Illini Finish Pre-Conference with Win over Alabama A&M
Dec. 28, 2011
Champaign, Ill. - Sophomore Kersten Magrum scored 19 points and pulled down eight rebounds while junior Karisma Penn added 14 points and 12 rebounds to help lift Illinois to an 83-65 victory over Alabama A&M in the final non-conference game of the season. With the ninth-rated schedule in the nation, the Illini finish that part of the schedule at 6-7 while Alabama A&M falls to 5-5.
The Illini used hot shooting to forge to a 40-27 halftime lead and built an early 51-33 second-half advantage. Every time the Lady Bulldogs made runs, Illinois answered. The Bulldogs pulled to within 55-46 at the 10:19 mark of the second half, only to see the Illini score six straight to take a 61-46 lead. When AAMU got to within 63-51, the Illini used an 8-2 run to put the game away and led by as many as 20 (at 77-57).
Illinois had its best shooting game of the season, connecting on 57.1 percent of its shots and won the rebound battle 37-32. Magrum was 9-11 from the field individually. Defensively, the Illini held an Alabama A&M team that likes push the ball to no fast break points, while garnering 12 themselves. Using a number of players on the Lady Bulldogs' Whiquitta Tabor, Illinois held the Alabama A&M leading scorer to just 5-of-20 shooting from the floor and 15 points, six below her average. Penn had five of the Illini's 10 blocks, while Adrienne GodBold had three of the Illini's 12 steals.
"We started playing our style of defense," Illinois head coach Jolette Law said. "We paid attention to their personnel and let our defense lead to our offense. We didn't turn the ball over as much in the first half and that gave us more opportunities at the basket."
The 83 points for the Illini were the most since scoring 104 against Cal Poly on Nov. 22, 2010. A total of 12 Illinois players reached the scoring column with Alexis Burke's nine points pacing a 30-22 advantage for Illinois in bench point scoring.
"On offense we were executing and playing total team ball," Law added. "Kersten and Karisma set the tone, but collectively, we're playing better and we're growing and improving daily."
Illinois, who was at the home for the first time since Nov. 15, played its first of four games at Assembly Hall in a five-game, 12-day stretch. The Illini open Big Ten play Friday night at 7 p.m. against Michigan, a team that finished the non-conference schedule 10-2, then hosts Purdue (9-3) on Monday afternoon at 1 pm. Law believes that the schedule has helped prepare her squad to succeed in moving up the Big Ten standings.
"My staff and I have been able to accurately gauge where we are," Law said. "We've been tested. We've played some of the bigger stronger, faster teams away from home. Now we have the sense of urgency and know when we need to buckle down and get stops."