Illini Remain Unbeaten at Home with 77-62 Win
Dec. 21, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois women's basketball team (7-5) delivered an early holiday treat to Illini fans as they triumphed over UT Martin (6-5) Saturday afternoon by the score of 77-62. Senior guard Amber Moore got her first collegiate win on her birthday, primarily thanks to her game high 26-point performance.
With the victory the Orange and Blue move to 6-0 at home, scoring 86.3 points per game inside State Farm Center. Furthermore, when including the end of the 2012-13 season, the Illini are unbeaten in their last eight contests at home.
"We definitely had great shots throughout, 55 percent (from the field) is the highest this year and since I've been here," said Illinois head coach Matt Bollant. "We shot with confidence. Alexis Smith and Sarah Hartwell both had two big three's in the second half. Then we got the ball to Jacqui, who did a great job rim-running and getting touches. We also had to get Amber a win on her birthday. Really glad she stepped up and played a complete game of basketball and helped us win that game."
The Illini started the contest with a strong defensive effort, keeping the Skyhawks scoreless in the opening five minutes. In that span, UT Martin went 0-11 from the field.
With the score at 6-0 Illinois, Moore caught fire offensively. The senior guard tallied 13 of the team's next 16 points, including three straight treys. Moore finished the half with 16 points (4-8 from three-point range), nearly half of the team's total as they closed out the period up 34-25.
The Skyhawks tried to rally to start the second half, producing a 10-4 run to pull within three. However, the two Sarahs then stepped up for the Illini, scoring 10 consecutive points to keep Illinois out front. It started with four straight points from Livingston down low, followed by back-to-back three-pointers from Hartwell.
With the score 56-51 Illinois with 9:54 remaining, the Orange and Blue once again picked up the defensive pressure, holding UT Martin scoreless for the next four and a half minutes. Meanwhile, the offense produced a 17-0 run in that span to gain their largest lead of the game at 22 points, 73-51 with 5:36 remaining. Illinois then cruised to a final score of 77-62 to get their seventh win of the season.
Moore's 26-point effort was one point shy of tying her season high, and her six three-point field goals this afternoon were one shy of tying her career single game high for the second time this season. Moore shot 10-of-19 from the field and 6-of-12 from beyond the arc. Furthermore, Moore's 251 career treys moved the senior into seventh place all-time on the Big Ten career three-pointers list, surpassing Wisconsin's Jolene Anderson (248).
Alexis Smith posted her best game of the young 2013-14 season. The junior tallied season highs in points (11), rebounds (7) and assists (9). In fact, her nine assists were the most by an Illini this season.
Jacqui Grant and Sarah Hartwell also achieved double figures. Grant's 12 points was the freshman's 10th double-digit scoring performance of the season. The Park Ridge native was extremely efficient from the field, making six of her seven shots. Next, Hartwell recorded 11 points along with five assists, one block and one steal.
As a whole, the Illini shot 55.2 percent from the field, the highest in the Bollant era. The Orange and Blue out-rebounded the Skyhawks 39-38 and enjoyed a 32-22 point advantage in the paint.
Up next, the Fighting Illini once again hit the road to conclude their non-conference portion of the schedule. The Orange and Blue travel to Athens on Dec. 28 to take on the No. 16 and undefeated Georgia Bulldogs at 3 p.m. CT.