MADISON, Wis. (UI Release) - Illinois hit 6-of-7 free throws down the stretch and held Wisconsin without a field goal in the game's final 5:49 to pull out a 64-56 win in front of an announced crowd of 7,614 at the Kohl Center on Sunday. The win marked the first time the Illini have ever won five consecutive Big Ten road games in the same season, was Illinois' third straight victory - all in the last seven days - and its sixth in the last eight games. The Illini improve their record to 13-8 overall, 6-3 in the Big Ten and tied for third place.
The victory tied the school record for Big Ten road wins (five) and marked Illinois' first win in Madison since 2007. It snapped a six-game losing streak on Super Bowl Sunday that dated back to 2004 and the Illini's 6-3 Big Ten record equals their best start to a conference season since 1997-98.
Adrienne GodBold led the Illini with 18 points - 14 in the first half - and grabbed 13 rebounds, including six on the offensive end, for her third double-double of the season. She also had six steals, one more than the entire Wisconsin team. Karisma Penn added 15 points - 10 in the second half - six rebounds and five steals, and Amber Moore put in 14. Ivory Crawford contributed 10 points, her 15th game in double figures this season. Wisconsin's Morgan Paige scored a game-high 23 but Illinois held her to only five points on 0-of-3 shooting in the second half.
"Today was kind of a grind-it-out day as our third game in a week," Illini head coach Matt Bollant said. "Wisconsin is a very physical team that tries to control the tempo, so today was one of those days where you just have to find a way (to win). We lost a couple of those games in the first semester, so for us - for three games in a row, now - to step up and make the plays and defend well down the stretch (is great)."
Illinois forced 27 Badger turnovers - including 15 in the second half - and recorded steals on 19 of them. The Illini also out-scored Wisconsin 15-3 off turnovers in the second half and 21-10 for the game. Five of the seven Badgers who saw action had negative assist-to-turnover ratios and the Illini finished the game on a 10-5 run. Illinois also held Wisconsin to 29.4 percent (5-of-17) shooting in the second half and limited the Badgers to 38.6 percent (17-of-44) for the game.
"The last two games, we've made some adjustments to (the "buzz" defense) late in games that have really helped us," Bollant said. "We did a much better job of finding their shooters in the second half. And when we did go man, Adrienne got a big steal and layup for us.
"Winning on the road takes a mentality and that's one of the ways our players have grown a great deal. We beat Ohio State - they had won 31 straight at home - and that kind of got our swagger going and we started calling them 'Road Warriors' and you could just see them take that identity on. For us to win five in a row (in the Big Ten) is just huge."
After trailing 12-10 at the game's first media timeout, the Illini cranked up the effort on defense and on the boards, putting together a 10-2 run that resulted in a 20-14 advantage at the 10-minute mark. But Wisconsin scored seven of the next 10 points, pulling within 23-21.
A three-pointer by Crawford pushed the lead back to three, but Morgan Paige drained a trey of her own, tying the game at 26. Illinois soured the next four points and held off a persistent Badger squad to lead 34-31 at halftime, with GodBold scoring 14 in the first 20 minutes.
The second half was a slug-fest, with neither team able to grab an advantage early and Illinois holding onto a 44-42 lead with 11:50 left. The Illini expanded the lead to 54-49 and had the ball after the media timeout with 3:51 on the clock, but Crawford's runner rimmed out and Wisconsin made two free throws to cut the margin to three.
Amber Moore was fouled going around a screen and missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Wisconsin's Cassie Rochel was whistled for a lane violation, allowing Moore another attempt. She then sank both freebies, pushing the lead to 56-51 with just over two minutes left.
With the Illini leading 58-53, Wisconsin's Tiera Stephen stole the ball from Moore and raced the other way. But Alexis Smith slid into position on the low block just in time, drawing a charging foul with 1:17 remaining. Wisconsin cut the margin to five with 48 seconds left, but Smith drained two free throws, Paige made just 1-of-2 from the line and Moore drained a pair for the final 64-56 margin.
The Illini return to action on Thursday, when they travel to Michigan for a 6 p.m. tilt with the Wolverines at Crisler Arena. The game will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network on Fighting Illini All-Access.
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