Lady Lions Win Big Ten Tournament Opener 75-66
The Lady Lions (11-18, 6-11 Big Ten) started their Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday against Illinois at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Fighting Illini (9-20, 2-16 Big Ten) came into the tournament as the lowest seed hoping to pull off a first-round upset after losing the only previous meeting between the two teams this season back in January. Penn State had other ideas as four players got into double digits to pull off a 75-66 win.
How It Happened
Penn State came out hot in the early going of the first quarter, knocking down three of its first four three-pointers. Chatrice White helped keep Illinois competitive with the Lady Lions, scoring her team’s first eight points, but was forced to the bench with a number of fouls in the first minutes.
The Lady Lions did well to break the press and played a fast-paced game that kept Illinois guessing. Their early fortunes were turned around when they moved into a slower half-court offense that lead to some sloppy play and helped the Illini close the gap. The quarter wrapped up with Penn State having an 18-14 edge over Illinois.
Three-pointers were falling on both sides of the court to open the second quarter. With each team seemingly scoring at will, three players were able to reach double digits well before the end of the half. Still, Penn State was able to hold on to its slim lead.
Teniya Page led the way for Penn State going into the locker room with 11 points in the first half, but Kyley Simmons managed to keep Illinois in the game with a number of baskets from beyond the arc. The Lady Lions led 37-31 at halftime.
Simmons picked up where she left off to begin the second half, drilling a three-pointer, but senior Brianna Banks was quick to answer back with one of her own. The early part of the third quarter played out that way with the two teams scoring, then quickly answering back making it a tightly contested game.
Just as the Lady Lions looked like they had found their rhythm, Illinois came storming with back-to-back three pointers. Penn State still led at the end of the third quarter, but the late run from the Illini managed to limit that lead to just two. The Lady Lions needed to hold onto the 51-49 lead for one more quarter of basketball to keep their season alive.
The Lady Lions were patient on the offensive end in the fourth quarter, finding good looks with a number of players putting up points. Illinois refused to go away, knocking down clutch shots from distance at critical points in the game.
With the Lady Lions holding on to a small lead, Illinois was forced to started fouling as the clock ticked down. Despite not being out of the woods until the final few seconds, Penn State stayed calm at the line and held on to win 75-66.
Player Of The Game
Peyton Whitted | Junior | Forward
Whitted was crucial in a game where low post play was the deciding factor. Whitted tallied 15 points and nine rebounds helping the Lady Lions hold on in the win over Illinois.
With the win, the Lady Lions earned the right to play Purdue in the second round of the tournament. The game will tip-off tomorrow night at approximately 9 p.m. following the other tournament game slated for earlier that night.