Final: Illinois 80, Oregon 62
The Illini began their longest homestand of the season -- four games -- with a decisive victory against winless Oregon.
Illinois (6-4) scored at least 80 points for the fifth time this season. Karisma Penn led a balanced UI attack with 17 points and notched a double-double with 12 rebounds. Ivory Crawford (16), Amber Moore (15), Alexis Smith (14) and Kersten Magrum (12) also scored in double figures.
The Illini led by as many as 20 points several times down the stretch.
Oregon's Jillian Alleyne, the nation's leading rebounder, had 24 points and 16 rebounds.
Illinois 56, Oregon 44
10:21 left in second half
After picking up her third foul and leaving the game with 12:52 left, the Illini senior returned a minute later. By then, Oregon had cut its deficit to 50-41. Penn responded with three of Illinois' next four points to push its lead back to 54-41.
Goat: Oregon three-point shooters
The Ducks are 4 of 24 from beyond the arc.
What I'm thinking:
-- Oregon made a strong push to get back into this game. A 13-5 siurge fueled by Jillian Alleyne (four points) and Ariel Thomas (seven points), pulled the Ducks within nine points of the Illini.
-- The Illini were able to absorb that punch and counter-punch. Karisma Penn is so important to this team that it's imperative that she stay out of foul trouble. Easier said than done, given that the center is constantly battling other big bodies around the rim.
-- Alleyne is the real deal. The nation's leading rebounder entered averaging a double-double in points and rebounds. She had a double-double by halftime and is on her way to big numbesr for this game.
Halftime: Illinois 36, Oregon 20
Hero: Illini ball handlers.
Illinois, which had been averaging 19.8 turnovers per game entering tonight, committed four in the first half.
Goat: Ariel Thomas
Tough first half for the Oregon reserve. Thomas shot 0 for 6 and committed four of the Ducks' 11 turnovers.
What I'm thinking:
-- Illinois has been dominant since that sluggish start. After falling behind 9-3, the Illini outscored Oregon 33-11.
-- With all of its injuries, Oregon looks like a shell of the team that coach Paul Westhead expected to have. Westhead even inserted both of his recent walk-ons for a while when Illinois was pulling away.
-- Great scoring balance for Illinois; Six Illini have scored between nine and three points.
-- Wonder when the last time was that the Illini went a whole half with one foul. It happened tonight, with Ivory Crawford committing the UI's lone foul of the first half. This from an Illini team that seems to flirt with foul trouble every game.
Illinois 15, Oregon 13
9:30 left first half
Hero: Jillian Alleyne
The Oregon freshman, who leads the nation in rebounding, is headed for another double-double with six points and seven rebounds.
Both teams struggling. Oregon shooting 26.1 percent; Illinois 31.3 percent.
What I'm thinking:
-- When Oregon bolted out to a 9-3 lead, Illinois looked really sluggish. Wondered if the Illini saw the Ducks 0-7 record and figured this would be an easy game. Then the Illini went on a 9-0 run.
-- Illini junior Kersten Magrum hit her second three-pointer of the season. Her shot capped that 9-0 run.
-- Oregon had shown some passing skills in the halfcourt, burning Illinois several times already.
-- Maybe it ultimately won't matter, but Illinois looking shaky at the foul line; 3 of 6 so far.
-- Nice gesture before the game, especially with Oregon the opponent; A moment of silence was held before the national anthem for victims of the mall shooting in Portland, Ore., on Tuesday.
Welcome to our live report from the Assembly Hall for tonight's women's basketball game between Illinois and Oregon.
The Illini (5-4) are opening a four-game homestand, their longest of the season, against a winless Ducks team that has been dogged by injuries. Depth has become such an issue that Oregon (0-7) recently added two walk-ons, one a member of the school's track team.
Oregon already has lost two players for the season, each among the team's top ive scorers at the time they were injured, and is playing without as many as five players with previous starting expereince.
The Ducks also are waiting on the arrival of multisport standout Liz Brenner, who plays for Oregon's Final Four-qualifying volleyball team. That Oregon squad is in Louisville, Ky., for Thursday night's national semifinal match against top-seeded Penn State. On Wednesday, Brenner was named a second-team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
Getting back to basketball, the Ducks are coached by one of the most recognizable names in the sport. Paul Westhead is in his fourth season at the Ducks' helm. Westhead is probably best known for the rapid-fire run-and-gun style with which his Loyola Marymount teams played during his tenure at the Los Angeles school from 1985-90. Those Lions teams made scoring averages of 100-plus points routine. But Westhead's impact in the game goes far beyond that, having coached championship teams in both the NBA and WNBA. Bulls fans might or might not remember, but he coached their favorite team in 1982-83. It didn't go well, but the Bulls were still two years away from the arrival of Michael Jordan.
Since the Illini like to get up and down the court in a hurry, and Westhead clearly does with his teams, you'd expect that type of game tonight. We'll see if it produces the level of points that style suggests it will. Illinois enters with a 73.6 scoring average, second in the Big Ten and (entering the week) 28th in the nation. Oregon is averaging 70.0 points, but it's also allowing an average of 82.7.
Keep an eye on Ducks freshman Jillian Alleyne. The 6-foot-3 freshman entered the week ranked No. 1 in the nation in rebound average (15.3). She's had a pair of 20-plus rebound games this season.
Point guard Alexis Smith is Illinois' highest-ranked player in the national stats. The sophomore is 14th in assists per game (6.4), and Smith's 14 assists against Wake Forest on Nov. 29 is tied for the highest single-game total in the nation this season.
With a win tonight, the Illini would put together consecutive victories for only the second time this season. They won Games 3 and 4 on their schedule but haven't strung together another winning streak since.
With fall semester final exams starting Friday and continuing through Dec. 20, Illinois will take a break from playing basketball (though not from practicing) for a while. The Illini's next game after tonight is on Dec. 21, when Illinois State visits the Assembly Hall.
We'll update this report at the midpoint and at the end of each half, so be sure to check back in.