Final: Illinois 70, Georgia 59
Illinois stunned No. 6 and previously undefeated Georgia by 11 points Friday night at the Assembly Hall.
The Illini (7-5) received a monster game from Karisma Penn. The senior center racked up 27 points and a career-high 19 rebounds.
Georgia (12-1) entered with a scoring average of 74.4 points, but managed to shoot just 34.4 percent (21 of 61) against an active and aggressive Illini defense. Illinois shot 42.1 percent (24 of 57).
Senior guard Adrienne GodBold, making her season debut for the Illini, scored 11 points before fouling out. Amber Moore also had 11 points for Illinois.
The Illini have defeated the last two ranked opponents they've faced. Illinois defeated No. 10 Ohio State 66-65 on Feb. 9, 2012 at the Assembly Hall.
llinois 48, Georgia 41
11:57 left in second half
Hero: Adrienne GodBold
The senior guard has scored seven of her 11 points in the second half to help the Illini keep Georgia at arm's length.
The teams have combined for 39 turnovers with almost 12 minutes still left in regulation.
What I'm thinking:
-- So far, the Illini have been able to hold off Georgia after that Bulldogs went on that strong run late in the first half. Every time Georgia inches closer, the Illini are able to answer.
-- GodBold picked up her fourth foul with 12:27 left. Not a good team to be without a player making a big impact so far in this half.
-- Thought the crowd might be bigger for this one, with the No. 6 team in town, but this program is still a long way away from having to open up B section to accommodate the crowd. A victory tonight might change that.
-- Penn has her double-double, with 16 points and 12 rebounds. It's the 35th of the fourth-year starter's career.
Halftime: Illinois 36, Georgia 29
Hero: Karisma Penn.
The Illini's double-double machine is heading for another one. Penn has racked up game highs of 13 points and eight rebounds, the latter helping Illinois to a 19-19 draw with a very good rebounding Georgia team.
Goat: Free throw shooters.
Both coaches have to be shaking their heads over missed opportunities at the foul line. Georgia is 5 of 14 on free throws; Illinois is 5 of 12.
What I'm thinking:
-- Terrific job by Illinois for the first 14 minutes of the game. The Illini really took it to the Bulldogs; was the aggressor on both ends of the court and had Georgia on its heels. A 19-3 run lifted Illinois to a 31-13 lead and had Bulldogs Coach Andy Landers almost as red as Georgia's uniforms. He was not a happy camper.
-- That 18-point lead was short-lived. Georgia ratcheted up its offense over the final six minutes and drew as close as six points, at 35-29.
-- It will be interesting to see how Illinois responds to the way the first half ended. They've proven they can outplay Georgia in stretches. Given the way the Bulldogs fought back late in the second half, Illinois clearly has the attention now of the nation's No. 6 team.
-- Illinois is holding its own on the boards. That was a major point of emphasis by Matt Bollant to his team entering the game.
-- Three Illini starters enter the second half with three fouls apiece. We'll see if that becomes an issue as the game wears on.
11:37 left first half
Illinois 21, Georgia 11
Hero: Illini defense.
Illinois has harrassed the Bulldogs into seven turnovers already. With all those miscues, Georgia has taken only eight shots from the field.
Goat: Georgia's interior defense.
Illinois opened the game driving the lane with great success. Georgia has tightened that up, but now the Illini are countering from long range. The Illini have hit three three-pointers in a row to take their 10-point lead.
What I'm thinking:
-- Great start for Illinois. Should be a confidence-booster for a team that clearly is an underdog against No. 6 Georgia.
-- Illini senior guard Adrienne GodBold made her season debut and scored her team's first two points. GodBold, who was academically ineligible during the fall semester, also picked up two fourls in barely over five minutes.
-- Georgia guard Jasmine James is impressive. She had eight of her team's first 11 points. Very smooth, polished player.
-- UI President Robert Easter is in the house. In fact, he was named winner of the Fan of the Game contest during one of the early breaks in the action..
Welcome to our live report from the Assembly Hall on tonight's women's basketball game between Illinois and No. 6 Georgia.
Although the Illini certainly haven't played a lightweight schedule -- RealTimeRPI.com ranks the UI's strength of schedule No. 74 in the nation -- this is the first time this season that Illinois is facing a ranked opponent. Georgia enters with a perfect 12-0 record, while the Illini are 6-5.
No matter tonight's outcome, the Illini are assured of finishing their nonconference schedule with at least a .500 record for the first time since the 2009-10 season. That UI team went 8-2 in pre-Big Ten games and went on to reach the quarterfinals of the WNIT, the last time the program played in the postseason.
Illinois regains the services tonight of senior guard Adrienne GodBold. The 2011-12 Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year was academically ineligible for the fall semester and missed the Illini's first 11 games, although she was permitted to practice with the team. UI coach Matt Bollant indicated after practice on Thursday afternoon that he would waste no time utilizing GodBold, saying he planned to include her in the starting lineup against the Bulldogs. GodBold, who has appeared in 89 games during her Illini career and started 11 times, was named team MVP after last season. As a junior, she averaged 9.6 points and ranked second on the team in blocked shots and steals. Bollant said GodBold is "a really good defender. We're a better defensive team for sure as soon as she's on the floor."
For what it's worth, Illinois won the last time it faced a ranked opponent. On Feb. 9, 2012, the Illini knocked off No. 10 Ohio State 66-65, edging the Buckeyes on a layup by Alexis Burke with two seconds left. Four current Illini appeared in that game, and GodBold was prominent in the outcome, contributing 16 points, seven steals and four assists in 33 minutes.
Illini senior center Karisma Penn, who leads the Big Ten in rebounding and block shots, could end the night as Illinois' all-time blocked shots leader. She enters with 230 and needs two to overtake current No. 1 Jenna Smith (2006-10).
By all appearances, Illinois tonight faces its most challenging game so far this season. Beyond Georgia's lofty ranking and perfect record, the Bulldogs are a deep, balanced team with veteran leadership. Nine players are averaging between 15.7 and 24.6 minutes per game, and the offensive load is shared to a remarkable degree. No Bulldog is averaging more than 12.4 points, but six are averaging at least 7.9 points. It's clear that Georgia can survive an off-night offensively from even a couple of regulars, because plenty of others are capable of stepping up.
We'll update this report at around the midpoint and the end of each half so be sure to check back.
-- Jeff Huth