Jan. 21, 2008
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by Derek Sawvell
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Iowa women’s basketball team used a balanced scoring attack culminating with a running jumper inside the final seven seconds by Kristi Smith to defeat Illinois on the road 60-58 on Monday evening inside Assembly Hall. Smith finished with 16 points, four rebounds and two assists.
With the win, Iowa moves to 11-7 on the year with a 4-3 in the Big Ten Conference. Illinois falls to 11-7 including a 3-4 record in conference play.
“This is a great win for us,” said Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder. “It does a lot for our confidence.”
Illinois players Jenna Smith and Lori Bjork had big first halves, scoring 25 of the 35 Illini points. Bjork started the game with a three-point basket followed by a free throw and inside bucket from Smith to help Illinois grab an early 6-4 lead. Smith then made a three-point play followed by two more inside layups to help Illinois make a 13-3 run to lead the Hawkeyes 19-9.
Iowa’s three points in that span came from a three-pointer by Smith. Smith would later add another three-point basket to cut the Illinois lead to 19-13.
After Smith scored 10 points for the Illini in the first seven minutes of the game, Iowa began to run a zone defense to help stop her dominance inside. Smith then hit two more shots to once again help Illinois to a double-digit lead, 23-13. She would later make another basket pushing her total to 16 points for the half while also grabbing eight rebounds. Smith finished the game with 21 points and 13 rebounds, but the Hawkeye defense held her to only 1 of 5 shooting in the second half.
“I think our zone really bothered her,” Bluder said.
Iowa’s zone began working as it held Smith scoreless the final six minutes of the half. Meanwhile Ausdemore and Skouby began to heat up. Skouby had two buckets and Ausdemore scored eight consecutive points during a 12-2 Iowa run that cut the Illini lead to 28-27. Skouby would hit two more buckets down the stretch while Bjork would hit her third three-point basket of the half inside one minute left to play to give Illinois a 35-31 halftime lead.
Sovlerson came out firing for Iowa in the second half, scoring seven quick points to cut the Illinois lead to 43-40. Illinois’ Chelsea Gordon exploded early in the half shooting from the outside while Iowa remained in its zone defense. She scored 11 second-half points including three three-pointers to keep Illinois in the lead. Smith then started heating up for the Hawkeyes scoring six points, including a lay-in with 8:43 left in the game to give Iowa its first lead at 52-51.
After increasing its lead to three, Iowa watched Bjork hit her fourth three-point basket of the night to tie the game at 54-54 with 7:57 left in the game. This would prove to be Illinois’ last field goal as the Iowa held the Illini to only four more points from the foul line the rest of the way.
“Fortunately we did a better job on the box-outs,” Bluder said. “We were giving them one shot and they were bad shots.”
Iowa got a big bucket from Skouby inside to take a 58-56 lead. Illinois then found Smith inside on the other end leading her to get fouled and make two free-throws to tie the game and leave Iowa with the ball and an opportunity to win in regulation. Iowa used a pick-and-roll at the top of the key to allow Smith to drive the lane and throw up a running jump shot with 6.7 seconds left in regulation. The Hawkeyes then finished with stout defense, not even allowing Illinois to get a last-second shot attempt off to win 60-58.
Iowa’s next game is at home against Purdue on Jan. 24 at 7:05 p.m. inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes are riding a two-game winning streak and will play four of their next five games at home.
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