Grant Pours in Career-High 29, Crawford Chips in 22
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Illinois notched its first win at Penn State since 1998 and handed the Lady Lions their worst home loss in four years, winning 91-76 on Sunday. The Illini’s 91 points marked the most scored in a game in Big Ten play thus far in 2014-15. Sophomore Jacqui Grant posted a career-high 29 points and senior Ivory Crawford notched 22, including 18 in the second half. The Illini scored to 10-4 overall, 1-1 in the Big Ten.
Illinois shot 50 percent (32-of-64) for the game, including 12-of-29 (41.4 percent) from three-point range. Penn State shot 48 percent from the floor (30-of-62) but made just 2-of-10 three-pointers. The Illini also made 15-of-20 (75 percent) from the free-throw line. The Illini had 22 assists on 32 field goals (68.8 percent) and committed just 13 turnovers.
“Really important win for our program and for our players,” Illini head coach Matt Bollant said. “Sometimes that first Big Ten game, that first road win, means a lot. Hopefully it’ll be a confidence-builder. I thought we made a lot more of the tough plays that we didn’t make against Purdue, and Jacqui was a big part of that, getting us going early and knocking down shots.
“And I thought in the second half, when we got a little bit tight and started playing to the score instead of playing to win, Ivory stepped up and made several big shots as well. Road wins don’t come easy in the Big Ten, so we’ll celebrate this one.”
Grant hit a career-high five three-pointers (5-of-9) after entering the game 5-of-30 from beyond the arc this season. She also pulled down eight rebounds and had two blocked shots. Crawford added six rebounds and five assists, while Kyley Simmons notched her first career double-double with 10 points and 10 assists, and Chatrice White had 17 points.
Illinois started strong, leading 9-7 at the first media timeout. Penn State battled back as the Illini were unable to stop the ball in transition a couple times, tying it at 10, but the Illini used a 9-3 burst as their zone defense stifled the Lady Lions’ offense, taking a 19-13 lead.
Penn State got a bucket to pull within four but that’s when Illinois went on a 13-3 run to expand the lead to 32-18 with 7:26 left. Grant made a layup then Brooke Kissinger hit a trey from the right wing after a PSU free throw. Following two more Lady Lions freebies, Taylor Tuck and Grant hit back-to-back three-pointers, then Grant blocked a shot, got the rebound and pitched it ahead to Crawford, who found Tuck for the fast-break layup.
PSU shaved the margin to 34-24 but didn’t make another field goal in the final 6:15 of the first half as White made a jumper down low and Brittany Carter drained a 15-footer from the baseline. Tuck hit 1-of-2 free throws then Penn State’s Tori Waldner made two free throws. But Grant responded with a jumper, then PSU’s Sierra Moore went 1-of-2 from the line. Crawford followed that with a three-pointer from the left wing then Grant drained a trey from the top of the key with 48 seconds left for the 47-27 halftime score.
Penn State came out blazing in the second half, hitting four of its first five shots to cut the margin to 49-36. But Grant answered with a corner three-pointer, pushing the lead to 52-36 with 16:54 left as Bollant called timeout to reset the defense.
But the Lady Lions continued to find gaps in the Illini defense, making their next three shots to cut the margin to 54-42 at the 15:13 mark. Penn State cut the deficit to 10 but Crawford responded with a three-pointer. After Spann hit a trey of her own, Crawford got a layup to push the margin back to 12. PSU got another layup but Simmons found Chatrice White on a slipped screen, she made the layup and got fouled, converting the three-point play.
The next time down, Simmons found Crawford on a nifty back-cut, pushing the lead to 64-49. After a White layup, Penn State sandwiched buckets around a missed Illini three-pointer, pulling within 11, 66-55.
The Illini held the fort throughout the game’s next segment, keeping the margin in the low teens. PSU cut it to 11 with a Sierra Moore layup but Grant hit her fourth trey of the game to push the lead to 74-60 at the under-8:00 media timeout.
The teams traded baskets for the next two minutes before Illinois sandwiched a Crawford three-point play and a Grant trey around a PSU bucket, then Simmons drained two free throws following a technical foul on Moore. After a Simmons steal, she found White for a layup that pushed the lead to 89-67 with 3:02 left. It was academic from there as Illinois finished off the 91-76 victory.
The Illini return home for consecutive games, hosting No. 20 Iowa Thursday at 7 p.m., and welcoming No. 12 Nebraska to State Farm Center Sunday at 2 p.m. Fans can receive free admission to Thursday’sgame with their ticket from Wednesday’s men’s basketball game against Maryland, while all fans will receive free admission on Sunday for the annual Pack the House game.