Illinois women’s basketball rides late surge to win over No. 10 Ohio State

Illinois remembered the last time they played Ohio State. Facing the Buckeyes earlier in the season in Columbus, Ohio, Illinois went toe-to-toe with Ohio State before losing 96-84.

Illinois (9-16, 3-9) prevailed in the rematch Thursday night at the Assembly Hall, winning 66-65 over the 10th-ranked Buckeyes (21-3, 8-3).

With Illinois trailing 65-64 with two seconds left in the second half, sophomore Alexis Burke drove to the basket and hit a layup with three Ohio State defenders around her to give the Illini the lead. Ohio State guard Samantha Prahalis’s halfcourt heave hit the top of the backboard as time expired and the Illinois bench rushed on the floor to mob their teammates in celebration.

“The last play wasn’t supposed to go to Burke,” Illinois head coach Jolette Law said. “It was a post play and when the ball got in her hands she looked to attack. She went to the basket and scored.”

Even though Burke wasn’t the first option, she was aware of the situation when she received the ball and instinctively worked toward the lane.

“I knew we were down one and we needed a two,” Burke said. “I tried to get to the basket and get the and-one finish. I was just focused on finishing and getting the W.”

Ohio State appeared to be poised for victory late in the second half after two Tayler Hill 3-pointers gave them a 56-44 lead with 8:30 remaining.

But Illinois fought back into the game on the defensive end, using steals to generate easy transition layups and ended the game on a 22-9 run to steal the victory.

“I told them that it’s all about composure and calmness,” Law said. “We have to get stops. We can’t get rattled. We had to ID Sammy (Prahalis) and Tayler Hill and make someone else beat us.”

Illinois guard Adrienne GodBold led Illinois in scoring with 16 points, but her toughest task came on the defensive end where she had to guard Prahalis. The Ohio State senior is co-leader in the Big Ten in scoring at 21.8 points per game, tied with her backcourtmate Hill.

GodBold’s length frustrated Prahalis throughout the night as she shot 5-15 from the field. GodBold also added seven steals, four rebounds and four assists.

Illinois received balanced offensive contributions across the board with four players scoring in double figures. Lydia McCully, who had 12 points, linked their offensive success to the effort on defense.

“I think we controlled the tempo this time,” McCully said. “I think when we played in Columbus, their defense created their offense. Today, our defense created our offense.”

Hill led the Buckeyes, who lost their third game of the season, in scoring with 20 points.

Illinois wore pink uniforms Thursday night to honor the “Play 4Kay Pink Game” for breast cancer awareness. The team said there was some extra motivation to win while playing for a noble cause.

“This whole day was for breast cancer awareness,” GodBold said. “Any other time it’s like ‘focus on winning,’ but today I just focused on doing it for breast cancer awareness.

“I feel like we represented the pink well.”