Women's Basketball
Last-Second Shot Bounces Off as Illini Fall to ISU

Karisma Penn recorded 22 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks in Illinois' 69-68 loss.
Karisma Penn recorded 22 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks in Illinois' 69-68 loss.

Dec. 21, 2012

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois State's Jamie Russell nailed a pair of free throws and Illinois' Karisma Penn missed a pair with 37 seconds left in the game, then Alexis Smith's three-pointer just before the buzzer rimmed out as the Redbirds escaped with a 69-68 in front of a season-high crowd of 1,973 at the Assembly Hall Friday night. Penn led the Illini (6-5) with 22 points and 15 rebounds, and added six blocked shots, including one on ISU's final possession to give Illinois one last shot.

"I felt like we did the right things to get the lead in the second half and to go up eight and really have the opportunity to put them away, then we just struggled to get stops," Illinois head coach Matt Bollant said. "We've been talking about defense a lot, trying to get better in practice and i think just a couple of stops in the second half would've made the difference for us, but we just weren't able to get it done. Credit Illinois State, (Candace) Sykes was really good and hit some big threes for them to get them back in the game."

Penn drew within two of breaking Jenna Smith's career blocked shots record with 230 in her career, and the double-double was the 34th of her career. She moved into sixth place on the career scoring list with 1,543, passing Mandy Cunningham (1,536), Allison Curtin (1,529) and Kendra Gantt (1,526). She also moved into sixth on the career rebounding list (837), passing Tauja Catchings (825) and Kris Dupps (823).

"I thought KP (Karisma Penn) stepped up and played a great second half for us. I challenged her afterward to do that each half. She made a lot of plays when it mattered in the second half and we just need more players to be able to do that. We're disappointed tonight. We go away for Christmas break frustrated that we didn't pull this one off."

The Illini hit 10-of-29 three-pointers, tying the third-most in a game in school history and marking the second time this season they've nailed double-digit treys (11 vs. Evansville).

Moore added 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting - all in the first half - and Crawford added 11 with six rebounds and four steals. Taylor Tuck also came off the bench to put in 11 points, including 3-of-6 from three-point range, in 20 minutes.

In the first half, the Illini used an Amber Moore three-pointer to tie the Redbirds 7-7 heading into the under-16 media timeout, the Illini cranked up the defense and held the Redbirds (7-4) scoreless for 5:46, allowing Illinois to use a 10-0 run to go ahead 14-7 near the midpoint of the first half.

ISU battled back, though, taking advantage of cold Illini shooting, to draw within 20-17 after a three-point play by Redbird guard Chloe Nelson with 7:24 left in the half. Illinois maintained a 24-21 lead at the 4:45 mark before ISU took advantage of two turnovers by Penn, using a layup and a three-pointer to go ahead 26-24, its first lead since the 16:13 mark.

After a timeout, Moore tied it up with a jumper and added a trey to put the Illini up 29-26. But the Redbirds' Candace Sykes hit a jumper and a three-pointer, and Janae Smith converted a three-point play to give ISU a 34-29 lead at halftime as the Illini missed their final five shots of the half.

Illinois came out of the locker room on fire as Alexis Smith drilled her first career three-pointer and Ivory Crawford nailed another, pushing the Illini ahead 35-34. But ISU rattled off seven straight points to go back up six. But Illinois scored the next six, evening the score at 41-41.

The teams traded leads for the next three minutes before Penn drilled her first three-pointer of the season and Tuck nailed a trey and added a jumper to push Illinois ahead 54-47 with 10:45 remaining. But ISU took advantage of a missed jumper by Penn and an Illini turnover, using a 5-0 spurt to cut Illinois' lead to 54-52.

The Orange and Blue fought back on the back of two Penn free throws, a jumper by Smith and two more freebies by Penn, sandwiched around a pair of Redbird turnovers, to extend the Illinois lead to 60-52 with 7:28 left in the game.

Sykes brought the Redbirds back with a pair of threes, though, and Russell's jumper with 4:42 tied the game at 62 apiece. The teams traded buckets over the next 1:18 before Russell put ISU ahead 67-66 with 1:45 left in the game. Illinois regained the lead on a layup by Smith with 77 seconds remaining, but Crawford was whistled for her fifth foul as Russell was going up for a shot.

The Redbird senior drained both free throws, then Penn was hacked in the act of shooting with 37 seconds left. But the first was too long and the second was short. Kersten Magrum appeared to grab the rebound but she was tied up by Russell, giving ISU possession.

Penn tried to redeem herself on the defensive end, blocking Maddie Oliver's shot, and the Illini raced ahead as the Redbirds' defense appeared to be out of position. Smith launched a good look from the right wing but it bounced off and ISU snuck out of the Assembly Hall with a one-point win.

The Illini return to action next Friday night when they host No. 6 Georgia at 7 p.m. at the Assembly Hall. Illinois will look for its second-straight win over a ranked opponent after edging No. 10 Ohio State 66-65 on Feb. 9, 2012.