Illini can’t dig out of hole, fall to Penn State 80-76

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Photo Courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

Sophomore guard Jeanae Terry looks to pass during the game against Penn State on Thursday. The Illini fell to Penn State 80-76.

By Nithin Reddy, Staff Writer

The Illinois women’s basketball team lost to Penn State 80-76, moving the Illini to 2-9 on the season and 0-8 in conference play.

For the first time in a while, the Illini got off to a hot start. Even though the Nittany Lions were implementing a full-court press, the Illini were not deterred leading 15-7 halfway through the first quarter.

“We wanted to come out here and control the tempo and play our game. We knew that if we did that, we would be successful, so we were really excited to have a quick start,” said sophomore guard Jeanae Terry.

Penn State would finish the quarter strong, led by senior forward Johnasia Cash, the Nittany Lions would end the quarter by tying up the game at 18.

In the second, the game was back-and-forth, changing leads three times. Neither side was able to play, with four points being the largest lead in the quarter. After the first half, the Illini trailed by one point.

Penn State came out in the second half and played with added intensity. It was obvious from the start they had newfound energy. Following a layup by sophomore forward Anna Camden, the Penn State bench erupted.

Sophomore guard Jada Peebles responded with a three to bring Illinois within six, but that would not stop the Nittany Lions’ momentum. Penn State’s lead grew as high as 14 points, and despite a last-second heave by Terry, the Nittany Lions led 61-52 with just 10 minutes to go.

“We broke down (in the third quarter) and that was disappointing,” said Illinois head coach Nancy Fahey. “We’re a team that has to have effort on every board, every defensive assignment we had to change up between zone and man.”

The Illini would mount a run in the fourth quarter. Three-point shooting became key for the Illini in the fourth quarter, after struggling to shoot from distance before that. Back-to-back threes by freshman guard Aaliyah Nye and sophomore guard Jada Peebles brought Illinois within a point, and soon after Terry would give the Illini the lead on an open layup with just over two minutes left in the game.

Penn State would retake the lead, and then with 33 seconds to go, freshman guard Maddie Burk extended Penn State’s lead to four points. The Illini played the foul game, but the Nittany Lions stood strong, making all of their free throws t0 seal a victory.

Terry led the way for the Illini with a massive stat line, finishing with 21 points, 16 rebounds and 8 assists — two shy of being the third Illini ever to record a triple-double.

“I asked Jeanae Terry for a lot tonight. She brought the ball up she got inside, she boarded. That was a lot of responsibility and she played really well,” Fahey said.

Peebles added 19 points including five threes, all coming in the second half. The Illini will hit the road where they will face Wisconsin Sunday afternoon.

 

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