The Illinois Fighting Illini were upset by the Wisconsin Badgers, 58-57, at Sears Centre Arena (Hoffman Estates, Illinois) in the first round of the Big Ten conference tournament.
The Fighting Illini are now 4-2 all-time in first round games of the Big Ten conference tournament. On top of that, this is the second straight year where they were bounced from the conference tournament in the first round. They lost to Michigan, 68-53, in last year’s Big Ten conference tournament.
Illinois had a really nice first half on Thursday. They led the Badgers, 30-20, at the half and looked really solid. However, things went sour in the second half.
“Wisconsin became the most aggressive team in the second half, and that was the difference,” said head coach Matt Bollant about his team’s play. “In the first half, I thought we did a great job of weathering the storm with Karisma (Penn) in foul trouble. We just needed to step up and play aggressively in the second half and we didn’t. I think we got caught up in thinking about the end result and quit playing aggressively and attacking, and that really hurt us” (Source: fightingillini.com)
The Illini trailed Wisconsin by 10 with 5:59 left in the game. They went ahead by three with 42.4 seconds left after Amber Moore hit a huge three-pointer. Although, the Badgers hit four free throws to upset the Illini.
Illinois’ three main scorers were Adrienne GodBold, Ivory Crawford, and Amber Moore. Crawford led the team with 14 points. She went 5-of-10 from the field and 4-of-6 from the charity stripe. Moore led the Illini in three-point shooting on the night. She hit three of the team’s five threes (two of them coming with 42 seconds left in the game).
One player that struggled for Illinois was Karisma Penn. Coming into their first round match-up with the Badgers, the Fighting Illini were 10-3 when Penn scores 20+ points. She did not even hit double-figures. She finished with only eight points and only hauled in four rebounds. The Badgers were able to take her out of the game.
One thing Wisconsin did well in Thursday’s tournament game was shooting free throws.
Overall as a team, they went a perfect 21-of-21 from the foul line. Four of those 21 free throws came in the last 42 second to win the game.
The leading scorer for the Badgers on Thursday was Morgan Paige. She scored 18 points and made ten of her team’s free throws.
Another key player for Wisconsin was Cassie Rochel. Rochel recorded a double-double in the game as she scored ten points and 13 rebounds. Rochel also added a defensive boost for the Badgers with three blocks in the game.
The Fighting Illini are now 16-13 overall and 9-7 in the Big Ten as they await their postseason destiny (selection is on Monday, March 18th).
Right now, Illinois’ chances for the NCAA Women’s Tournament do not look bright. ESPN has the Illini listed as one of the “First Four Out.” This is why they needed to win a game or two in the Big Ten conference tournament to increase their postseason chances.
In the end, the conference tournament loss to the 11th-seeded Wisconsin Badgers will not look good to the selection committee. Although, do not count the Fighting Illini out of the postseason. They might not make the NCAA Women’s Tournament, but will most likely make the WNIT.
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