Purdue pours it on late to send Illinois packing

By Wesley Deberry

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – For every Illini action in Sunday’s game, Purdue had an equal or greater reaction. The Illini had their share of runs, but found themselves behind the eight ball once again. In the end, the Illini suffered a 71-59 defeat at the hands of the Boilermakers.

In the second half, Illinois showed character as it managed to take its second lead of the game, 34-33, after senior guard Rebecca Harris capitalized on two free throws. After a short surrender of the lead, the Illini went up by three points – but that lasted for just less than a minute.

After a brief timeout, Purdue responded with a 14-0 run, putting the Illini behind by 11 points.

“We needed to get back in rhythm,” Purdue head coach Sharon Versyp said. “After the timeout we went back to full-court man.”

Illinois was able to cut the lead to three points, but could not get over the hump and retake the lead.

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“We just didn’t execute,” forward Jenna Smith said. “We didn’t dictate like we did previously on defense.”

In the first half, the Illini shot 22 percent from the field, while the Boilermakers shot 34 percent. In the second half, the Illini more than doubled their field goal percentage, shooting 50 percent. But Purdue improved as well, shooting 64 percent from the field.

Purdue forward Kalika France had a monster day against the Illini defense, establishing career highs with 18 points and seven assists. Forward Lakisha Freeman’s 21 points and seven rebounds led the Boilermakers in both categories.

“We believe in them and we need them to really get after it, because they help their teammates,” Versyp said. “I really feel these two can score this many baskets, especially in transition.”

Illinois’ main offensive production came from Smith, who finished with 20 points. Boilermaker forward Natasha Bogdanova said Purdue’s game plan heading into the game was to double-team Smith, both in man-to-man and zone defense.

“She did a great job and got her points,” Bogdanova said. “I think we were able to push her out during the most important stretch of the game.”

Smith was the only Illini to play 40 minutes and was without the help of teammate Danyel Crutcher in the paint. Law said it was a “coach’s decision” for Crutcher not to make the trip to West Lafayette, Ind.

Smith said it was difficult with Crutcher out and she relied on her teammates to help fill the void.

On the season, Crutcher is averaging 10.2 points a game and 6.2 rebounds a game.

Forward Chelsea Gordon helped out on offense with 12 points, while Harris scored 11 points and led the team with 11 rebounds, considerably more than her 3.1 rebounds a game average.

The Illini record now sits at 11-9, with a 3-6 record in conference play. The team will have a chance at redemption on Thursday at Assembly Hall, when it is scheduled to take on Ohio State at 7 p.m.