LIVE! Penn State at State Farm Center

LIVE! Penn State at State Farm Center

Final: Penn State 82, Illinois 76

Trailing by as much as 80-65, the Illini had one last run in them but came up just short Thursday night in a Big Ten loss to the Nittany Lions.

Ivory Crawford led Illinois (7-8, 0-2 Big Ten) with 25 points and seven assists.

Maggie Lucas and Ariel Edwards combined for 44 points for Penn State (11-3, 2-0).

Check back later for a complete game report.

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7:29  left in second half: Penn State 67, Illinois 54

Illini haven't allowed this one to turn into a blowout.

Since Penn State went on a 15-2 run, Illinois has outscored Penn State 11-10.

Four Illini have four fouls, and Nittany Lions have outscored Illinois 25-7 at the foul line.

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11:37 left in second half: Penn State 53, Illinois 43

The Nittany Lions are threatening to pull away for good.

The Illini led 38-35 on an Amber Moore three-pointer but Penn State then went on a 7-0 run and they have led ever since. Dara Taylor had all but two of the Nittany Lions' points in that surge.

The Illini got as close as 42-41 on a Moore basket, but Penn State has dominated since, scoring 11 of the last 13 points.

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Halftime: Illinois 32, Penn State 31

The Nittany Lions are very much back in this one after continually chipping away at an Illini lead that at one point was as much as 12 points (17-5).with 12:46 left in the half.

The Illini were still ahead 28-19 with about five minutes left when Penn State scored 12 of the last 16 points of the half. Dara Taylor and Ariel Edwards each had four points for PSU during that run.

The Illini have forced 12 Nittany Lions turnovers and turned them into 12 points.

Illinois has been outrebounded 23-11 but Penn State has not scored a second-chance point.

Jacqui Grant leads the Illini with 10 points, but she picked up her third foul with 2:11 left.

Big Ten scoring leader Maggie Lucas also picked up three fouls and was limited to 15 minutes in the half. She has scored seven points. Taylor leads Penn State with 12.

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8:35 left: Illinois 21, Penn State 13

We're late with updating due to some some technical difficulties, but we're back now.

Illini giving No. 14 Nittany Lions all they can handle so far. Rolled to a 12-2 lead in less than five minutes. Ivory Crawford (five points) and Jacqui Grant (four) led that charge.

Penn State opened the game 1 of 5 from the field with five turnovers.

Maggie Lucas, the Big Ten's leading scorer, didn't score until 11:45 remained.

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Welcome to our live report from State Farm Center on tonight’s Big Ten women’s basketball game between the Illini and No. 14 Penn State.

Illinois (7-7, 0-1 Big Ten) is looking to pull out of a 2-5 slide that dates back to its Nov. 30 loss to then-No. 11 North Carolina.

To that end, Illini coach Matt Bollant has decided to alter his lineup. After practice Wednesday, Bollant said junior forward Nia Oden would start in place of redshirt sophomore Sarah Hartwell. Bollant indicated the move is being made in order to bring Oden’s energy and defense to the floor from the opening tip-off.

The change also could give the Illini more scoring punch off the bench. Illinois has struggled in that area recently, and Hartwell is averaging 9.8 points and has scored in double figures in three of the last four games.

The 5-foot-10 Oden has appeared in 49 games during her Illini career, but this will be her first start.

Illinois faces a challenging task tonight in trying to reverse its recent course. Although Penn State (10-3, 1-0) was not the Big Ten coaches’ preseason pick to win the conference (Nebraska go the nod), the defending champion Nittany Lions currently are the league’s highest-ranked team in The Associated Press Top 25 poll and have the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year in Maggie Lucas.

The senior guard leads the conference in scoring average (21.1 points) and has long been a thorn in the Illini’s side, starting with a 22-point performance in her first game against the UI as a freshman. In five career games against Illinois, Lucas has averaged 19.2 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field, including 54.8 percent from three-point range.

Penn State figures to be a tall task for another reason; its height. The Nittany Lions’ projected starting five includes players who stand 6-3, 6-3 and 6-5. They also can bring a 6-6 reserve off the bench.

With the Illini getting outrebounded by an average margin of 7.0 per game — and Penn State outrebounding its opponents by 6.2 per game — keep an eye on this game within a game. As always, Illinois will rely on pressure to help offset its rebounding deficiencies as a way of adding to its possessions. Through Sunday, the Illini ranked 13th in the nation in steals per game (11.9) and 17th in turnover margin (plus-6.29).

I was a bit surprised to learn this when I did some research, but Penn State owns the longest winning streak against Illinois of any Big Ten member. I would have thought it was Purdue. However, the Nittany Lions own that distinction with sixth straight wins versus the Illini.

Illinois has played better at home, so it has that going for it tonight. The Illini started the season 6-0 on their home court before the streak ended last Friday in a 76-64 overtime loss against Wisconsin.

Tonight’s game is the Illini’s second in a row on BTN. It’s the second of two women’s basketball games this evening on the conference’s network. Not sure if they’ll delay this one if the first game goes long. Guess we’ll find out at 8 p.m.

We’ll update this report periodically during the game so be sure to check back.
 

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