LIVE! from Bollant's debut
Matt Bollant's regular-season debut as Illini coach is a success, Illinois rolling to an 84-52 victory against Evansville.
The Illini sank 11 three-pointers, tying for the third most in program history.
Five Illini scored in double figures, led by Amber Moore (19). Moore had five three pointers and Ivory Crawford had three.
The Illini outrebounded the Purple Aces 51-33, with Karisma Penn grabbing a game-high 12 boards. Penn had a double-double (11 points).
Nice gesture by Bollant to call a timeout with 1:24 left to get Cassie Dumoulin and Eriel Davis into the game. Dumoulin, who has nine siblings, had a large cheering section of family and friends at the game, and they let the crowd know they were there with Dumoulin got off the bench and eventually (thanks to Bollant's timeout) was introduced as entering the game.
Illinois leads 75-49 with 3:31 left, and the Illini keep raining three-pointers.
When Ivory Crawford hit one with 4:17, Illinois notched its 10th trey. It's the eighth time in program history an Illini team has recorded that many threes in a game.
Crawford is 3 for 4 from beyond the arc, and teammate Amber Moore is 5 for 11.
Illinois holds a 65-39 lead with 7:47 left.
The Illini continue to show they can hit the long ball. Alexis Smith sank a three-pointer to give Illinois a 65-37 lead, becoming the fourth different Illini player with a trey in this game.
Karisma Penn has her double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds). Penn, who can have her troubles at the foul line, is an encouraging 5 for 8 there.
With Alexis Smith experiencing foul problems (four), freshman Taylor Tuck filled in for the point guard and kept the Illini attack on track. Tuck has six points, all from the line, and two assists.
No letup from Illinois to start the second half. The Illni lead 53-26 with 15:54 left after opening the half with a 15-1 run. Amber Moore continues to light it up from long range, hitting two more three-pointers, giving the UI guard five for the game. She scored Illinois' first eight points of the second half and has 19 for the game.
Evansville's shooting is down to 20 percent, Illinois' up to 40.9 percent.
Illinois leads 38-25 at halftime in Matt Bollant's regular-season debut as Illini head coach.
After a slow start, the Illini have taken control , building leads as big as 16 points.
Amber Moore leads the Illini with a game-high 11 points, while freshman McKenzie Piper has seven. Karisma Penn is on her way to a double-double with six points and six rebounds.
The Illini are holding Evansville to 24 percent shooting (6 of 25) but the aggressive defense has come at a price. Alexis Smith and Kersten Magrum each have three fouls, while two other Illini starters have two fouls.
With Amber Moore doing 3 of 7 from the three-point line, Illinois has five treys. The Illni are shooting 35.1 percent (13 of 37).
With 3:26 left in the half, Illini lead 31-17. The Illini continue to roll, scoring 25 of the last 34 points. Evansville finally halted its field goal drought, sinking a basket with 5:07 left after last doing so at 16:36.
Amber Moore is 3 of 6 on three-pointers and leads the Illini with 11 points
Illinois running into some foul trouble, Kersten Magrum and Alexis Smith have three fouls and two other starters have two.
Illini still on a roll, building their lead to 17-8 with 9:12 left in first half. Illinois has scored the last 11 points, with freshman McKenzie Piper capped that run with a three-pointer.
Evansville hasn't scored a field goal since 16:35.
Karisma Penn leads Illinois with six points and six rebounds. Another of her double-doubles seems assured.
With 11:36 left in the first half, Illinois leads 11-8. Illinois has scored seven of the last eight points, capped by a three-point basket by Amber Moore. Illni shooting has picked up from an awful start; they're now at 29.4 percent (5 of 17). Evansville is shooting 2 of 12, including 0 of 6 on threes. When the Purple Aces go to their bench, they lose some quickness and athleticism.
With just under 16 minutes left in the first half, Evansville leads 7-4 and both teams are struggling to shoot the ball. Illinois is 2 for 9 from the field, Evansville 2 for 7.
Illinois clearly is faced with a much tougher test than it experienced in two exhibitions. Evansville is a pretty athletic team.
Welcome to our live report from the Assembly Hall on today's women's basketball game between the Illini and Evansville.
Of course, the biggest storyline is the Illini coaching debut of Matt Bollant. The Winona, Minn., native arrives in Champaign with a remarkable resume, compiling a 282-55 career record in previous stops at Bryan College and Wisconsin-Green Bay,. At the latter stop, Bollant's Phoenx teams won 88.6 percent of their games (148-19) and reached the NCAA tournament each of the last four years.
Of Mike Thomas' three coaching hirings since his arrival, Bollant seemingly would be the biggest name in his sport. Wisconsin raised eyebrows when it passed on Bollant while filling its women's coaching vacancy a couple of years ago. Thomas clearly wasn't reluctant, hiring a guy who had won seven straight games against Big Ten opponents by the end of his Green Bay tenure.
The Illini open against an Evansville team that defeated Ball State on the road 54-45 in its season debut on Friday. The Purple Aces were 6-25 last season but were in the NCAA tournament as recently as 2009.
It's the first meeting between Illinois and Evansville, but Bollant is no stranger to the Purple Aces. He served as an assistant to Kathi Bennett -- daughter of former Wisconsin men's coach Dick Bennett -- from 1997 to 2000 at Evansville. The Purple Aces' second-year coach, Oties Epps, has been to the Assembly Hall before. He spent three seasons as an assistant to former Wisconsin head coach Lisa Stone.
If you've been to the Assembly Hall for women's basketball in recent seasons, you probably will be pleased to learn that all seating now is in Section A -- the section closest to the floor. Of course, if that fills up, Section B will be utilized, but UI officials want to avoid the type of situation in which smallish crowds are spread all over the Hall and the attendance appears even sparser than it actually is. By seating fans in one area closest to the floor, it should created a better atmosphere for Illini players, too. There still is reserved seating, but it's restricted to a few areas near midcourt on either side of the court. The rest is general admission.
We're sure Bollant and Thomas are hoping that crowds pick up to the point that B section, and perhaps even C section, needs to be opened and utilized.
What can we expect today? Hopefully, some more competitive basketball than the Illini experienced in the preseason. In two exhibition games, Bollant's team outscored its opponents by a combined 209-66. Of course, neither was an NCAA Division I school.
The general consensus from the exhibitions was that this Illini team plays harder than fans have seen in a while. Lots of energy. Lots of pressure on defense and attacking on offense.
We'll update this report at times during the game so be sure to check back in.