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Illinois 60, Wisconsin 53 — Final

Illinois most certainly helped its chances of landing its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2003 with the seven-point home victory.

Illinois showed rust at times in its first game after an eight-day layoff — shooting only 31 percent (21 of 66) — but did enough to hold off a second-half rally by the Badgers and put Matt Bollant’s team into a tie for third place in the Big Ten with Purdue and Michigan.

Karisma Penn led all scorers with 26 points and corralled a game-high 14 rebounds to go along with three steals. Fellow senior Adrienne GodBold complemented Penn’s 10th game of scoring at least 20 points with 16 points, seven rebounds and four steals.

The Illinois defense played a large part in sweeping the season series against the Badgers — who trailed 41-27 after a layup by Alexis Smith with 15:15 left in the second half before cutting the Illini’s lead to 43-40 with 10:11 remaining — by forcing 27 turnovers.

Monday’s win kicked off the first of a five-game stretch in 12 days Illinois will play to end the regular season before the Big Ten Tournament arrives March 7 at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

 

Illinois 43, Wisconsin 33 — 11:56 left, second half

The defense by Illinois is a big reason why Matt Bollant’s team is ahead by double digits.

Alexis Smith had a nice steal and layup to put Illinois ahead 41-27 with 15:15 left.

A steal by Karimsa Penn led to an easy transition layup for Smith as Illinois built lead to 39-24 with 16:02 left.

Adrienne GodBold with a steal and layup to pad the lead at 35-22 with less than 19 minutes left. Good start to the half by Illinois.

Penn started the second half off where she left the first half. Senior had an easy layup for Illini’s first bucket.

Illinois only shooting 33 percent (17 of 51) but has forced Wisconsin into 19 turnovers while only committing nine.

Penn leads all scorers with 20 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

You can tell she wants Illinois to improve its NCAA Tournament chances and is playing like a senior leader has to in a game Illinois must win if it wants to think about playing in the tournament.

Illinois 31, Wisconsin 22 — Halftime

Every time Karisma Penn touches the ball, two or three Wisconsin defenders collapse on her. It’s easy to see why.

Penn has 16 points, nine rebounds and three steals in a dominating first half that included the senior’s fifth three-pointer of the season.

The Badgers went more than six minutes without a field goal. A 14-0 run by Illinois increased its lead to 28-13, but Wisconsin answered with a 9-3 run to end the first half. Illinois has limited the Badgers to 34percent shooting in the first half and forced the Badgers into 13 turnovers. But Illinois has committed nine turnovers and shot the ball worse at a 31 percent clip.

Adrienne GodBold with a three-pointer out of the timeout to give Illinois a 26-13 lead, its biggest of the night up to that point. She received a big hand when she was substituted for with 5:11 left in the half

Donovonn Young, Teko Powell and Chris Boles of the Illinois football team took part in a Simon Says contest at the under-8 media timeout. Pretty funny stuff, especially with the mistakes the three players made at times.

Nia Oden checked in off the bench with 5:48 left in the half and gave Illinois quality minutes in her brief time on the court.

Penn showed off her outside touch with a three-pointer that built Illinois’ lead to 21-13 with under nine minutes left. She tried to answer a minute later, but the trey bounced off the right side.

Matt Bollant called his first timeout of the half with 9:10 left and Illinois ahead 15-13. He was definitely not happy with a defensive lapse that allowed Wisconsin’s Cassie Rochel an easy 10-footer she made.

Taylor Tuck was the first non-starter to score for Illinois. The Bolingbrook product finished off a nice layup to give Illinois its first basket out of the under-12 media timeout. She then added the Illini’s first three-pointer a few minutes later to snap an 8-2 run by Wisconsin.

I’ll be back with updates here at the under-12 media timeout in the second half, and periodically on Twitter @mdaniels_ng.

Illinios 13, Wisconsin 9 — 11:19 left, first half

Illinois is showing little rust — when it holds onto the ball — after an eight-day layoff.

Alexis Smith with a nice spin move, but couldn’t convert the layup. Adrienne GodBold and Karisma Penn, though, both grabbed offensive rebounds, resulting in two free throws by Penn that increased the Illinois lead to 11-5 with 13:21 left.

The fist Illinois sub, Taylor Tuck, checked in the game with 12:11 remaining. Bollant would probably like to use more than six players, especially with the stretch Illinois has coming up.

The Illinois football team is in the house tonight, filling up most of the bleachers opposite the band.

GodBold and Penn have scored all 13 Illinois points so far. GodBold has seven points and five rebounds. Penn has six points and three steals.

After spotting Wisconsin an early 3-0 lead, Illinois held the Badgers scoreless for the next four minutes, building an impressive lead while forcing four Wisconsin turnovers to take a 9-3 lead into the first media timeout at 15:10.

Penn is active so far at both ends, picking up a steal in the first three minutes before scoring his first bucket shortly thereafter. Wisconsin doesn’t look like it has anyone on the floor who can guard her, which the rest of the Big Ten has experienced multiple times this season. Penn had three steals by the time the first media timeout arrived with 15:10, nearly hitting her average so far and increasing her season total to 70.

GodBold showed up ready to play, scoring the first five points for Illinois. How Penn and GodBold go is how Illinois has gone during many games this season, and how they fare in the remaining schedule will go a long way towards determining Illinios’ NCAA Tournament chances. 

Wisconsin (11-14, 3-9) at Illinois (14-9, 7-4) — 10 minutes before tipoff (BTN)

This is one of the games on the BTN that will feature the play-by-play and color commentator broadcasting the game from in the studio in Chicago.

Sideline reporter Kara Lenz is here, though, and she’s been impressed with what Matt Bollant has accomplished in his first season with Illinois.

“Knowing the talent they have, it's not that big of a surprise,” Lenz said of the 14-9 record Illinois has going into tonight’s game, including a 7-4 mark in the Big Ten. “What's been gratifying to see is having Coach Bollant funnel that talent in a way that creates success.”

No real surprises in Illinois starting lineup tonight. Karisma Penn, Ivory Crawford, Alexis Smith, Adrienne GodBold and Amber Moore, who will log significant minutes as Bollant has whittled his rotation down to about six players.

Watching how Bollant uses his bench will be interesting to see since Illinois will play at No. 7 Penn State on Wednesday night before making the trip back to Champaign for a Saturday afternoon game against Indiana.

Illinois enters the game second in the Big Ten in scoring offense at 72.1 points. Illinois has topped 72 points 13 times this season, and is 11-2 in those games. We’ll have more at the under-12 media timeout on here, with another update at halftime.

Wisconsin (11-14, 3-9) at Illinois (14-9, 7-4) — 30 minutes before tipoff (BTN)

This is my first women’s game of the season.

I’ve covered three men’s games, and I’ll definitely be able to see the action well from just above A Section.

 

Usually, when teams are shooting at the basket nearest Illinois’ bench, the sight of John Groce pacing back and forth usually is in my field of vision.


Speaking of Assembly Hall, Matt Bollant’s squad has a 7-6 record on its home court this season, with much better luck on the road (6-2), and a 1-1 record on neutral courts.

 

Former Illinois point guard Maggie Acuna is in the house tonight.

 

She set the program’s single-game assists record with 16 in a game at Wisconsin on Jan. 15, 2006.

 

She now works in the compliance department at Wisconsin.

 

Caught up with her a little while ago, and she just graduated last spring from Valparaiso Law School.

 

It’s a win-win situation for her tonight as far as her rooting interest, and she said she had practice from the game between the two foes two weeks ago.

 

Also caught up with Kara Lentz of the BTN, who will work the sidelines for tonight’s game. If the NCAA Tournament were to start today, Lenz thinks Illinois is a lock.

 

Illinois players came on the floor to start warming up about 50 minutes before tip, well after the whole Wisconsin squad was out on the floor, but the Badgers went back into the locker room, and Illinois was shooting at both baskets for awhile.

 

The court is currently void of any players.

 

Fans are slowly starting to filter into Assembly Hall.

 

The win against Minnesota drew 2,703. Ironically, this is the first Monday game for Illinois, plus the weather outside wasn’t too nice on my drive over here, and it's President's Day to boot.

 

We’ll see if that has any effect on the crowd.

 

Wisconsin (11-14, 3-9) at Illinois (14-9, 7-4) — 30 minutes before tipoff (BTN)

This is my first women’s game of the season.

I’ve covered three men’s games, and I’ll definitely be able to see the action well from just above A Section.

 

Usually, when teams are shooting at the basket nearest Illinois’ bench, the sight of John Groce pacing back and forth usually is in my field of vision.

Speaking of Assembly Hall, Matt Bollant’s squad has a 7-6 record on its home court this season, with much better luck on the road (6-2), and a 1-1 record on neutral courts.

 

Former Illinois point guard Maggie Acuna is in the house tonight. She set the program’s single-game assists record with 16 in a game at Wisconsin on Jan. 15, 2006. She now works in the compliance department at Wisconsin. Caught up with her a little while ago, and she just graduated last spring from Valparaiso Law School.

 

It’s a win-win situation for her tonight, and she said she had practice from the game between the two foes two weeks ago.

 

Also caught up with Kara Lentz of the BTN, who will work the sidelines for tonight’s game. If the NCAA Tournament were to start today, Lenz thinks Illinois is a lock.

 

Illinois players came on the floor to start warming up about 50 minutes before tip, well after the whole Wisconsin squad was out on the floor, but the Badgers went back into the locker room, and Illinois was shooting at both baskets for awhile.

 

Fans are slowly starting to filter into Assembly Hall.

 

The win against Minnesota drew 2,703. Ironically, this is the first Monday game for Illinois, plus the weather outside wasn’t too nice on my drive over here.

 

We’ll see if that has any effect on the crowd.

Wisconsin (11-14, 3-9) at Illinois (14-9, 7-4) — 45 minutes before tipoff (BTN)

Illinois already owns a 64-56 win against the Badgers this season that only came 15 days ago in Madison. If Illinois wins tonight, it will be the first time since the 1999-2000 season the Illini have swept Wisconsin in the same season.

That season is also significant in Illinois women’s basketball history as the last time Illinois won a game in the NCAA Tournament. Illinois knocked off Utah 73-58 in the first round of the tournament that year in Ames, Iowa. Illinois has a legitimate shot at an NCAA Tournament berth — the program’s first since 2003 — and a win tonight would certainly help those odds.

Senior Karisma Penn has led Illinois in virtually every category this season. Hope you saw today’s News-Gazette where Jeff Huth broke down Penn’s ability to corral steals. Not only is she leading Illinois in scoring (18.6) and rebounding (10.0), but is the conference’s leader in steals at 3.8. Her 67 steals this season are five more than her season-best, which came during the 2010-11 season when she had 62. She’ll be hard to replace next year, but Matt Bollant is hopeful incoming recruits Jacqui Grant from Maine South and Sarah Livingston from Morton could fit into similar roles.

“We'll be different at that spot,” Bollant said. “We really believe Jacqui Grant and Sarah Livingston are going to be good basketball players. They certainly have the size and the capability, but it's hard to know until they're here how they're going to fill that in.”

Wisconsin (11-14, 3-9) at Illinois (14-9, 7-4) — 85 minutes before tipoff (BTN)

Matt Daniels here at Assembly Hall for tonight’s Big Ten Conference game between the Illini and Badgers. I’m filling in for Jeff Huth, and I’ll be providing frequent updates here and on Twitter (@mdaniels_ng) throughout the night.

A few Wisconsin players are on the court shooting around and stretching right now. No Illinois players have ventured onto the court yet.

This is Illinois’ first game in eight days since beating Minnesota 76-66 on Feb. 10 in Champaign. Matt Bollant gave his squad some days off last week in preparation for a stretch run that features five games in the next two weeks, including three games in the next six days.

Illinois will travel to Penn State on Wednesday for a game against the nationally-ranked Nittany Lions before heading back to Champaign to host Indiana at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Big Ten Tournament arrives soon, March 7, and Illinois will make the short drive north to suburban Chicago’s Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

I’ll have more updates in about 25-30 minutes.

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