Women's Basketball Falls to Illinois in Big Ten Tournament Semifinals

March 9, 2008

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Coach Merchant Press Conference
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Illinois forward Jenna Smith scored 16 points, and the Fighting Illini used an 18-3 closing run to beat fifth-seeded Michigan State 55-41 in the Big Ten tournament semifinals Saturday night.

The victory sends ninth-seeded Illinois to their first championship game since 1999. The Illini are the lowest seed to ever play for the title and will face Purdue on Sunday.

The third-seeded Boilermakers beat Iowa 80-73 earlier tonight. That gave Purdue a chance to defend last year's title. The Illini have never won the tournament championship.

Michigan State (19-13) was led by Kalisha Keane with 10 points and Allyssa DeHaan, who had eight.

Illinois (19-13) shot just 31.5 percent from the field, and the game produced the second-lowest combined score in tourney history.