Saturday's tilt at the ARC had a handful of familiar ingredients: freshman Dani Franklin (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/George Washington) led the Crusaders in scoring, and their opponent opened the contest with a double-digit run en route to a school record for three-pointers in a game.
"It's frustrating. We had this very conversation in the locker room. You can't fall behind that early in a game," head coach Tracey Dorow said afterwards.
Just as they did at South Dakota on Tuesday, the Crusaders played from behind immediately following the opening tip. The Coyotes found themselves up 10-0 early on in that game. The Illini began this one on an 18-0 flurry. Illinois forced 15 turnovers in the opening stanza; the Crusaders committed five before they got on the scoreboard.
Franklin brought an end to the visitors' surge via a triple set up nicely by Jessica Carr (Arcadia, Ind./Hamilton Heights). Carr racked up five first-half helpers.
Freshman Georgi Donchetz (Savage, Minn./Burnsville) brought Valpo to within 27-10 at the nine-minute mark, but it was as close as the home team would get until the second half.
Haylee Thompson (Hailey, Idaho/Wood River [Utah State]) logged two of her nine points on a layup down low - from Carr - to close the half. Valpo trailed 43-19 at the break.
The Illini shot 9-of-14 (64.3%) from three-point range in the opening half. They parlayed ten assists into 16 field goals while accumulating seven steals.
Brittany Carter and Ivory Crawford both shot their way into double figures in the first twenty minutes. Carter was a perfect 3-for-3 from downtown en route to an 11-point half while Crawford knocked down both of her shots from beyond the arc on the way to a 10-point period.
Valpo responded well over the final twenty minutes. In fact, the Brown and Gold outscored Illinois 39-37.
The Crusaders sheared the margin to 19 in the final minute of the game, but the Illini advanced to 8-3 on the season following the 80-58 victory.
Franklin scored 13 of her team-high 18 points in the second half. Carr set Franklin up on a number of open layups following strong head fakes down the stretch. The freshman tied a season watermark in field-goal percentage (66.7%) on 8-of-12 shooting. Franklin scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds for the second consecutive tilt. She's now averaging 13.3 points per game.
Carr matched a career-high in assists with eight. Thompson finished a point and a board away from her first double-double as a Crusader.
Illinois' Carter posted 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting in addition to six steals. Crawford pitched in 15 points.
The Fighting Illini found the bottom of the net on 15 treys total, setting a school record. Tulsa accomplished the same feat (15-31 3FG) last Saturday.
Valpo (3-7) will have a week to prep for SIU-Edwardsville (2-5). The Cougars will entertain the Crusaders Saturday afternoon at 2:00 pm CT at the Vadalabene Center.