No. 22/21 Lady Lions Fend Off Illinois, 71-65
Jan. 19, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, ILL. - The No. 22/21 Penn State Lady Lions (14-4, 4-2) used to gritty performance to battle a tough Illinois (6-13, 0-6) team to the end and managed to come away with the 71-65 win in Champaign Thursday night. Sophomore guard Maggie Lucas (Narberth, Pa.) was a perfect 10-for-10 from the field en route to a game-high 19 points. With the effort, Lucas surpasses the 900-point mark for her career.
Junior guard Alex Bentley (Indianapolis, Ind.) also reached double figures with 15 points, four assists and a pair of steals, while Nikki Greene (Diboll, Texas) added 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Zhaque Gray (Chicago, Ill.) scored all nine of her points in the final eight-plus minutes in front of a large contingent of family and friends. Ariel Edwards (Elmont, N.Y.) provided a spark off of the bench with seven points and six rebounds.
Bentley opened the scoring with a jumper on Penn State's second possession, but the Illini scored nine of the game's next 11 points to take a 9-4 lead with 16:23 remaining. The Lady Lions climbed within one (11-10) thanks to a 6-2 spurt that included points from Greene, Bentley and Edwards. However, the Illini bounced back with a 7-2 run of their own to establish is an 18-12 lead with less than 10 minutes left in the half.
The Lady Lions scored the game's next five points, all from the free throw line, to make it an 18-17 deficit with 8:24 left in the half. Illinois came firing back on the wings of Amber Moore, who hit three-pointers in three consecutive trips to spur on an 11-4 run to give the Illini a 29-21 lead with just over six minutes left in the half. Four straight points by Lucas got the Lions within four, but the Illini scored the game's next four points to push the lead back to eight (33-25) with 4:32 remaining.
Bentley jump-started the Lady Lion offense with a three-pointer and Lucas knocked down a deep three-pointer on the next PSU possession as Penn State closed the half with a 12-1 run to take a 37-34 lead at the break. Penn State held the Illini without a field goal for the final 6:15 of the opening frame.
Lucas paced the Lady Lions with 13 points in the opening half, while Bentley chipped in nine points and two assists. Greene added six points, three rebounds and two blocks for Penn State, which was plagued with 10 first-half turnovers. The Lady Lions shot 50% from the field in the opening half.
The Lady Lions maintained their momentum from the end of the first half as they scored eight of the first 10 points in the second frame thanks to four points from Greene, a bucket by Bentley and layup from Edwards to take a 45-36 lead with less than 17 minutes remaining. The Illini fought back with an 11-4 run to close within two (49-47) with less than 12 minutes to play.
The Illini closed within one (51-50) before an 8-2 spurt by Penn State pushed the lead to 59-52 with 6:45 on the clock. Following four consecutive points from Illinois, Bentley scored back-to-back buckets to push the lead back to seven (63-56) with 4:30 remaining. The Illini made another charge with a three-pointer by Moore and one free throw to make it a one-possession game (63-60) with less than three minutes left in the contest. The Lady Lions scored eight of the final 10 points of the game to salt away the 71-65 win.
GAME NOTES: With 19 points, sophomore Maggie Lucas surpassed the 900-point mark for her career. She now has 917 tallies in 53 games ... Junior guard Alex Bentley moved into a tie for 27th place on Penn State's career scoring with Sue Martin (1,135) ... Bentley also nabbed two steals to move into 18th place on the program's all-time steals chart (175), passing Angie Potthoff for the spot ... The win was the 80th career victory for head coach Coquese Washington ... Penn State is now 28-14 all-time against the Illini and move to 9-10 all-time in Champaign.
The Lady Lions return to the BJC to face Iowa on Sunday. It is a Subway Full Court 4-pack game and it's Kids Day where all kids that in 8th grade or younger will be admitted for FREE if they wear Lady Lion Basketball gear. Fans that donate a coat for Operation Warm can participate in a postgame autograph session with four Lady Lions. Single game tickets, PNC Flex Books and Starting 5 ticket packages are available by calling 800-NITTANY. PNC Flex Books are $99 and give fans 12 vouchers, including one for the Coaches vs. Cancer game and one for the Pink Zone game, that can be redeemed for Nittany Lion and Lady Lion Basketball tickets in any combination. The Starting 5 Pack is $49 and features tickets to three games of the buyer's choice, a ticket for the Ohio State ESPN2 Big Monday game on Monday, Feb. 20 and a ticket for the Pink Zone game against Minnesota on Sunday, Feb. 26.
The 2012 WBCA Pink Zone at Penn State will take place on Sunday, Feb. 26 as the Lady Lions take on Minnesota in the Bryce Jordan Center. Last year, the Lady Lions donated nearly $200,000 for breast cancer causes. This year's fundraising efforts will benefit the Mount Nittany Medical Center, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and Lewistown Hospital. For more information on the Pink Zone at Penn State, visit the official Pink Zone website at www.gopsusports.com/pinkzone. The WBCA Pink Zone at Penn State is also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pinkzoneatpennstate.
The Lady Lions are on Twitter. Follow sports information contact Kris Petersen (@ladylionsid) and the Lady Lions and coaches (@pennstatewbb) to get the inside scoop. The Lady Lions are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pennstateladylions.