Fighting Illini Hold Off Buffaloes for Challenge Win
Dec. 4, 2010
BOULDER, Colo. - Illinois withstood a furious second-half rally by Colorado to come away with a 63-59 road victory Saturday night in the Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge. Sophomore Karisma Penn made several key plays down the stretch and finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and three steals to help the Illini snap a three-game losing streak.
Illinois (4-5) led by as many as 11 in the second half, 55-44, after a three-pointer by redshirt freshman Amber Moore and a lay-up by sophomore Adrienne GodBold on back-to-back possessions with 8:15 left. The Buffaloes responded with a 13-0 run, however, holding the Illini scoreless for over five minutes to take a 57-55 lead with 3:24 left.
The Illini defense rose to the occasion in the final three minutes, holding the hosts without a field goal and to just two free throws in the final 3:23 of the game. During that time, the Illini got a turnaround jumper from Penn in the paint and combined to knock down 6-of-8 free throws to seal the game.
"It feels good to come on the road and get a win like this," Illini head coach Jolette Law said. "I want to give a lot of credit to my team. When Colorado made their run, we stayed focused and got stops when we needed to."
"We took care of the ball down the stretch and made some big free throws in the final minutes," Law continued. "Those are two things that have been problems for us this year. We've been working on free throw situations in practice and it was good to see Lana (Rukavina), Karisma and Lydia (McCully) all step up and make big shots late in the game."
The Orange and Blue trailed 15-8 early in the game, but charged back to lead by four at the break after a putback by GodBold at the halftime buzzer put Illinois up 32-28. GodBold had eight points and five rebounds at halftime in her fourth game back after missing the first five regular season games due to a suspension. She finished the game with 12 points, six rebounds and three assists, providing a big spark for the Orange and Blue, especially in the first half.
"Adrienne was a huge spark for us off the bench tonight," Law said of GodBold. "She is a team player and brings intangibles like defense and communication to the floor. Those things were a big boost for us tonight after we got off to a slow start."
Junior point guard Lydia McCully knocked down 3-of-4 from three-point range to finish with 14 points and a team-high four assists. Junior post Lana Rukavina added seven points and five rebounds, while Moore hit two big threes for Illinois and finished with six points and four boards. As a team, the Illini hit 6-of-12 from three-point range (50 percent) and 11-of-15 from the free throw line (73 percent).
Overall, the Illini shot slightly better than the Buffaloes, 42 percent for Illinois compared to 40 percent for CU. Chucky Jeffery led Colorado (6-2) with 17 points, while Brittany Spears and Julie Seabrook each added 15 points for the Buffs.
Tonight's game was part of the inaugural Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge. The challenge is now tied 1-1, with nine intra-conference games on Sunday and one final game on Dec. 9.
The Illini continue their four-game road swing when they travel to Oakland University in Michigan on Wednesday, Dec. 8. They'll then have nine days off during the University of Illinois' final exams, before battling sister school UIC at Chicago's United Center on Dec. 18.