IRVINE, CA – UNC Greensboro ran into a buzzsaw in the championship game of the Orange County Clash on Monday, falling 95-51 to Missouri Valley Conference preseason favorite Illinois State, which shot a blistering 55.8 percent from the field for the game to take the tournament title.
UNCG's Gini Grimsley was the only Spartan in double figures, as she scored 11 points to reach double digits for the sixth time in as many games. Grimsley earned a spot on the Orange County Clash All-Tournament Team.
Freshman Agneta Morkunaite scored a career-best nine points for UNCG (6-6) in a career-high 17 minutes of action.
Tournament MVP Kristi Cirone scored a game-high 21 points for the Redbirds, while Maggie Krick had 16, Ashleen Bracey 14 and Shala Jackson 13. Krick and Jackson also earned spots on the all-tournament team.
The Redbirds (8-3) wasted little time bolting out to a big lead, hitting six of their first seven shots to hold a commanding 15-3 advantage just 4:05 into the game. ISU would stretch the lead to 19-3 before UNCG could get its second field goal, an Amanda Leigh 3-pointer that made it 19-6.
A Shala Jackson layup made it 21-6 before a Gini Grimsley jumper and another Leigh 3 made it a 10-point game at 21-11 with 10:35 to play in the opening half. That was as close as the Spartans would make it, however, as the Redbirds continued to shoot the lights out in cruising to a 47-22 halftime lead.
The second half was more of the same, with Illinois State opening on a 16-2 run to push its lead to 63-24.
The Spartans showed some signs of life late, rattling off an 11-2 run in the second half after the Redbirds opened up their biggest lead of the game at 80-35. Grimsley had a pair of buckets in the run, while Morkunaite hit a layup and a trio of free throws in the spurt.
With several Spartans battling foul trouble – freshman Sarah Folwell fouled out and Morukanite, Lakiah Hyson, Monique Floyd and Dee Corbett all finished with four – and the score out of hand, UNCG was able to get a lot of minutes for its inexperienced roster. In addition to Morkunaite's career-long effort, Corbett played a career-high 11 minutes and freshman Jazz Weaver got in for five, one off her career-best mark.
Every player that dressed for UNCG got into the game, and nine players played at least 10 minutes. Folwell and TaShama Banner just missed with nine each.
Morkunaite also pulled down a career-high three rebounds, all of them on the offensive end of the floor.
"Some of the younger kids got a chance to get out there, and a couple of them held their own," UNCG coach Lynne Agee said. "Agneta did a real good job. We had some young ones get some minutes, and hopefully that will help us. We've got to move on."
The Spartans shot just 30.5 percent from the floor for the game, going 18-for-59. ISU, meanwhile, hit 29 of their 52 shots, including an 8-for-19 effort from 3-point range.
The Redbirds also held a massive advantage at the free throw line, attempting nearly twice as many foul shots as UNCG. ISU went 29-for-40 at the stripe, while the Spartans were 12-for-21.
UNCG turned the ball over just 15 times, including just twice in the second half, but Illinois State turned those turnovers into 23 points.
The 95 points allowed were the most given up by UNCG since a 103-48 loss to North Carolina, which was ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time, on Nov. 30, 2006.
UNCG reached the title game of the tournament with a 76-71 overtime win over host UC Irvine on Sunday, but the Spartans saw their five-game win streak go by the wayside Monday. UNCG is still 3-0 in the Southern Conference, however, and returns to league play on Dec. 29 at Samford. The game is set for an 8 p.m. Eastern tip in Birmingham, AL. After that, the Spartans will take on Chattanooga at 3 p.m. in Chattanooga, TN, on Dec. 31.
"Obviously, we're greatly disappointed in our performance today," Agee said. "We didn't come ready, we weren't focused. You can attribute some of that to the mental part of yesterday and the physical part of an overtime game and pushing ourselves to try our best to win that one, but I was really disappointed in how we looked today.
"We'd been on a five-game win streak and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves, and then we met somebody that was a little greater challenge, and now we don't feel so good. We're leaving on a downer, so I'm going to try to flip that around when we hit the road to take on Samford and Chattanooga."
Orange County Clash All-Tournament Team
Gini Grimsley, UNCG
Rebecca Maessen, UC Irvine
Sara Vest, Western Michigan
Shala Jackson, Illinois State
Maggie Krick, Illinois State
Kristi Cirone, Illinois State (MVP)
ILLINOIS STATE 95, UNC GREENSBORO 51
ILLINOIS STATE (8-3)
Kristi Cirone 7-10 4-5 21; Maggie Krick 4-7 6-8 16; Ashleen Bracey 6-9 2-3 14; Shala Jackson 5-8 2-3 13; Katie Broadway 2-6 3-4 8; Emily Hanley 2-3 2-2 6; Amanda Clifton 1-4 4-6 6; Ashley Sandstead 1-2 2-2 5; Kenyatta Shelton 0-1 4-5 4; Brea Banks 1-1 0-0 2; Nicolle Lewis 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 29-52 29-40 95.
UNC GREENSBORO (6-6)
Gini Grimsley 5-13 1-3 11; Agneta Morkunaite 2-4 5-6 9; Amanda Leigh 2-8 0-0 6; Monique Floyd 2-5 2-4 6; Lakiah Hyson 2-6 2-4 6; Sarah Folwell 2-2 0-0 5; Agne Girstautaite 1-6 1-2 3; Dee Corbett 1-5 0-0 2; Ashley Mullins 1-5 0-0 2; Kendra Smith 0-2 1-2 1; TaShama Banner 0-2 0-0 0; Jazz Weaver 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-59 12-21 51.
Illinois State 47 48 95
UNC Greensboro 22 29 51
3-point goals--Illinois State 8-19 (Kristi Cirone 3-4; Maggie Krick 2-4; Katie Broadway 1-5; Ashley Sandstead 1-2; Shala Jackson 1-2; Amanda Clifton 0-1; Ashleen Bracey 0-1), UNC Greensboro 3-15 (Amanda Leigh 2-7; Sarah Folwell 1-1; Lakiah Hyson 0-2; Ashley Mullins 0-4; Gini Grimsley 0-1). Fouled out--Illinois State-None, UNC Greensboro-Sarah Folwell. Rebounds--Illinois State 41 (Kenyatta Shelton 6), UNC Greensboro 32 (Amanda Leigh 4; Gini Grimsley 4; Lakiah Hyson 4). Assists--Illinois State 18 (Kristi Cirone 4), UNC Greensboro 7 (Gini Grimsley 2; Ashley Mullins 2). Total fouls--Illinois State 20, UNC Greensboro 29. Technical fouls—Illinois State-None, UNC Greensboro-None. A-104
- UNCG -