Despite poor free throw shooting and foul problems, the University of Illinois women's basketball team pushed Wisconsin into overtime in Madison on Friday only to fall 82-78.
The Badgers (13-12, 8-7) played in their fourth consecutive overtime game, an NCAA record, and defeated Illinois (15-10, 9-6) in front of 10,734 fans in the Kohl Center.
The two teams ended a tight first half with Wisconsin holding a 35-31 advantage. Illinois rallied after the break thanks to strong defense, holding the Badgers to only 27 percent from the floor in the second half.
Wisconsin built its biggest lead of the half at 43-37 just five minutes into the second stanza. The Illini responded with a 16-3 run, as six UI players contributed, to claim a 53-46 lead at the 10:20 mark. The Illini would lead by as many as eight points, at 56-48, before the Badgers began chipping away at the lead.
Trailing 62-56, Wisconsin went on a 6-0 run to knot the score at 62-62 with just 2:16 left in the game. After Susan Blauser split two free throws, UW's La Tonya Sims hit a jumper to make it 64-63 at the 1:15 mark. UI's Tauja Catchings split one of two free throws to knot the score and Jesse Stomski was fouled with just 35 seconds on the clock. The Badger freshman hit both free throws before Catchings responded with a ten-foot jumper to knot the score at 66-66 and send it into overtime. Illinois hit only 10-18 free throws in the second half to allow the Badger comeback.
In the extra session, foul troubles began to mount for the Illini. Already without Allison Curtin, who exited the game with her fifth foul with 2:16 left in regulation, the two teams traded baskets before Melissa Parker hit a clutch three-pointer to make it 71-68 early in the overtime. Less than a minute later, UI's Alicia Sheeler picked up her fifth foul and was forced to leave. With Wisconsin holding a 75-74 advantage, UW's Stomski charged into Blauser to force her fifth foul, making the shot in the process. After the free throw, Wisconsin led 78-74 and Blauser was on the bench, the third Illini to foul out. Lisa Guarneri responded with a short jumper in the lane to cut the lead to 78-76, but Wisconsin held on at the line for the 82-78 win.
Illinois outshot the hosts, hitting at 41 percent while holding Wisconsin to 35 percent. The difference came at the line, as the Badgers hit 33-44 free throws while Illinois struggled, hitting only 17-29. Wisconsin also outrebounded the Illini, 50-45, while forcing 24 turnovers but commiting 22 turnovers of their own.
Six Illini scored in double-figures, led by Catching's 16-point, 14-rebound performance. Blauser added 13 points while Parker and Curtin chipped in 11 points a piece. Sheeler also earned a double-double, with 10 points and 10 rebounds while Guarneri added 10 points as well. For Wisconsin, Stomski led the Badgers with 23 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, while LaTonya Sims added 20 points.
Illinois concludes the regular season at home, as the Illini host Iowa on 7 p.m. on Sunday at the Assembly Hall.