RIVIERA MAYA, Mexico (AStateRedWolves.com) — Sophomore forward Jalen O'Bannon recorded her first career double-double but it was not enough as the Arkansas State women's basketball team fell to Illinois 70-54 Friday afternoon on day two of the Cancun Challenge presented by Triple Crown Sports at the Hard Rock Resort.
The Red Wolves (4-3) trailed by just one at halftime, but Illinois (5-2)went on 7-2 run to open the second half and A-State could get only get within five despite never trailing by more than 11 until the game's final minutes.
O'Bannon finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds as the sophomore from Memphis, Tenn., had her first double-double as a Red Wolves basketball player. A-State cut the lead to four points at 37-33 with 15:03 to go in game after Jamie Ruffins scored on a layup, but A-State could not closer as Illinois controlled the pace for much of the second half and pulled away for the 16-point victory.
"In the first half we had a couple of early turnovers but then I thought we settled in pretty well and got really good play from Jalen O'Bannon and Jasmine Hunt in the post," A-State head coach Brian Boyer said. "The thing Illinois tries to do on defense is try to take your guards out of the game and they did they a good job of that in the second half and we were not able to find a way to overcome that."
A-State trailed for most of the first half but kept it close thanks to a great defensive effort and huge effort on the boards. The Red Wolves defense gave Illinois problems throughout the first period and forced the Fighting Illini to take bad shots. Arkansas State also out rebounded its Big Ten opponent 27-13.
Jasmine Hunt provided big minutes in the first half, by scoring six points in seven minutes of action, including hitting 4-of-6 free throws. O'Bannon led the team in scoring with 11 points on 3-of-3 shooting and 5-of-6 from the free throw line. She also had six rebounds in the opening minutes to keep the Red Wolves within striking distance.
In the second half, Illinois used its size, speed and pressing defense to hold A-State to just a 26 percent (6-23) shooting percentage. For the game, A-state went 15-of-49 (30 percent) from the field and hit 77 percent (24-31) of its free throw attempts. The Red Wolves held a big advantage on the boards at 48-29, but failed to convert the rebounds into second chance opportunities as the squad outscored the Illini just 15-12 in the category.
A-State also finished 0-8 from the 3-point line, ending its streak of consecutive games with a made ‘3' at 125. The last time Arkansas State failed to make a 3-pointer was Nov. 20, 2009 against Virginia Commonwealth.
The Red Wolves will conclude their trip Cancun, Mexico Saturday with a match-up against Arizona State at Noon. For in-game updates follow @AStateGameDay on Twitter and stay up to date with the A-State women's basketball team by following them on Twitter at @AStateWB.