Her players followed her lead, with aggressive defense pressure leading to a 12-0 run to tie the game, setting up Alexis Burke’s game-winning layup with two seconds left in the game to lead Illinois to a 66-65 upset of No. 10 Ohio State on Thursday night.
“When I stay calm, they feed off of me,” Law said of her team. “We always talk about calmness and composure,” Law said. “We had to get stops and not get rattled.”
After Tayler Hill drove the lane for a driving right-handed layup in traffic with 19 seconds left to give Ohio State a one-point lead, Illinois called a timeout to set up a play to look for a shot attempt from the post.
But when no one was open, Burke drove through straight the lane for a lay-up over three Ohio State defenders to give Illinois its first win against a ranked opponent this season and the first against a Top 10 team since 2003.
“It was supposed to go to the post, but Burke looked to attack,” Law said. “The play evolved, and the play fell in her hands.”
Adrienne Godbold led four Illini players in double figures with 16 points, and set up the win with a pair of free throws with 40 seconds left that gave Illinois a a 64-63 lead.
“She was our general out there,” Law said of Goldbold. “What can you say? She kept coming up big. She got steals and found a way to score.”
Hill scored 20 points to lead Ohio State (21-3, 8-3), who have now lost two out of the last three games.
Ashley Adams tied a career high with 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds, giving the Buckeyes an early spark in the game. The sophomore center scored the first eight Ohio State points of the game, and made all five of her first shot attempts.
“She did a great job, and we did a great job helping her,” Hill said. “Her defender was helping off of her, and she did a good job finishing.”
Five quick Ohio State turnovers to start the game set up back-to-back Amber Moore 3-pointers to give Illinois a 18-10 lead with 12 minutes left in the first half, and the Illini went into halftime with a 34-29 lead.
But the Illini’s lead didn’t last long into the second half. Consecutive 3-pointers from Samantha Prahalis and Hill gave Ohio State a 44-42 advantage with 13:24 left in the game.
Later, a layup by Hill and a Prahalis baseline jumper gave Ohio State a 56-44 lead with less than nine minutes remaining. Illinois responded with the 12-0 run that evened the score, setting the stage for the back-and-forth exchange that lasted till the closing seconds.
“We’ve been here before,” Law said of close games. “We’ve been in every game and we can’t get rattled. We called on different people, and everyone stepped up.”
Karisma Penn scored 11 points for Illinois, and Lydia McCully contributed 12 points and five assists.
For Ohio State, the loss comes before Sunday’s showdown with No. 16 Purdue, who is currently alone atop the Big Ten standings with a 9-2 conference record.
Ohio State head coach Jim Foster, though, said there was no chance his team was overlooking an Illinois team that has lost several close games to ranked teams this season.
“They have too much talent to have their record,” Foster said of the Illini. “These kids can play. They’ve lost a lot of close games. We can’t overlook anybody. We’ve played against them enough to not overlook them.”
Two weeks earlier in Columbus, Ohio State beat Illinois, 96-84, in a game in which the Illini players struggled to match up with the Buckeyes’ athleticism and quickness, especially on the defensive end.
On Thursday night, the tables turned. The Illini forced 21 Buckeye turnovers, leading to 10 fastbreak points. Illinois also had a 16-7 advantage on the offensive glass, and outscored Ohio State 40-32 in the paint.
“This time, we controlled the tempo,” McCully said. “In Columbus, their defense created their offense, and tonight our defense created our offense.”