Illini Earn Shot At Title
A runner in the lane with 1.8 seconds left gave Illinois a 77-75 victory over Penn State Sunday in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. The win advances the Illini to a championship matchup with Purdue on Monday in Indianapolis.
Purdue advanced to the final via a 72-59 victory over Ohio State on Sunday. The Boilermakers were led by 21 points from Ukari Figgs. Illinois and Purdue will tip off at 6:30 p.m. CST.
Illinois trailed by two when Susan Blauser connected with 35 seconds left to tie the score. A Catchings block then led the the game-winning possession. Illinois shot .475 from the floor, compared to .389 for Penn State. Penn State held minor advantages in most other statistical categories, but Illinois' decisive edge came in the form of a 16-2 advantage in fast break scoring.
We decided to go with freshmen in the middle of the second half," Illinois head coach Theresa Grentz said. "They scrambled, played different defenses and pressed very well until we could go with our regulars again. We needed some kind of a lift, and they played as hard as they could. It was a total team win today, and I couldn't be more pleased with them."
Allison Curtin came off the bench to lead Illinois with 23 points on 8 of 10 shooting. Curtin also pulled down six rebounds and was 6-6 from the line.
"I was confident throughout the course of the game," Curtin said. "I didn't know what to expect when I came to Penn State. I love to play defense and I love to hustle. My offense just comes from that."
Cathings made the game-winner following a time out on a drive from the left elbow to the left block. Catchings had 19 points in the game, including nine rebounds.
"I felt pretty good when the ball left my hands, and I felt really good after it went in," Catchings said. "I had confidence in my teammates to get me the ball and knew that if I missed the shot, they would be there to make it."