Illini Winning Streak Ends at Seven
Dec. 9, 2009
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois' seven-game winning streak came to a close Wednesday night at Assembly Hall with a 65-55 loss to Marquette, despite 23 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks from Illini senior Jenna Smith. The Fighting Illini fall to 7-2 on the season, while the Golden Eagles improve to 6-2.
Both teams came out sluggish in the first half, but the Illini jumped out to a 20-13 lead behind the play of Smith, who had 10 points, six rebounds and five blocks before the break. The Golden Eagles, however, finished the half on a 17-3 run over the last 5:32 to take a 30-23 lead into halftime.
Trailing by seven at the half, the Illini hoped for a fifth-straight second half comeback victory, but it wasn't meant to be this time. Led by Angel Robinson's season-high 32 points, Marquette shot 53 percent in the second half to stave off any comeback attempts. The Golden Eagles pushed the lead out to 10, 51-41, with 7:21 to play. A 10-3 run drew the Illini to within three, 54-51, with 3:54 remaining after a bucket by freshman Karisma Penn. Illinois would get no closer, however, as Robinson countered with a lay-up and a pair of free throws to give MU some breathing room in the final minutes.
Sloppy ball handling (21 turnovers) and poor shooting, especially from three-point range (3-of-18), cost the Illini dearly. Smith hit 11-of-16 shots for her 23 points, but the rest of the team was only 13-of-48 from the field (27 percent). The Orange and Blue also struggled from the free throw line, making just 4 of 11 attempts (36 percent).
Smith tied her career-high with six blocked shots and her 11 rebounds moved her into a tie for second on the UI career rebounding list with Lisa Robinson (933 career boards). Smith, a Wooden and Naismith Award candidate, posted her nation-leading seventh double-double of the season and moved to within one of the Illinois career double-doubles record. She now has 39, just one behind Jonelle Polk's school record of 40. Smith also extended her school-record double-figure scoring streak to 48 consecutive games.
As a team, the Illini blocked 10 Marquette shots, equaling the third-best total in school history. In addition to Smith's heroics, senior Lacey Simpson nearly had a double-double with 11 rebounds and nine points in addition to five steals and five assists, but she also had a season-high seven turnovers.
For the game, Illinois shot 37.5 percent from the field while Marquette hit 38.0 percent of its shots. The difference came at the free throw line, where the Golden Eagles hit 21-of-31 compared to just 4-of-11 for the Illini. Marquette also won the rebounding battle, 41-38. Robinson hit 9-of-13 shots, 3-of-3 from downtown and 11-of-14 from the line for her 32 points and also added six rebounds, six assists and three steals to lead Marquette.
The Fighting Illini will have nine days off while final exams take place at the University before closing their non-conference schedule by hosting Oakland on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 4 p.m. Then they'll have another eight-day layoff for the holidays before starting Big Ten play at home against Ohio State on Dec. 28.