Final: Illinois 66, Illinois State 56
One game after backup Alexis Burke carried Illinois to a win against Clemson, the Illini provided further proof that they're more than just one All-Big Ten player and a bunch of others.
With foul-plagued Karisma Penn limited to four points, the Illini relied on Ivory Crawford (16 points), Amber Moore (13 points) and Adrienne GodBold (11 points) to get past Illinois State in front of 1,759 at Redbird Arena.
The Illini also used uncharacteristically strong three-point shooting (7 for 17), after going 0 for 8 against Clemson.
Halftime: Illinois 36, Illinois State 26
The Illini women might be Forrest Gump's favorite team. You just never know what you might see on a given night. And that's not necessarily a bad tshing. Example: tonight's first half. An Illinois team that typically runs its offense through post Karisma Penn hasn't gotten anything from her in terms of points, yet the Illini have a comfortable first-half cushion thanks to ... wait for it ... their three-point shooting prowess.
Yes. That's correct. Three-point shooting prowess.
A team that was shooting 24 percent from beyond the new three-point stripe entering the game went hog wild in the first half, sinking 5 of 11. Chief profiteer? Another unlikely source, Adrienne GodBold. She hit her first three three-pointers before missing once. For the season, GodBold had been 1 for 8.
She has 11 points. Penn, meanwhile, didn't take a shot against the ISU zone until the 4:25 mark. She soon went to the bench with her second foul.
Greetings from Redbird Arena, where the always entertaining I-74 rivalry between Illinois and Illinois State. The UI won the men's matchup in Cancun a couple weeks ago. Will the women make it a sweep?
A few notes before we get started:
--This is the sixth game of Illinois' nine-game excursion away from the Assembly Hall. The Illini are 1-4 so far, but the win was the team's latest game (Wednesday at Clemson). Look for the recent starting lineup (Penn, GodBold, Magrum, McCully, Moore) to remain intact tonight.
--This ISU team isn't on the same level as the last few squads. They've been a bit up and down, as their season results reflect. But you can be sure they'll be amped up for tonight's game, so Illinois will receive the Redbirds' best shot.
--It's early, but it doesn't appear the crowd will be quite as big as recent UI-ISU games in Normal. I don't sense the same buzz surrounding this game as was obvious in recent years, perhaps because the UI program has been in the dumps for so long and ISU is retooling a bit this season after some strong success.
--Tonight's key: the UI defense. Arizona State, a solid defensive club, limited ISU to 54 points last week. The Illini are on a similar plane defensively, but if the effort isn't there, ISU will take advantage. There's really no reason the Illini shouldn't be focused on the task at hand. Finals haven't started yet, and the team has played once in the last 12 days.
--Illinois' next game is Dec. 17 at the United Center against No. 16 Texas Tech. That's the premier matchup on the UI's nonconference schedule. Green Bay, also ranked, might be just as good (or better) than the Red Raiders, but Tech is more athletic and offers a different challenge in that respect.
--Speaking of the schedule, Illinois has played the nation's fifth-toughest schedule, according to RealTimeRPI.com.