LIVE! Illini in WNIT

Final: Illinois 73, Miami (Ohio) 60

Led by Amber Moore's 25 points, Illinois fought off a second-half comeback attempt by Miami and pulled away to a 73-60 victory in the first round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament Thursday night at the Assembly Hall.

The Illini (17-13) will face Eastern Illnois (20-11) in the second round at 7 p.m. Monday at the Assembly Hall.

Moore shot 8 for 17 in tying her season-high point total. The redshirt junior guard  was 5 of 13 from three-point range, also tying her season high for threes.

Miami (19-13) trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half and was behind 37-22 at halftime.

But the RedHawks dominated the first 9 1/2 minutes of the second half, pulling to within 51-48 on a field goal by Courtney Osborn with 10:37 left. Illinois then counter-punched, outscoring Miami 10-2 to build its lead back to 61-50. Moore had five points during the spurt.

Illini center Karisma Penn contributed 20 points and eight rebounds. Fellow Illini senior Adrienne GodBold had 15 points and eight rebounds.

Osborn led Miami with 19 points.

****

11:54 left in second half

Illinois 49, Miami 42

Hero: Haley Robertson. The junior guard has led a Miami comeback, scoring six points during the RedHawks' 20-12 surge to open the second half.

Goat: Illini defense. Illinois is not playing with near the intensity it showed in the first half, and it's allowed Miami to get back into this game.

What I'm thinking:

-- During Illinois' recent slump, coach Matt Bollant and Illini players have talked about how they have not been good plahing with leads. The start of this second half is one more example. Illinois led by as many as 18 points in the first half and  by 15 at halftime.

-- Amber Moore continues to play big for Illinois, hitting a coupel of key three-pointers for an attack that is struggling mightily in this half.

-- Former Illini great Jenna Smith is at the Assembly Hall tonight. Talked to her at halftime. She's back from Israel, where she's playing pro basketball. She's good friends with current Illini seniors Moore and Adrienne GodBold.

-- Miami has really been good with ball security in this half. After committing 16 turnovers in the first half, the RedHawks have one this half.

****

Halftime: Illinois 37, Miami 22

Hero: Illini defense. Illinois making it tough on a team that entered 17th in the nation in field goal percentage. Miami struggling to cope with Illini pressure committing 16 turnovers and shooting 30 percent.

Goat: Courtney Osborn. Miami's career scoring leader has two points and is shooting 1 of 7. The senior guard entered with a 19.1 scoring average and a 42.2 shooting percentage.

What I'm thinking:

-- Illinois has seized control of this game, and Miami hasn't shown much to indicate it can get back into it. At least not if it can't deal better with Illinois' defensive pressure.

-- Not a bad crowd, but not what Illinois has been drawing for most games this season.

-- Maybe our hero should be Karisma Penn. Miami has not answer for the 6-2 Illini center, who is shooting 7 of 9 and has 14 points.

-- Amber Moore hasn't scored since her early flurry, but her Illini teammates are more than taking up the slack.

-- We picked on Osborn as our goat, but really she's only half of the RedHawks' Big Two that is struggling tonight. Senior forward Kirsten Olowinski, who averages a double-double, has only five points but has grabbed seven boards.

-- Speculation is that if Illinois wins, its second-round game would be played on Sunday.

****

8:26 left in first half

Illinois 18, Miami 14

Hero: Amber Moore. The Illini guard already has 10 points and has her long-range stroke going with a couple of threes.

Goat: Miami ballhanders. The RedHawks are struggling with Illini defensive pressure. Have turned the ball over 10 times.

What I'm thinking:

-- Illini displayed poise after a tough start. Miami bolted to an 8-0 lead in the first 2 1/2 minutes. At one point, Illinois was shooting 2 for 9.

-- The difference in this game is a 14-0 Illini run immediately after Miami scored the first eight points. Moore was big in this stretch, scoring 10 straight points to give UI a 12-8 lead.

-- With all those early Illini missed shots, Miami is cleaning up on the boards. Leads 13-7.

-- Illini defenders doing a great job on Miami's best player. Guard Courtney Osborn, who entered with a 19.1 point average, has managed to get off only three shot attempts. She has two points.

****

Welcome to our live report from the Assembly Hall for tonight’s WNIT game between Illinois and Miami (Ohio).

The Illini (16-13) will be trying to break out of a late-season funk that’s seen them lose four of their last five games. Illinois enters on a three-game slide, which is just its second losing steak of the season.

While the Illini are making their first postseason appearance since 2010, Miami (Ohio) 19-12) is in the WNIT for the second year in a row. The RedHawks were ousted in the first round in 2012, 76-54 by Richmond.

The winner of this game will face Eastern Illinois, which defeated Missouri 60-58 Wednesday night, in the second round. The date and location of that game is expected to be announced late tonight.

Illinois is 8-7 all-time in the WNIT, and its last appearance — in 2010 — kept the Illini busy. Illinois won its first three games to advance to the quarterfinals before bowing out in a 53-51 heartbreaker at Illinois State.

Current Illini seniors Karisma Penn and Adrienne GodBold each played in that tournament, with then-freshman Penn averaging 12.5 points and 5.3 rebounds.

Illinois has struggled with its shooting during its recent slide. In three of their last five games, the Illini shot between .295 and .333. If that remains a problem tonight, this could be a tough matchup for Illinois. The RedHawks are among the most accurate shooting teams in the nation, ranking 17th in Division I at 44.2 percent.

Courtney Osborn is priority No. 1 for the Illini defense. The 5-foot-10 senior guard is Miami’s leading career scorer and ranks sixth in Mid-American Conference history with 2,147 points.

This RedHawks team also includes the program’s all-time leading rebounder in Kirsten Olowinski. The senior forward is No. 2 in MAC history with 1,140 boards.

The Miami roster includes an Illini connection. Redshirt junior Kristin Judson is the daughter of former Illini men’s assistant basketball coach Rob Judson, now on the staff at Illinois State. Kristin Judson’s availability for tonight’s game, however, is questionable. The 6-1 forward has missed the previous three games with a foot injury.

We’ll update this report at around the midpoint and the end of each half, so be sure to check back.
 

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