The 2012-13 Mid-American Conference Regular-Season Champion Rockets tied the school record with a 29-4 overall mark and closed out the home campaign with an impressive 15-2 ledger.
In a battle between two of the nation’s top defenses, the Illini (19-13) were able to convert key field goals down the stretch; this included a three-pointer from Amber Brown that banked off the glass as the guard was falling backwards with 3:16 left in regulation. That trey gave the visitors a 55-49 lead and momentum that resulted in a 12-4 run to close the game.
Sophomore guard Inma Zanoguera scored two field goals in the final minute of regulation to trim the deficit to five, but that was the closest UT could get.
The two teams exchanged the lead four times and tied the score on seven occasions. The Rockets fell victim to 23 turnovers that were converted into 20 points for the Illini.
The Midnight Blue and Gold shot 35.3 percent (24 of 68) from the field, including 21.1 percent (4 of 19) from three-point range, and 75.0 percent (3 of 4) from the free-throw line to fall to 0-3 vs. Big Ten schools in the WNIT.
Zanoguera paced the Rockets’ attack with 13 points, six boards, three steals and three assists in a career-high 40 minutes. Senior Yolanda Richardson notched 12 points after a perfect six-for-six shooting effort and grabbed four boards. The MAC leader in overall field-goal percentage ended the season shooting 58.6 percent (146 of 249), tied for fifth best in school history.
Senior Naama Shafir and junior Andola Dortch chipped in 10 points each, but UT’s top scorers went a combined 8 of 33 (24.2 percent) from the field and could not find their rhythm. Shafir added a season-tying best eight rebounds with a team-high six dimes. Dortch finished with five helpers and a rebound shy of a double-double with nine caroms.
UT out-muscled the visitors on the glass, 47-40, led by senior Lecretia Smith’s contest-tying best 11 rebounds. Junior Brianna Jones also ended with three points and five rebounds against her former team.
Illinois shot 33.3 percent (20 of 60) for the game, led by Karisma Penn’s double-double performance with a game-high 23 points and 11 boards. Brown contributed 18 points and torched the Rockets with five treys on 50.0 percent (5 of 10) shooting from beyond the arc.