Illini drop close game

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

After getting blown out the first time around by Penn State, the Illini kept it close, but eventually lost a hard fought game 63-56.

In the first half, the Illini missed 10 of their first 14 shots, but they made up for the their offensive futiltiy at the defensive end. On back-to-back Penn State posessions, the Illini forced a shot clock violation and blocked a shot.

The Illini had opportunites to turn their good defense into fast break points, but they either couldn’t convert when they had the shot or they threw the ball away.

“There were two situations where we came down on (fast) breaks and didn’t score,” said Illini head coach Theresa Grentz.

Near the end of the first half, the Illini started to take advantage of their defense to score points.

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The Lady Lions were ineffective against the Illini defense and that led to a lot of tough shots for the Lions.

“We ran everything we had on offense, but they did a great job on us,” said Lions’ head coach Rene Portland.

The Illini eventually took the lead 19-17 when they had a stretch where they hit five of nine shots.

Junior guard Janelle Hughes picked up the scoring slack when senior guard Tiffanie Guthrie picked up two fouls in the first half.

Hughes led the Illini with nine first half points.

Penn State scored the first five points of the second half to take a 33-28 lead. The Illini responed by scoring the next six points to regain the lead 34-33.

They would take a 41-38 lead after a fast break lay-up by Hughes.

Lady Lions’ guard Jess Strom, who scored all 20 of her points in the second half, went on an 8-0 run by herself to turn that three-point deficit to a five-point lead.

“I think I came out (in the second half) looking to shoot and I didn’t do that in the first half,” Strom said.

The Illini did close the game to within 52-48, but Penn State’s Tanisha Wright’s big play made the difference.

Off a missed free throw, Wright came from beyond the free throw line to grab an offensive rebound and hit an off-balanced shot while being fouled to stretch the lead to seven points and the Illini were never able to get within four points.

“I think those people took off sooner than they were supposed to,” Grentz said.

Wright scored 19 points to become the second leading Lions scorer behind Strom.

The Illini, who had four players score in double-figures, were led by senior forward Angelina Williams with 15 points, but she made only seven of 19 shots.

Freshman forward Erin Wigley contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds.

“I think this game is reflective of the progress we’ve made over the season,” Hughes said.