Published December 28, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Karisma Penn won't soon forget her standout performance against No. 6 Georgia.
Penn had 27 points and 19 rebounds, and Illinois sent the Lady Bulldogs to their first loss of the season with a 70-59 victory on Friday night.
"I said before the game let's go make a memory," Illinois coach Matt Bollant said.
Penn scored 13 points and Georgia turned the ball over 10 times to help the Illini (7-5) jump out to a 31-13 lead. Penn also had 11 points during a 13-5 run in the second half that gave Illinois a 65-57 advantage after Georgia (12-1) had tied it at 52.
"I just wanted to win," Penn said. "Whether it was me passing it or me scoring, whatever it took to win."
Guard Adrienne GodBold, playing her first game of the season after regaining her eligibility, and Amber Moore added 11 points apiece for Illinois, which won for the second straight time against a ranked team after losing its previous 20 to Top 25 opponents.
Jasmine James and Khaalidah Miller each scored 17 points for the Lady Bulldogs.
"I told the kids at halftime that what happened in the first half was the absolute best thing that could ever happen to them," said Georgia coach Andy Landers. "It clearly tells you that if you don't come out and respond to a challenge, you'll get buried. We got buried tonight."
Landers had some praise for Penn after the game, but a bit more criticism of his team.
"We never stopped (Penn)," Landers said. "We were terrible defensively. She was very, very good."
Illinois hadn't beaten a team ranked in the top six since a win over then-No. 5 Georgia on Jan. 2, 2000. The Lady Bulldogs came in as one of the nation's seven undefeated teams with a 28.1-point average margin of victory.
Georgia rallied behind Miller and some balanced scoring. Miller sank two 3-pointers and scored 10 points in a late first-half run to pull Georgia to 36-29 at halftime. Miller drilled another 3 to get Georgia to 52-50 and James hit two free throws on the next possession to tie it 52-all with 7:09 left.
Penn stepped up at that point for the Illini, converting a pair of three-point plays and scoring 11 points over the next four minutes.
"This is a building block for us," Penn said.
Georgia was seeking its fifth 13-0 start in 34 seasons under Landers, who notched his 800th career win Dec. 19. The Lady Bulldogs were picked to finish second in the SEC and had been 25-8 all-time against Big Ten opponents.
Jasmine Hassell scored 13 points for Georgia.
"We're going to have some ups and downs," Bollant said. "You keep believing. You keep knowing that you're doing the right things."
The rebuilding Illini haven't played in the NCAA tournament since 2003.
"It's the beginning of something good for Illinois," Landers said.