Final: Bradley 83, Illinois 77
The MVP: Catie O'Leary.
Redshirt junior forward had a double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) but she had plenty of help in a balanced effort. Four other Braves also scored in double figures.
The Goat: Illini three-point shooting.
Illinois struggled mightily from long range, going 3 of 24 (12.5 percent) from beyond the arc.
What I'm thinking:
First loss of the Matt Bollant era. This one was winnable, so it will sting.
Bradley put on a clinic with ball movement. Illinois could take a lesson.
Let's home Kersten Magrum is OK. Illini forward left game in second half with what appeared to be an arrm or hand injury.
Bradley 65, llinois 57
11:48 left in second half
The MVP: Bradley ball movement
The Braves continue to break down the UI defense with their crisp ball movement and ability to get the ball in the open player's hands. Bradley is shooting 60 percent (24 of 40); it's cashing in when it gets to the line, too, hitting 10 of 11 free throws.
The Goat: Illinois' judgement on shots.
The Illini are stone cold from three-point range, going 2 of 18. There might come a point in this game where they'll need to let it fly to try to catch up, but it's too early for that. It's time to value every possession and work for high percentage shots. Of course, Illinois has missed too many bunnies. The game needs to slow down for the Illini. But only they can do that.
What I'm thinking
Illinois is really being pushed by Bradley. Every time the Illini push back, the Braves have an answer.
If has to be frustrating for Illnois to see how easily the shots are falling for Bradley. There've been a few that were real head-shakers. How did that go in.
Penn continues to do what she can with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
We'll find out what Illinois is made of down the stretch.
Halftime: Bradley 48, Illinois 43
The MVP: Bradley shooters
That's our story, and we're sticking to it. The Braves are hitting inside, outside and beating the Illini down the floor on breaks. Bradley is shooting 62.1 percent (18 of 29) and is unconscious from beyond the arc: going 7 of 8. Illinois knows what it's like to sting an opponent with three-pointers, having racked up 11 against Evansville on Sunday. Now, the Illini are experiencing what it's like to be on the other side.
The Goat: The Refs
At least in the eyes of Illini fans They didn't take kindly when UI forward Taylor Tuck was whistled for a flagrant foul with 9:41 left. Then, when Matt Bollant complained too strenously, he was hit with a technical foul, which again drew the ire of the crowd. When all the free throw shooting was done, Bradley was ahead 26-19.
What I'm thinking:
If Illinois' pressure defense wasn't so effective, the Illini would really be in trouble. Bradley has turned the ball over 16 times.
Karisma Penn is a warrior. The Illini senior forward is battling as hard as she can to keep her team in the game. One sequence near the end of the half symbolized that. Penn had the ball under the basket and missed twice but each time scrapped for the rebound, finally cashing in on her third attempt. She just refused to be denied on that play.
The Illini have fallen in love with the three-point shot and it's killing them. Maybe they think it's still Sunday, when they sank 11 treys. Halfway through this game, they're 2 of 14 from beyond the arc. If you don't have your calculator handy, that's 14.3 percent.
Have to say the crowd is really into it. Folks who have been to Illini women's games in recent years keep remarking how different this team is, how hard it plays.
Bradley 21, Illinois 17
With 11:36 left in first half
The MVP: Bradley shooters
The Braves are having their way with Illinois' defense. They're shotoing 69.2 percent from the field and are 3 of 4 from three-point range. Seven different players have scored for Bradley. Tough for Illinois to focus on just a few. They're all contributing.
At least to start the game. Illinois opened 1 of 8 from the field. If not for Karisma Penn, Illinois would really be in trouble. The senior forward scored seven of UI's first 12 points. Illini are 2 of 9 from three-point range and shooting 36.8 overall.
What I'm thinking.
Bradley is not Evansville, the team Illinois handled in its season opener on Sunday. The Braves are giving the Illini all they can handle. Another reminder that when Illinois plays in-state teams, those teams are highly, highly motivated.
With her first four points, Penn moved past Cindy Dallas (1998-04) into 13th place on the UI career scoring list. Penn entered the game with 1,343 points.
During a timeout, fans were urged to stand up and cheer, with the lure of a free T-shirt for the person who caught the eye of the UI cheerleaders. A fan with Orange and Blue hair was chosen, which the PA announcer noted, calling her the "multicolored-hair lady."
Welcome to our live report from the Assembly Hall, where the Illini women's basketball team will face Bradley tonight (7 o'clock start).
First-year Illini head coach Matt Bollant and his staff get back to the task at hand one day after announcing their first recruiting class. The class is getting some notice by recruiting experts. It's ranked fourth among Big Ten teams by both the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report and Blue Star. Nationally, CGBR has the class 25th, with Blue Star ranking it 33rd.
Tonight, Illinois will try to improve to 2-0, something this program hasn't done since starting 3-0 in the 2008-09 season. Bradley enters 1-1 and has won its last six regular season nonconference road games.
This will be the first of two nonconference games against in-state schools for Illinois. On Dec. 21, Illinois State will visit the Assembly Hall.
Although Bollant's predecessor, Jolette Law, compiled a four-season record of 69-93 that eventually cost her her job, her teams did well in these situations. Law's Illini were 10-3 against in-state nonconference opponents.
Overall, Illinois leads the series with Bradley 10-2 and is 5-1 in Champaign against the Braves.
In their opener, the Illini displayed some impressive long-range shooting in an 84-52 victory against Evansville. With 11 three-pointers, Illinois tied its third-highest single-game total ever. No surprise that junior Amber Moore was the ringleader, sinking five in 11 attempts beyond the arc. By the end of her sophomore season, Moore already ranked fifth on the all-time program list in three-pointers.
Bollant, no doubt, will be looking for his team to avoid the foul trouble that plagued the Illini against Evansville. Although no one fouled out, three Illini players finished with four fouls and four others had three fouls. Bollant was fortunate that his bench came through, particularly freshman McKenzie Piper (14 points, seven rebounds) and sophomore Taylor Tuck (12 points, three steals, two assists). Tuck ended up filling in at point guard for Alexis Smith, who picked up four fouls and was limited to 24 minutes.
It's quickly apparent that the Illini are hyper-aggressive under Bollant on both ends of the floor, but Sunday was an example of how they might have to dodge foul trouble -- if they can -- at times this season.
We'll update this report at the midpoint and end of each half, so be sure to check back in.