Illini Ring in New Year With Win Over Penn State
Dec. 31, 2009
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini ended 2009 on a high note with a 69-60 New Year's Eve victory over Penn State on Thursday at Assembly Hall. Illinois' three superstars all had a big hand in the victory as Jenna Smith, Lacey Simpson and Karisma Penn combined for 57 points, 31 rebounds and nine blocks. Illinois improves to 9-3 overall and 1-1 in Big Ten play, while the Lady Lions fall to 9-4, 1-2.
Illinois led most of the way, taking control of the game with a 9-0 run midway through the first half to take a 19-12 lead with 11:28 to play. The Illini pushed the lead as high as eight points two times before halftime but Penn State came back to cut the Illini lead to 31-27 at the break. Illinois forced 15 first-half PSU turnovers, but shot just 35 percent from the field.
In the second half, the Orange and Blue pushed the lead to double-figures within the first five minutes, going up 41-31 after a Penn free throw at the 15:41 mark. Later, a 12-2 Illini run, capped by a Smith layup at the 12:08 mark, gave the Illini a 53-37 lead. The Lady Lions would not threaten from that point on.
Smith picked-up her NCAA-leading 10th double-double of the season with a game-high 26 points and 14 rebounds, hitting 9-of-16 from the field and 8-of-10 from the line. While it took her until the final minutes of Monday's game against Ohio State to extend her school-record double-digit scoring streak, it took her less than nine minutes to reach double-figures today, extending her streak to 51 games.
Simpson finished the game with 14 points, six rebounds, six steals and four blocks, but more importantly, combined with freshman Adrienne Godbold to limit Penn State star Tyra Grant to just two second-half points. Grant scored 15 points in the first half, but the Illini duo held her without a field goal after the break.
Penn had a big game in the post alongside Smith, scoring 17 points and pulling down a career-high 11 rebounds for her first career double-double. She also tied her career-high with five blocked shots. Godbold, in addition to her stellar defense, also added eight points, four rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes.
For the game, Illinois had a dominating 32-18 edge in points in the paint and a 20-7 advantage on second chance points thanks to 17 offensive rebounds and a 48-35 overall rebounding edge. The Illini shot 44 percent in the second half and 39 percent for the game, while the Lady Lions shot 38 percent for the game.
The Fighting Illini will wrap up their five-game homestand by hosting the Wisconsin Badgers Sunday afternoon at Assembly Hall at 3 p.m. The Illinois-Wisconsin game will be streamed live on at http://video.bigtennetwork.com for $2.99.