Champaign, Ill. (UI Release) -- In a game that had just one tie and no lead changes, visiting Bradley jumped out to a lead early and held off every Illinois run to come away with an 83-77 victory at Assembly Hall in the second game of the 2012-13 season for the Illini (1-1).
The Braves led by as many as nine points in the first half thanks in large part to a 7 for 8 performance from the three-point range in the opening 20 minutes. Six different players knocked down threes for Bradley, who got 41 points off its bench.
"We want to be the most aggressive team and the one that fights," Illinois coach Matt Bollant said. "However, we didn't start the game that way and didn't play most of the game that way. We let them get going early. We didn't come with a lot of aggression and a lot of fight. That has been who we are, but tonight that wasn't us."
The Braves shot 62 percent from the floor in the first half, then used a 40-37 edge on the glass and 24-8 advantage in free-throw attempts to stave off the Illini in the second half.
"The most aggressive team gets to the foul line and we didn't do that," Bollant pointed out.
Illinois got a big night from senior Karisma Penn, who tallied 29 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots. Sophomore Ivory Crawford scored a career-best 18 points to go along with three steals. Alexis Smith had 10 points and eight assists in 38 minutes of action, helping the Illini score in transition.Led by Penn, the Illini held a considerable 50-28 advantage in the paint and forced 22 turnovers while committing just 15 themselves.
Shronda Butts was one of five Bradley players in double figures with 15. Her basket with 8:46 to play put the Braves up 69-59 before the Illini rallied. Crawford got free for a transition basket and Amber Moore fed Penn for a lay-up before making a baseline three-point shot to end a 7-0 Illinois run and cut the gap to three.
After making 11 treys in Sunday's win over Evansville, the Illini were just 3 of 24 from beyond the arc on Thursday. The Illinois pressure forced Bradley's guards away from the basket down the stretch as the shot clock reached single-digits numerous times. However too often, the Illini fouled or gave up an offensive rebound.
"I'm proud of KP, the way the she stepped up in the second half," Bollant said. "I thought she tried to will us back. Unfortunately, we didn't get the defensive rebound that we needed in the second half. If we get a few of those, I think we come back and win that game."
Illinois got as close as 75-73 with 2:30 to play and Penn's final points made it one-possession game, down 80-77 with 37 seconds left. The Illini got a steal on the other end, but turned it right back to Bradley, who made free throws to ice the game. The Braves (2-1) shot 83 percent from the line on the night.
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