By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Despite shooting just 33 percent from the field, Penn State topped the Illinois Fighting Illini 68-59 Tuesday night in the Bryce Jordan Center.
During the tough shooting outing, the Lady Lions made only three field goals in the fourth quarter and none in the last five minutes of game time. Despite that, they were still able to control the lead thanks to clutch free throw shooting, knocking down 12 shots from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter alone.
"It (Free Throw shooting) was critical, and we did go through a tough stretch. We had some looks in that stretch that just didn't go down. Teniya, Amari (Carter) and Jaida (Travascio-Green) all had some good shots that just didn't go down," head coach Coquese Washington said. "But we got to the free throw line and were able to continue to put points on the board and whatever way you can do that helps win the game."
Page individually was crucial from the line connecting on 9-of-10 on free throws which amounted to half of her team-high 18 points.
"I think just being patient at the free throw line is big. Some of the other shots I rushed and others just didn't fall tonight," Page said. "I can't get mad about that I just have to keep playing the game."
While the Lady Lions struggled to hit shots with consistency, the team showed off its depth with three players reaching double figures. They also added 18 bench points and Illinois had just two points off the bench.
"Recently in practice we've worked a lot on making the extra pass and hitting the open person so I think we were trying to do that today," Travascio-Green said. "We even missed some people today so that shows we can only go up from there."
Penn State also continued to stay relentless on the defensive end, using pressure to create offense and speed up the pace.
The game started with a 5-0 run for the Fighting Illini and Washington quickly took a timeout, not impressed with the start.
"I wanted us to take our intensity up a little more defensively and in the early timeout I talked about being more intense and aggressive on the defensive end," she said.
This has been an emphasis for the Lady Lions all year, and they have been able to use the defense to make up for cold stretches in the offensive end. They've also used other scrappy ways to make points such as offensive rebounds and from the free throw line. Penn State was able to take advantage of these tonight to seal the win.
"I think that there were some good stretches during the game where we were disruptive defensively. When you struggle to make shots like we did early in the game then you have to pick it up on the defensive end," Washington said. "We got a few turnovers from the press. We got a few offensive rebounds so being aggressive defensively really helped us get going early then close it late."