Feb. 23, 2006
CHAMPAIGN, IL – – Iowa’s Crystal Smith scored a game-high 23 points to lead Iowa to a 71-60 victory over Illinois tonight at Assembly Hall. The win is Iowa’s six-straight over the Fighting Illini, including winning the last three at Assembly Hall.
Iowa’s win coupled with Indiana’s 65-58 setback at No. 22 Minnesota tonight has the Hawkeyes tied with the Hoosiers for fifth place in the Big Ten standings. Iowa and Indiana will play for fifth place Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Tip-off is slated for 12:06 p.m. and the contest will be televised to a regional cable audience on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
“We really needed this road win tonight,” said Iowa Head Coach Lisa Bluder. “I thought we did an excellent job executing our offense. Crystal had another big game for us tonight. She ran our transition offense beautifully.”
Iowa (16-10, 9-6) nearly took an eight-point advantage into the half, but Illinois freshman Lori Bjork drained an off balance 3-pointer at the buzzer to trim the Hawkeye advantage to five (40-35). Iowa improved to 12-2 this season when leading at the break.
Illinois (13-13, 5-10) scored the second half’s first four points to cut Iowa’s advantage to one (40-39). The Hawkeyes countered by scoring the next 10 points to rebuild their lead to 11 (50-39) with 14:03 left. Later in the half, the Fighting Illini fought back with a 10-2 run to cut their deficit to six points (56-50) with 8:01 remaining. However, Iowa maintained its advantage and held on for the 11-point victory.
“Illinois made a lot of second half runs and I thought we did a great job of responding to their runs and coming away with a victory on their Senior Night,” said Hawkeye sophomore Krista VandeVenter.
Skouby contributed 18 points, six rebounds and two blocks for the Hawkeyes. Freshman reserve Wendy Ausdemore scored double figures for the fifth time this season, netting 14 points. Iowa improves to 11-3 when Ausdemore scores seven points or more.
Iowa did a good job coveting the basketball and feeding its post, as the Hawkeyes out-scored Illinois 22-6 in the paint and posted a season-low 10 turnovers.
“We wanted to get the ball inside and I thought Megan had a great game for us both offensively and defensively,” added Bluder. “Tonight was a very important game with us, fighting Indiana for fifth. Sunday will be a big game for us for so many reasons.”
Three Illinois players tallied double figures to lead the Fighting Illini. Lori Bjork and Erin Wigley each netted 15 points, while Janelle Hughes added 14. Danyel Crutcher pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.
A Crystal Smith free throw at the 3:49 mark of the first stanza, marked her 1,000th combined point the last two years.
Tonight’s win snapped a three-game road losing skid for Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ last triumph away from Iowa City came at Wisconsin (68-59) on Jan. 19. Iowa also picked up its ninth conference win, besting last year’s total of eight.
Ohio State defeated Purdue 67-58 in Columbus to capture the Big Ten regular season title.