Final: Illinois 73, Indiana 60
Karisma Penn scored 25 points -- her 11th 20-plus game of the season -- to lead Illinois to a bounce-back Big Ten win Saturday at the Assembly Hall.
Illinois, which lost by 33 points at No. 7 Penn State on Wednesday night, never trailed against the last-place Hoosiers.
The Illini (16-10) improved to 9-5 in the Big Ten. The last time Illinois won nine conference games was during the 2002-03 season, which was the last time in made it to the NCAA tournament.
Penn shot 10 of 14 from the field and grabbed a team-high six rebounds.
Guard Ivory Crawford added 13 points and Taylor Tuck contributed nine points off the bench.
Jasmine McGhee led Indiana (11-16, 2-12) with 25 points.
Illinois led 42-28 at halftime, but the Hoosiers cut their deficit to six points several times early in the second half. Illinois led 46-40 when Tuck hit a clutch three-pointer to increase the difference to nine points. Indiana never got closer than seven points thereafter.
11:57 left in second half
Illinois 51, Indiana 42
Hero: Jasmine McGhee. The senior guard is doing everything she can to keep Indiana in this game. McGhee, who entered with a 12.3-point scoring average, has 22 points and is shooting 9 of 14.
Goat: Illini shooters. Illinois off to a rough start to the half, shooting 3 of 12.
What I'm thinking:
-- Illini reserve Taylor Tuck made a huge shot after Indiana had cut its deficit to six points. The sophomore wing sank a three-pointer with 14:40 left to give Illinois a 49-40 edge.
-- Penn has been a rock for the Illini, scoring 20 points so far and shooting 8 of 11 from the field. Indiana has no answer for the senior when she mixes it up inside.
-- IU sports information assistant Ben Taylor just let us know that today's crowd is 3,088. That's the largest paid attendance for an Illini home game this season. The only larger crowd, 4,175 on Jan. 13 against Michigan State, was on "Pack the Hall" day, which offered free admission.
Halftime: Illinois 42, Indiana 28
Hero: Karisma Penn. The Illini senior center is having her way offensively, shooting 6 of 8 from the field en route to a team-high 14 points.
Goat: Aulani Sinclair. Along with Jasmine McGhee, Sinclair must score for the Hoosiers -- who rank last in the Big Ten on points per game -- to have a chance. Halfway through this game, Sinclair has two points and is shoot 1 for 5, including 0 for 3 from three-point range.
What I'm thinking:
-- Will the Illini again be super aggressive with their press during the second half? It had such a major impact at the start of the game. But this is Illinois' third game in six days. How much is left in the tank?
-- The Illini are hoping their struggles at the foul line don't come back to haunt them. Although Adrienne GodBold is 5 of 6 on her free throw attempt, as a team Illinois is 10 of 17.
-- At halftime, Illinois is within 10 points of its total at Penn State on Wednesday. Indiana hasn't been able to slow an Illini team shooting 53.8 percent (14 of 26).
-- Always a good idea to keep an eye on foul-prone Illinois' foul situation. Starting guard Ivory Crawford enters the second half with three, but only one other Illini has as many as two fouls.
9:21 left in first half
Illinois 23, Indiana 16
Hero: Illini defense.
The Illini had Indiana on its heels from the get-go with full-court pressure defense that was highly effective. Indiana already up to eight turnovers.
Goat: Hoosier ball handers.
Coach Curt Miller looked beside himself as his team wilted in the face of Illinois' pressure. Teams practice against pressure all the time. You wouldn't have known it from the way Indiana reacted in the early going.
What I'm thinking:
-- This is Illinois' third game in six days, but you wouldn't know it from the energy they're bringing today.
-- Illini have their long-ranged game working. Shooting 4 of 5 on three-pointers.
-- Jasmine McGhee, a former junior college national player of the year, has been impressive for the Hoosiers. Has half of Indiana's points so far.
-- Unlike the last time the Big Ten Network carried a game from the Assembly Hall, the play-by-play announcer and analyst are actually here. Last time, the BTN did the announcing from its Chicago studio.
Welcome to our live report from the Assembly Hall for today's Big Ten women's basketball game between the Illini and Indiana.
With a win today, Illinois (15-10) would improve to 9-5 in the conference. The last Illini team to win as many as nine Big Ten games was the 2002-03 squad, which finished with a 9-7 league record. If you're looking for positive omens, that season was the last time Illinois reached the NCAA tournament.
Illinois is coming off an ugly 95-62 loss at No. 7 Penn State, it's most lopsided defeat since January 2005. Once thing we've learned about these Illini, however, is that they're a resilient bunch. Illinois' longest losing streak is two games, back in early December. Seven other times this season, the Illini have followed a loss with a victory in their very next game.
In contrast, Indiana (11-15, 2-11 Big Ten) was in the throes of a 10-game losing streak before it upset No. 22 Purdue 62-61 on Wednesday. Jasmine McGhee was the Hoosiers' hero, hitting a buzzer-beating jump shot from just inside the arc.
Indiana, which ranks last in the Big Ten in scoring average (55.1 points) relies heavily on McGhee and forward Aulani Sinclair for offense. They've combined to average 28.1 points per game. No other Hoosier is averaging more than 6.5 points.
Illinois, meanwhile, ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring (71.2 per game) and through Sunday ranked 30th nationally in that category.
Despite Wednesday's loss at Penn State, Illinois is one of the hotter teams in the Big Ten. Coach Matt Bollant's bunch has won five of its last seven games and enters the day in a four-way tie for third place in the conference. The bad news: the Illini are 0-1 against each of the teams they are tied with: Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan. That puts Illinois at a disadvantage if tiebreakers are required to seed the Big Ten tournament. The Illini play Michigan State and Michigan only once in the regular season, but they will get another crack at Purdue, in the regular-season finale March 3 at West Lafayette, Ind.
Today's game is being carried live by the Big Ten Network. Another positive omen for the Illini: they're 3-1 in BTN games.
In the all-time series against Indiana, Illinois trails 33-29. The Illini are 16-12 against the Hoosiers at home, but Illinois has lost the last two games Indiana has visited.
We'll update this report at about the halfway point and at the end of each half, so be sure to check back in.
-- Jeff Huth