March 6, 2008
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Dictate and dominate.
That has been Illinois coach Jolette Law's defensive mantra all season. Her players took ownership of those words during a 73-58 win over Wisconsin on Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.
"They believe it, they buy into it, and they applied it today," Law said.
Illinois held Wisconsin, the conference's second-highest scoring team, to 26 percent shooting in the second half and 31 percent shooting overall.
Jenna Smith, the No. 2 scorer in the Big Ten, led the Fighting Illini with 21 points. She shot 8-for-14 from the field and had 10 rebounds for her 15th double-double of the season.
Wisconsin's Jolene Anderson, the conference's leading scorer and co-player of the year, played well in her final tournament game. The senior had 24 points, 11 rebounds and five assists for the eighth-seeded Badgers.
Ninth-seeded Illinois advanced to play No. 22 Ohio State, the top seed in the tournament for the fourth straight year.
Smith, a sophomore who was overlooked for the player of the year award, said she wasn't trying to show she deserved the honor.
"It wasn't to prove a point," she said. "I kind of brushed it off."
Smith expanded her game, hitting a 3-pointer in each half after making just six all season.
"Coach always tells me if a post tries to beat me to the block, pop out and shoot a three," Smith said. "I was kind of wide open. My teammates always tell me I need to shoot it more because I always shoot it in practice."
Anderson shot 9-for-19 from the field, but the rest of her team shot 12-for-48. Anderson's teammates shot 5-for-28 after halftime.
"We needed scoring from other players, and more consistently, and we just didn't get it," Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone said.
Rebecca Harris had 19 points and 10 rebounds, Lacey Simpson had 15 points, six rebounds, six assists and five blocks, and Chelsea Gordon had nine points and nine rebounds for the Illini (17-13).
Illinois outrebounded Wisconsin 46-36.
"I think my team played great, a total team game," Law said. "We stuck with the game plan, executed our defense and I think rebounding was the difference in this game."
Danielle Ward had 12 points and nine rebounds, and Alyssa Karel added 10 points for the Badgers (16-13).
Illinois led 43-33 early in the second half, but two quick baskets by Smith, then a 3-pointer and a putback by Harris made it 52-35. Simpson scored from in close to make it 54-35 and force a Wisconsin timeout. The Illini led by double digits the rest of the way.
Illinois shot 55 percent in the second half. Its balance made it difficult for Wisconsin to make adjustments.
"Defensively, we wanted to double down on Smith, but then Harris takes off, then here comes Simpson and Gordon," Stone said.
Stone couldn't understand how her team could get to the conference tournament and not be ready to play.
"I was disappointed in the lack of energy from the tip," she said. "They (Illinois) came out with great defensive focus. They really hammered the boards pretty hard."
Illinois lost to Ohio State 43-42 on Jan. 17, then beat the Buckeyes 68-64 on Jan. 31. Smith will go up against the other co-Big Ten player of the year, Ohio State freshman Jantel Lavender.
"I won't look at it like the biggest game ever," she said. "We just look at them as another opponent."