed like we were dead, energy-wise, from the game on Thursday," Illinois head coach Matt Bollant said. "Then, the last three minutes of the first half, we played with some energy, went on a little run and we felt like we ended the half well.

    "We had our opportunities, even in the last three minutes (of the game). KP (Karisma Penn) made the layup to go up three, then we struggled to do little things. We didn't rotate to the ball, we didn't try to deny the ball up top (on defense). I'm just really frustrated with the way it ended. I didn't coach a very good game, we didn't play a very good game, and I'm disappointed for our program."

    In the first half, the teams traded blows before Colorado used an 8-4 spurt to go ahead 27-23 with 4:16 left. Illinois battled back to tie the game 29-29, then after the Buffs' Arielle Roberson hit 1-of-2 free throws, the Illini went on a 7-0 run to end the half and take a 36-30 lead at the break. Illinois held CU without a field goal in the final 3:50 of the half, as the Buffs managed only a lone free throw during that span.

    Both teams ramped up the physical play and defense in the second half, as each squad went over 20 turnovers with more than 12 minutes remaining in the game. The game continued to go back-and-forth at an intense pace, with four ties and eight lead changes over a span of nearly eight minutes, capped by an Amber Moore three-pointer that gave the Illini a 51-50 lead at the under-eight minute media timeout.

    Colorado surged ahead 53-51, but the Illini evened it up on a layup by sophomore Ivory Crawford. The teams traded the lead three times in the next 90 seconds, with the Illini going up 58-57 with 3:37 to go on a jumper by Penn. Amber Moore made a theft after a timeout, but she missed a jumper and Smith gave it up after snagging an offensive board.

    Smith got it right back, though, and dished to Penn for another jumper that gave the Illini a 60-57 advantage with 3:00 left. But that proved to be Illinois' last field goal until the outcome was determined, as Colorado took advantage of four Illini turnovers, a missed three-pointer and a miss on the front end of a one-and-one to score 11 consecutive points and seal a 69-62 win.

    Illinois hits the road for a pair of games this week, traveling to Texas Tech for an 8 p.m. tip on Wednesday, then visiting Memphis on Sunday, Dec. 9, at 2 p.m.

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