The Golden Hurricane falls to Illinois

Sports editor Jaralynn Tammi Morellano says the Golden Hurricane had a fighting chance.

The University of Tulsa’s women’s basketball team ended its season in the third round of the first edition of the NCAA’s Women’s Basketball Invitational Tournament (WBIT). The Golden Hurricane met its end against Illinois after the Fighting Illini on Thursday, March 28. During its efforts in the WBIT, TU was able to gain victories over Arkansas and Georgetown.

“I cannot say enough about this team. I cannot say enough about their heart. I cannot say enough about their fight,” said Tulsa Head Coach Angie Nelp. “I want to make sure that everybody hears me on just how proud I am of our heart, how proud I am of our fight, the perseverance that we have to continue even in March. We’re honored to be playing this late in March.”

The game started rough for the Golden Hurricane, with Illinois taking a 2-12 lead at the start and leading by nine at the end of the first quarter. The Illini connected on 50 percent of its field goals and three-pointers in the first half, while Tulsa only shot 32 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the arch.

“We didn’t shoot the ball as well as we wanted to and we got off to a little bit of a slow start. But you saw the way that we were able to continue to compete and continue to kind of turn the tide when we got down and be able to kind of fight and claw our way back,” said Nelp.

Despite TU’s Temira Poindexter’s opening layup, Illinois went on a 12-0 run to take the lead 2-12 in the first five minutes. The Golden Hurricane continued to stumble until the last three minutes of the quarter, Hadley Periman adding to TU’s side of the scoreboard. Illinois’ Genesis Bryant extended its score to 16, but Mady Cartwright threw a three-pointer to stop the Illini’s run. Illinois kept the Golden Hurricane trailing, taking the first quarter 9-18.

UI’s Makira Cook would score back-to-back jumpers to extend the Illini’s lead. Periman would make good on a three-point shot to cut off her momentum. Despite these efforts, Camille Hobby would score to let Illinois double TU’s score. Elise Hill of the Golden Hurricane would go on a 5-0 run to put TU only seven points behind.

The pressure was too heavy for the Golden Hurricane to shake off easily. For every point the Golden Hurricane knocked down, the Fighting Illini would shove some right back. It went into halftime up 11 points, the score sitting at 24-35.

In the third quarter, the Golden Hurricane kept the Fighting Illini shooting at 42 percent. Delanie Crawford and Poindexter worked together to take the first four points. It would turn into a back-and-forth battle, with both teams making shots from within and outside the paint. Bryant would break the pattern on a fast break to keep the Illini 11 points ahead. It was part of its 8-0 run that would bring the score to 33-48. Poindexter would end the Illini’s scoring streak with a three-pointer. The quarter would end in the favor of Illinois, the score sitting at 41-54.

TU held Illinois to 15 points in the last quarter. The quarter looked grave for the Golden Hurricane, with Illinois taking a whopping lead of 16 points when the clock showed 7:55. Fighting its way back into the competition, three classic Crawford three-pointers would be the cherry on top of the scoring sundae TU served up to the Fighting Illini. These momentous efforts brought the game 55-63 to give the Golden Hurricane a fighting chance.

With too little time on the clock, TU was only able to bring the score 61-69, the game ending in Illinois’s favor. The Fighting Illini move on to face Washington in the WBIT semifinals, who prevailed over Toledo 63-61. The match will take place in the Hinkle Fieldhouse on Monday, April 1.