Boilermakers cause panic; clinch lead, force Illini out

Cyndi Loza Rick Wiltfong

Cyndi Loza Rick Wiltfong

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

The Illini jumped out to an 8-0 lead but were unable to hold on as they fell to No. 2 seed Purdue 68-57 on Friday at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Senior guard Janelle Hughes came out on fire as she scored the first eight points for the Illini in the first two minutes of the game.

“We were playing well and then panicked,” Illini head coach Theresa Grentz said. “We looked up at the scoreboard, saw that we were ahead and panicked.”

Purdue finally got on the board after three minutes with a jumper by Aya Traore.

After the initial burst, the Illini failed to score another point for the next six minutes, allowing the Boilermakers to get within two at 8-6.

Purdue grabbed its first lead of the game 13-12 with nine minutes left in the first half on a three-point play by guard Jodi Howell.

Purdue would attempt to take over the game, late in the first half, as a 9-0 run turned a 17-16 Boilermaker lead into a 26-16 lead with almost three minutes left to play in the first half.

Hughes, who did not score another point in the first half, lead the Illini with eight points in the half, as the Illini shot 39 percent and had 14 turnovers.

Purdue had balanced scoring in the first half as it was led by Howell, who scored eight points. Forward Erin Lawless and Katie Gearlds each had six points as the Boilermakers went into halftime up 29-22.

“(Howell’s) a wonderful shooter,” said Purdue forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton. “The defense needs to know where she is at all times.”

Freshman guard Lori Bjork and Hughes gave the Illini a lift early in the second half as they hit three-pointers on the first two Illini possessions, moving them within striking distance of the Boilermakers. Hughes finished the game with 13 points.

“During the first half, I was in attack mode,” Hughes said. “But I became less assertive and aggressive.”

The Illini were able to take a 36-35 lead with 15 minutes left in the game on another three-pointer by Bjork.

The lead was short lived, though, as Purdue went on a 9-2 run to retake the lead 45-38 with 12 minutes left.

After that, the Illini were not really able to get back into the game as Purdue, once again, was able to execute and play solid defense to not allow the Illini to get closer than seven points for the rest of the game.

“I thought we had great balance down the stretch; we made some critical stops and some critical shots,” Purdue head coach Kristy Curry said.

Purdue forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton scored 13 points in the second half to finish with 15 points, one of four Boilermakers who scored in double-figures.

“There is so much individual talent on this team that at any given period anyone can make a play,” Gearlds said.

Junior forward Erin Wigley scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half, but it was not enough for the Illini who fall to 14-13 and will find out whether they will play in the Women’s NIT tournament next Monday.