The pink jerseys that commemorated the Play4Kay breast cancer awareness drive may not have meshed well with orange numbers, but the Illinois Fighting Illini left the Minnesota Golden Gophers seeing red after a 76-66 win Sunday afternoon at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill.
Illinois (14-9, 7-4) pulverized the weak interior lineup of Minnesota (15-10, 4-7), with senior center Karisma Penn and senior forward Adrienne GodBold repeating their double-double performance from the first meeting. Penn, a potential sleeper in the upcoming WNBA draft, had 22 points and 11 rebounds for her 11th double-double of the season. GodBold finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, marking her fourth double-double this year.
Amber Moore was the game's high scorer, racking up 25 points, including a perfect 8-of-8 mark from the free throw line.
"We're a really good basketball team when we play with joy, we have smiles on our faces and we're excited about our teammates," said Illinois head coach Matt Bollant.
The Illini discovered their joy with 5:07 left in regulation, after a Leah Cotton layup tied the score at 60 in what was a close contest. Godbold began a game-ending 16-6 run, allowing Illinois to pull away comfortably and continue their rejuvenation since Bollant took over head coaching duties.
Even in the tense moments, Minnesota never led by more than two in the game. Rachel Banham was neutralized in the first half, missing all eight of her field goal attempts, and Illinois earned 25 points off 20 forced turnovers.
"Amber, Adrienne and Karisma were all really fantastic," Bollant said. "Leadership is the ability to make plays when you have to and all three of them led really well, especially late in the game."
Minnesota has ventured on a seemingly endless quest to find similar leadership over the last several years. Banham did bounce back to finish with 17 points and six assists for the Gophers, but she committed seven turnovers with the Illini defense concentrating on her abilities. Micaella Riche added 12 points, but also had shooting difficulties.
Going back to the 2011-12 season, the Gophers have now lost 15 of their last 17 road games. They will have a few days to recharge before next Sunday, when they play again to host Northwestern.