LIVE! Illini women at SFC

Final: Illinois 93, Mississippi Valley State 70

Led by Amber Moore and freshman Jacqui Grant, the Illini improved to 2-1 with a 23-point victory Thursday. night.

Fifth-year senior Moore finished with 27 points and a career-high19, nine more than her previous collegiate best.

Grant scored a career-high 22 points and contributed seven rebounds.

We'll post a complete game story later, so be sure to check back.

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7:17 left in second half: Illinois 77, Mississippi Valley State 55

Hero: Ivory Crawford

When MVSU pulled within 66-53, the Illini guard reponded with four points in a 9-0  run to help her team distance itself.

Goat: Crowd size.

Eager to learn what the attendance is tonight. Those who are here are making plenty of noise. Good for them.

What I'm thinking:

-- I'd say the Illini have played significantly better than they did against Valparaiso on Tuesday. We'll see what Matt Bollant says. Might be the opponent tonight.

-- Wonder when Bollant will clear his bench?

-- Poor MVSU. The Devilettes still have seven more road games between they finally play their home opener.

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13:38 left in second half: Illinois 66, Mississippi Valley State 50

Hero: Amber Moore

The Illini wing already has a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds.

Goat: Heather Freeman's stamina.

The hefty 6-3 MVSU center is the only player on her team that can match up with Grant, but she can't stay on the floor as long as her team needs her to.

What I'm thinking:

-- The Illini are playing in spurts. You can see Bollant is frustrated by that.

-- Olivia Kennedy doesn't have the prettiest shot, but the MVSU guard is somehow effective with it. She's up to 15 points now.

--  Illini entered shootijng 85.7 percent from the free throw line for the season. That's exactly what they are shooting in this game: 12-14, 85.7 percent..

****

Halftime: Illinois 50, Mississippi Valley State 35

Hero: Jacqui Grant

The freshman is having the game of her Illini career, brief as it is. The 6-3 post already has scored 15 points -- three more than her previous UI high.

Goat: MVSU ball handlers.

The Devilettes ended the half with 15 turnovers. That's what Illini pressure can do to opponents.

What I'm thinking:

:-- Illinois responded strongly after MVSU twice cut the lead to eight points. With the score 34-26, Illini ran off 14 of the game's next 16 points. Grant was a big part of it, contributing six points, including a strong drive to the hoop.

-- Three-point shooting is keeping MVSU in this game. Or, more specifically, Olivia Kennedy's three-point shooting. The Devilettes' 5-5 guard is 4 of 6 beyond the arc.

-- Four fouls at halftime? Is this really Illinois? A team that struggled to stay out of foul trouble last season is avoiding that trap and still holding MVSU to 38.2 percent shooting.

-- Illini guard Ivory Crawford has only two points, but the junior guard has four of her team's 10 assists.

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6:26 left in first half: Illinois 34, Mississippi Valley State 26

Hero: Olivia Kennedy

Senior guard (nine points) has rallied Devilettes back into this game.

Goat: Illini rebounders

Trailing 14-13 on the boards. It's been an issue this season for Matt Bollant's team and figures to be; but shouldn't against this team.

What I'm thinking:

-- Matt Bollant was not a happy camper when he called a timeout with his team's lead down to 32-24.

-- Freshman Taylor Gleason continues to impress off the bench; has contributed four points, one assist and one rebound.

-- For the Illini at this point in the game, six turnovers is a very good number. Taking pretty good care of the ball. That's not always the case, as UI fans know.

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14:07 left in first half: Illinois 22, Mississippi Valley State 13

Hero: Amber Moore

Fresh off becoming the UI's career leader in three-pointers on Tuesday, the fifth-year senior is showing why she holds the record. Moore is 3 of 4 on treys and has scored more than half of the Illini's points (12).

Goat: Perimeter defense

Both teams getting stung by the three-pointer. MVSU has yielded five; Illini have permitted three.

What I'm thinking:

-- Matt Bollant has been saying for weeks that center Jacqui Grant is a good outside shooter. She's proving it tonight. Entering the game; the freshman was 0 for 6 on three-point tries. In this game, she's 2 for 2.

-- Another Illini opponent with not much height. The Devilettes' tallest starter is 6-foot. MVSU has brought a 6-3 freshman off the bench, however.

-- I've mentioned before that I'm not the greatest as estimating attendance, but this looks like another sub-2,000 crowd tonight. Had thought last season's vastly improved performance by the Illini might have created more carryover interest. It's early, and the home schedule isn't that attractive so far. We'll see what the turnover is like on Sunday when it's not a school or work night.

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Welcome to our live report from State Farm Center for tonight’s women’s basketball game between the Illini and Mississippi Valley State.
Sports fans, at least those older than 30, I’m guessing, will best know MVSU as the alma mater of Jerry Rice, arguably the greatest receiver in the history of pro football.
The women’s basketball program at Rice’s former school isn’t of that level of accomplishment, to be sure. The Devilettes enter with an 0-3 record and are permitting an average of 87 points. Illinois (1-1), which scored 92 points in its season opener, could be headed to another 90-plus night, depending on the tempo and how it shoots.
This is the second of three games in six days for the Illini, but MVSU won’t be feeling sorry for Matt Bollant’s team. The Devilettes, whose modest budget requires guaranteed-money games of the kind they’ll play tonight, are playing their fourth game in six days. In fact, MVSU’s first 11 games this season are on the road. We’re pretty sure the athletic department’s academic advisers have their hands full with helping the players keep current with their class work.
The Illini are coming off a bounce-back win against Valparaiso Tuesday night after opening the season with a loss at Bradley. This game — and the rest of the four-game home stand — offers a chance to build some momentum before Illinois hits the road again. The Illini will face Alcorn State on Sunday and Southern Illinois a week from tonight. Not a one in the bunch that Illinois won’t be favored to win.
Illini coach Matt Bollant was all smiles on Wednesday after signing a recruiting class of three — Chatrice White, Amarah Coleman and Brooke Kissinger — that was ranked among the Top 25 nationally by at least one recruiting web site. White is the centerpiece of this class, a 6-foot-3 center ranked fourth at her position nationally by ESPN HoopGurlz. The Shelby-Rising City High School senior was recruited by her home state Nebraska University, but Bollant managed to outrecruit the Cornhuskers for White.
Back to tonight’s game. The Illini enter with four players averaging double-figure points, and it’s apparent that offense is not an issue with this team. It can score. Defense and rebounding are another matter. Illinois made strides in those two areas in the victory against Valpo, and Bollant will be looking to see further improvement.
We’ll know a lot more, however, when Illinois starts playing tougher competition. It will do so after this current home stand, with North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Colorado on the docket in late November and early December — all on the road.
So this is a time for Illinois to make some tangible progress before it wades into a difficult stretch. If the Illini struggle in any areas the rest of the home stand, that could be a red flag.
We’ll update this live report periodically during the game so be sure to check back in.
 

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