Bradley 83, UI women 77: 'Shocked'
CHAMPAIGN — Of the multitude of ugly numbers Matt Bollant found in the final box score, the one he regarded as perhaps the toughest to swallow was 16.
That’s how many offensive rebounds Bradley grabbed Thursday night against an Illinois women’s basketball team that, under its first-year coach’s constant prodding, prides itself on being the aggressor.
“Shocked,” Bollant said. “That’s part of being aggressive. To give up 16 to them is shocking.”
For Illinois, the shockwaves extended all the way to the final buzzer. Constantly turned back by the Braves, the Illini never led in absorbing an 83-77 nonconference loss at the Assembly Hall.
Illinois (1-1) might have suspected it was in a fix after yielding 48 first-half points.
“We want to be the most aggressive team,” Bollant said. “We want to be a team that fights, and we didn’t start the game that way and didn’t play most of the game that way.”
Then Bollant fixed on another of those ugly numbers, which also happened to be 16. That’s how many more free throws Bradley shot while outscoring Illinois 20-4 at the line.
“Pretty evident by their 24 free throws (attempted) to our eight,” he said. “The most aggressive team gets to the foul line ”
The Illini definitely didn’t lack for aggressiveness in shooting three-pointers. Problem was, they rarely were successful. One game after sinking 11 threes, Illinois was 3 of 24 from beyond the arc.
On a night when the Illini shot 59.3 percent on two-point attempts (32 of 54), they continued to fire away from long range.
“I’m not going to tell Amber Moore to back off from shooting an open three,” said Bollant, referring to the UI’s No. 5 producer of career three-pointers. “But the other kids, (we want them) to be smart. ... We want them to do the right footwork when they shoot a three, and we were shooting some rushed threes without doing our footwork. That’s what we’ve done since we got here this spring is work on our footwork so that they’re balanced and we can shoot a better percentage than we did.
“And part of that is being smart, having a feel for the game. Our feel for the game wasn’t very good tonight, either.”
Even a near-career game by senior Karisma Penn wasn’t enough to pull Illinois through. Tenaciously scrapping under and around the basket, the Illini forward finished with 29 points — four short of her career high — and 16 rebounds, two shy of her career best.
Still, Penn couldn’t shake the memory of several close-range shots that didn’t fall, either because she rushed them or they simply rolled off the rim.
“Looking at what I shot from the field (14 of 27), I think I could have made about eight of those shots I missed inside,” she said. “And I think that’s scary, realizing I left all those points up there on the board, because those points could have made a difference.”
Bradley countered with an ultra-balanced attack. Led by forward Catie O’Leary (15 points, 12 rebounds), the Braves had five players score in double figures. Three of them were reserves as Bradley racked up a 41-7 edge in bench points.
Short shots. Redshirt junior Kersten Magrum, who has coped with multiple injuries since her sophomore year, left the game with 14:21 left in the second half with a shoulder injury and did not return. ... Bradley shot 62.1 percent in the first half (18 of 29), including 7 of 8 on three-point attempts. ... Penn moved past Cindy Dallas (1998-2004) into 13th place on the UI career scoring list. With 1,372 career points, Penn trails No. 12 Kris Dupps by one point. ... Bradley now has won seven consecutive regular season nonconference road games.