FEBRUARY 09, 2012; Champaign, IL, USA: Illinois Fighting Illini forward Karisma Penn celebrates with her teammates after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 66-65 at Assembly Hall. Mandatory Credit: Ben Woloszyn-USPRESSWIRE

Illinois Women's Basketball: Karisma Penn Helps Illini Past Eastern Illinois to Reach Sweet 16 in WNIT

The Illinois Fighting Illini defeated the Eastern Illinois Panthers, 62-54, in the second round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

Although Illinois came out with the win, the Panthers were the ones to start the game off right on Monday night. They led the Illini 13-4 at the 14:49 and were looking to blow Illinois out early. However, the Fighting Illini hit their groove after that. They hit their next three shots and closed the gap to within two points.

Both teams would then go cold for the next five minutes. Neither team made a basket until Ta’Kenya Nixon of Eastern Illinois made a free throw. Illinois would lead by four points at the 4:11 mark as Ivory Crawford hit a three-pointer. The Panthers would call a timeout and come out of it with a 10-2 run.

Eastern Illinois would lead the Illini, 29-26 at the half.

Coming out of the halftime locker rooms, the Panthers seemed to be just as hot as they were to start the game. They scored the first four points of the second half and extended their lead to eight points by the 14:06 mark.

However, Eastern Illinois would not score for the next four minutes in the game.

Illinois would fight back to take a 40-39 lead (their first lead of the half) after Crawford hit a layup off of a Karisma Penn steal. Mariah King would hit a jumper to pull EIU back up by one, but Illinois would take it from there.

The Illini turned on the offense to cruise to a 62-54 victory.

After the game, head coach Matt Bollant said…

It was a big win for us tonight and it’s a win that, a couple of months ago, I’m not sure we get that game because things weren’t going our way. At the start of the second half, we gave up about five offensive rebounds in the first five minutes and it just seemed like it was a struggle and we didn’t have a lot of joy. Before, I think we wouldn’t have kept fighting and really had the heart to make it happen, and today, we did. I think that’s growth in our team. I thought KP, in the second half, just refused to be guarded. That was big for our team. (Source: fightingillini.com)

Illinois had four players score in double-figures against Eastern Illinois. These players were Adrienne GodBold (10 points), Ivory Crawford (11 points), Amber Moore (16 points), and Penn (19 points).

Penn was truly the star of the game for the Illini. She went 7-of-17 from the field, led the team with 19 points, and hauled in nine rebounds.

One key stat in the game was free throw shooting for both teams. In the first half, EIU attempted eleven foul shots compared to Illinois’ two. However, Illinois limited the Panthers to just two foul shots in the second half compared to their twelve attempts.

The Fighting Illini will being playing in the Sweet 16 of the WNIT on Thursday. Their opponent will be the Toledo Rockets. Toledo defeated Youngstown State, 61-43, in their second round game. The Sweet 16 game will take place at Toledo.

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Tags: Amber Moore Basketball Eastern Illinois Panthers Illinois Fighting Illini Ivory Crawford Karisma Penn Toledo Rockets WNIT Women's National Invitational Tournament

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