CHAMPAIGN — Sophomore Alexis Smith is making a name for herself this season with her passing.
On Saturday, the Illinois point guard proved she can stroke the ball, too.
Shooting 7 of 15 from the field, Smith racked up a career-high 17 points to lead all Illini scorers in a 69-62 loss to Colorado.
The 15 shot attempts was by far a career high, too. Until Saturday, Smith had never taken more than eight shots as an Illini.
The Buffaloes had only themselves to blame for Smith’s outburst. Colorado’s defense dared the West Islip, N.Y., native to shoot.
“I think I need to be aggressive in order to get my other teammates open,” Smith said. “They were sagging off of me, so I had to be a threat in order to open up (shots) for everybody else.”
Smith entered the day leading the nation in assists with 8.0 per game. She had four against the Buffaloes and fared well in her matchup against All-Pac 12 point guard Chucky Jeffery. The Colorado senior finished with seven points and game highs of six assists and eight rebounds.
“I thought Lex did a great job of attacking and getting to the rim,” UI coach Matt Bollant said. “She took 15 shots and a lot of those were layups, which was great. She showed some initiative in getting us going.”
The only blemish in Smith’s performance was eight turnovers, also a career high.
Tough assignment. Illinois had no defensive answer for Arielle Roberson. The redshirt freshman scored a career-high 25 points — two above her previous best — in 31 minutes. Already a two-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week, Roberson was virtually unstoppable with the ball in her hands, shooting 7 of 8 from the field. The 6-foot-1 forward also beat a path to the free throw line, sinking 10 of 14 shots there.
Illini forward Kersten Magrum, who had primary defensive responsibility for Roberson, ended up fouling out with 7:31 left after playing 18 minutes.
“She’s a really good player,” Bollant said. “Hard to believe she’s a freshman. ... She was just really physical, posted up really strong and got a lot of touches. Got to the free throw line.”
Less for Moore. Amber Moore, the Illini’s top long-range shooting threat, was limited to three three-point attempts and six shots from the field overall. The junior guard, who entered ranked second in the Big Ten in three-pointers per game, had not attempted fewer than nine treys in her previous six games this season.
Moore finished with two three-pointers and eight points.
“(Colorado) did a really good job of finding her ... especially in transition and not letting her get open,” Bollant said.