Panthers' Comeback Goes For Naught In 63-61 Loss To Illinois
Turquoise McCain

Turquoise McCain

Box Score |  Notes

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (Dec. 10, 2008) - The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's basketball team overcame a 20-point deficit, but it was not enough as a jumper by Lydia McCully with 3.4 remaining proved the difference in a 63-61 loss to Illinois Wednesday evening at the Klotsche Center.

The Panthers (3-5) trailed 49-29 with 14:12 to play, but used a 26-6 run to tie the game at 55-55 with 3:30 to play. The Illini (4-6) used the jumper by McCully to hold off UWM and end a six-game losing streak. Lacey Simpson then picked off a half-court pass by Milwaukee as time expired to deny the Panthers a chance to tie or take the lead.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed that we lost," Milwaukee head coach Sandy Botham said. "We are still learning how to put 40 minutes together. That's been our Achilles, having that fire and energy. It seems like it comes out when we get down a little bit. We need for it to come out from the tip. We are a tale of two teams: Wisconsin first half vs. the second half. Washington State, we were strong first half. We have just got to put 40 minutes together.

"I'm proud of our kids' gallant effort, their fight, their no quit. We had them on the ropes, had a chance and just weren't able to finish it."

Senior Traci Edwards scored 22 points and had 13 rebounds for her third double-double of the season and to lead three Panthers in double-figures. Senior Turquoise McCain added 18 points, including a career-high four 3-pointers, a block and three steals. Sophomore Maurika Hickman chipped in 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting off the bench.

Jenna Smith led Illinois with 20 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and four steals, while three more players reached double-figures. McCully finished with 13 points, Macie Blinn had 12 and Simpson overcame four fouls to tally 12 points, six boards, five assists and five steals.



UWM shot 46 percent from the field and forged a 34-27 rebounding advantage, but turned over the ball 21 times. The Illini shot 45.9 percent, but committed just 14 turnovers compared to 20 assists. Illinois also came away with 14 steals.

A Smith lay-up capped a 14-4 UI run to give the visitors a seemingly insurmountable lead at 49-29 at the 14:12 mark. Edwards hit back-to-back baskets to start the run that featured eight points by the senior center and seven points by McCain. McCain hit a three at 6:48 to make it 55-50, then converted an acrobatic lay-up in the paint to make it a one-possession game at 55-52 at 4:50 and force the Illini into a timeout.

"I think the guards did a really good job at the end getting me the ball," Edwards said. "(Illinois) moved to that zone where Jenna Smith didn't have to guard me. I actually am really proud with how our guards we playing and getting the ball inside."

Junior Jodie McClain tied the score for the first time with 1-of-2 free throws at 3:30. Both teams traded baskets before Illinois was able to open another four-point advantage at 61-57. Two more Edwards lay-ups knotted the game, including her final points with just under 15 seconds remaining. Illinois then took the ball down the court and set up the game-winning play.

"We've been in this position before at the Wisconsin game. Everybody knew we had potential to win the game. Everybody stuck with each other and we just fought because we didn't want to give up."

Milwaukee came out of the gates firing, making its first three shots and building a 10-2 lead in the first three minutes of the game. From that point on, the Panthers went dry, missing 10-straight shots and turning the ball over seven times. By the time Edwards stopped the bleeding with a jumper, 8:09 had gone by and the Illini had rattled off 19-straight points.

UWM's offense got back on track, but had trouble cutting into the deficit and headed into the intermission trailing 35-25. The Panthers shot 40.9 percent from the field and were hampered by 12 turnovers. Meanwhile, the Illini shot 44.1 percent for the period and came away with seven steals while turning the ball over just five times.

The Panthers continue their three-game homestand Dec. 20, hosting Central Michigan at the Klotsche Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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