Iowa rallies from late deficit to claim Big Ten opener despite 29 points from Blauser - 12/28/98
In the Big Ten opener, Illinois' (6-5, 0-1) inside duo of Susan Blauser and Alicia Sheeler staked the Illini to an early lead, only to see Iowa (6-5, 1-0) rally in the final minutes to continue its domination of this series with an 89-86 victory on Monday in Iowa City.
Iowa freshman Leah Magner hit a three-pointer with one minute left in the game to give the Hawkeyes a one-point lead, and the hosts held on at the free throw line despite a combined 52 points and 20 rebounds from Illinois' inside pair of Blauser and Sheeler.
The Illini trailed 25-19 in the opening stanza before Blauser and Sheeler began to dominate down low. Blauser scored Illinois' next 13 points to put the visitors up 32-28. Sheeler scored the next six points to give Illinois its biggest lead of the game at 38-30. Illinois ended the half with a 45-38 advantage, as Blauser and Sheeler combined to score UI's last 26 points.
Illinois shot 62 percent from the floor in the first half, including an impressive 8-9 performance from the floor by Blauser. Illinois' inside duo combined for 34 points and 14 rebounds in the first half.
Blauser opened the second half with a quick layup to put the Illini up 47-39 and the visitors led 61-54 with 14:46 left on the clock before Iowa rallied. Senior Amy Herrig scored four points in an 8-0 Iowa run to give the Hawkeyes their first lead since early in the first half at 62-61. The Illini still trailed 64-63 when Blauser scored five points in a 7-0 UI run to reclaim the lead at 70-64.
Iowa's young team would not fold under pressure, scoring 10 straight points to turn a 72-66 deficit into a 76-72 lead with only 5:04 left in the game. Illinois would respond behind its own freshmen, as Dawn Vana hit a jumper and was fouled to convert a three-point play. Melissa Parker followed with a long trey and then freshman Allison Curtin hit two free throws and a jumper and Vana knocked down another jumper to put Illinois ahead 84-80 with 2:13 on the clock.
Two Hawkeye freshmen combined for two critical baskets, as Lindsey Meder knocked down a jumper to make it 84-82 before Magner's trey gave Iowa the lead at 85-84. From there, Herrig hit four straight free throws to lead the Hawkeyes to the 89-86 win.
Illinois shot 58 percent in the game and outrebounded the Hawkeyes 33-30, but 19 turnovers killed the Illini as the Hawkeyes turned the ball over only 11 times. Iowa shot 52 percent from the floor and hit 14-15 free throws in the game.
Illinois' Susan Blauser earned her second straight double-double as she tied a career-high with 29 points, on 13-16 shooting from the floor, and grabbed 13 rebounds. Sheeler hit 11-16 shots to score 23 points while Parker added 11 points and Tauja Catchings scored 10 points. Iowa was led by its lone senior, as Herrig scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Illinois returns to Assembly Hall for the Big Ten home opener on Wednesday, Dec. 30 against the Wisconsin Badgers at 7 p.m.