Final: Illinois 74, Iowa 62
An Illini team looking for its first Big Ten home victory finally got it Thursday night, knocking off No. 24 Iowa at the Assembly Hall.
Illinois (12-8, 5-3) had entered 0-3 in conference home games and 5-6 overall at the Assembly Hall.
With the score tied at 60, a three-pointer by Amber Moore ignited a 14-0 run by Illinois. Iowa went scoreless for more than five minutes, finally finding the net with 13.8 seconds left by Kayla Timmerman. But then, the outcome had long since been decided.
Center Karisma Penn led a balanced UI attack with 18 points. Adrienne GodBold and Amber Moore each scored 17 points and Ivory Crawford added 14.
Samantha Logic and Jaime Printy each scored 13 points to lead Iowa (16-6, 5-3 Big Ten).
The Hawkeyes finished with a season-high 27 turnovers.
Iowa 52, Illinois 50
9:16 left in second half
Hero: Melissa Dixon.
The Iowa reserve guard sparked a comeback from a seven-point deficit. With Illinois leading 40-33, Dixon scored five points in a 10-1 Hawkeye run that gave her team a 43-41 lead.
Goat: Illini rebounders
Iowa's height advantage is being felt. The Hawkeyes have a 32-24 edge on the boards even with 6-5 Morgan Johnson out of the game. She picked up her fourth foul with 14:14 left.
What I'm thinking:
-- Illini are positioned to pick up their first Big Ten home win of the season. Iowa might be ranked No. 24, but Illinois is playing right with the Hawkeyes.
-- This is among the more balanced Illini attacks we've seen this season. Four players have between 11 and 13 points.
-- The Illini are keeping pace without a reliance on the three-point shot, which carried them in the first half. Illnois is 1 of 3 this half beyond the arc.
Illinois 34, Iowa 31
Hero: Illini three-point shooters
Long-distance shooting has been huge for Illinois, with Amber Moore and Ivory Crawford each knocking down three treys, the Illini are 8 of 16 beyond the arce.
Goat: Iowa's zone defense.
The Hawkeyes are zone-centric and haven't challenged Illini shooters on the perimieter enough. With twin towers, it makes sense that the zone would be Iowa's primary defense, but it's not stopping a hot-shooting Illini team tonight.
What I'm thinking:
-- A big storyline in the second half will be Karisma Penn and whether the Illini center can stay out of further foul trouble. She picked up her third in the final minute of the first half. She's also struggling with ball security, turning the ball over six times.
-- Illni are doing a reasonably good job on reigning Big Ten Player of the Week Jaime Printy. The Iowa senior guard has nine points, but she's shooting 3 of 9 from the field.
-- Illinois let a 10-point lead slip away too easily. The Illni led 31-21 when Penn hit a three-pointer with 4:49 left. Iowa then went on an 8-0 run, including a couple of three-pointers.
-- Ivory Crawford, who had just seven points Monday at Minnesota (but also six assists) already has 11 points. Illinois has needed all of them.
-- Illinois' eight three-pointers are just three shy of the school record for a Big Ten game, which the Illini set against Minnesota on Monday.
Iowa 15, Illinois 11
11:55 left in first half
Hero: Morgan Johnson
It's obvious the 6-5 Iowa center can be a commanding presence in the paint. She has three rebounds and two points, but more tellingly, she's changing Illini shots with her height.
Goat: Illini ball handlers.
Illinois already had six turnovers, which explains why the Illini have six few shots than Iowa.
What I'm thinking:
-- A pretty modest crowd tonight. Given that the Illini men also are playing tonight and available on TV, and the fact that it's bitterly cold outside, perhaps this is to be expected. Not a super small crowd, but certainly not what the Illini have been attracting lately.
-- Long-range shooting is keeping the Illini in this game; they're 3 of 7 from three-point range.
-- It can be a killer for Illinois when Karisma Penn gets in foul trouble, and that happened quickly tonight. The 6-foot-2 Illini center picked up her second foul just 16:20 into the game and took a seat. With Johnson and 6-4 Bethany Doolittle in Iowa's starting five, Illinois needs its tallest starter on the court.
-- Given the height disparity and Penn's absence (she returned to the court with 12:49 remaining), it's surprising Illinois is trailing in the rebound battle by only 11-9.
Welcome to our live report from the Assembly Hall for tonight's women's basketball game between Illinois and No. 24 Iowa.
The Illini enter with an 11-8 record, matching last season's victory total, and are tied for fifth place in the Big Ten at 4-3. The Hawkeyes are 16-5 and have won their last three games, including two against ranked opponents. At 5-2 in the Big Ten, Iowa is tied for third place.
Historically, the Hawkeyes are as big a nemesis as Illinois has in women's basketball. Iowa leads the all-time series 49-16 and has won the last eight meetings and 14 of the last 15. They also have won their last seven games in Champaign. The current UI senior class is 0-5 in their careers against the Hawkeyes. Purdue also has won 49 games all time against Illinois, but the Illini have experienced marginally better success lately against Purdue (two wins in the last 10 meetings).
Iowa finally cracked the Associated Press Top 25 this week, and it was long overdue. The Hawkeyes are 6-0 against ranked opponents this season. Among teams that have faced at least three ranked teams, Iowa is the only one to be undefeated in those matchups.
The Hawkeyes arrive with the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week in Jaime Printy. The senior guard averaged 21.5 points and 6.5 rebounds last week in victories against Wisconsin and then-No. 23 Michigan. Printy shot 54.5 percent from the field, 41.7 percent from three-point range and was 14 of 15 from the free throw line in the two wins.
Backcourt mate Samantha Logic will draw the Illini's defensive attention, too. The sophomore leads the Big Ten and ranked sixth in the nation in assists per game (7.1).
Inside, the Illini will need to content with 6-foot-5 center Morgan Johnson, Iowa's career blocks leader.
The Illini are looking to build off their most recent game, a hard-earned 91-86 victory at Minnesota on Monday night. It's a short turnaround for Illinois, with just two days between games. With the compressed schedule in mind, UI coach Matt Bollant gave his team Tuesday off and conducted a lighter-than-normal practice on Wednesday.
Illinois is in the midst of a NBA-like schedule, with three games in seven days. After tonight, the Illini will play at Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon.
Illini senior Adrienne GodBold enters the night having scored in double figures in each of her last 12 games. The streak includes the final four games of last season and resumed when the 5-11 guard returned to the court after sitting out the first semester due to academic ineligibility.
Although GodBold has been productive, and Bollant continually praises her defense and aggressiveness in attacking the basket, Illinois needs her to be on the court at the end of games. That's been a problem, with GodBold fouling out of seven of the eight games in which she's played this season.
Here's something else to keep an eye on: How does Illinois react if this game is tight in the closing minute or seconds? The Illini's victory against Minnesota on Monday was a breakthrough because before that, Illinois was 0-4 in games decided by five or fewer points. The Illini finished with a 10-4 run against the Gophers to improve to 1-4 in such games.
No. 3 to keep an eye on: Does Illinois finally win a Big Ten home game. The Illini are 0-3 against conference opponents at the Assembly Hall and the only Big Ten team that hasn't won at least once at home in league play.
We'll update this live report at around the midpoint and at the end of each half, so be sure to check back in.
-- Jeff Huth