UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Wins at Bryce Jordan Center have been a rarity for the Illinois women’s basketball program through the years. In fact, prior to this season, the Illini only had three all-time wins on Penn State’s home floor, and none since 2015.
That changed during Sunday’s game. Petra Holesinska was a big reason why it did, with the redshirt junior guard supplying a game-high 28 points in a 70-66 Illinois road victory against the Nittany Lions.
“I am really happy for our team,” Illini coach Nancy Fahey said afterward. “Our seniors hadn’t won here, and we hadn’t won here in a long time. I alluded to it in the pregame (with the players): ‘Guys, this is your time.’”
Illinois (11-12, 2-10 Big Ten), which snapped an eight-game losing streak against Penn State dating back to a 91-76 road win over the Nittany Lions on Jan. 4, 2015, turned to its leading scorer late in the fourth quarter.
Holesinska helped the Illini bounce back from a five-point deficit with just under four minutes left in regulation, eventually pouring in the go-ahead three-pointer that put Illinois in the lead for good at 68-66 with 1:22 left in regulation.
“That mentality of, ‘Hey, I want to hit the big shot’ is special,” Fahey said of Holesinska, who finished 4 of 7 from beyond the arc. The 5-foot-10 guard out of Vracov, Czech Republic, now has 151 made three-point field goals in her career, the fifth-most in program history. “Petra had that mentality.”
Illinois also got the key defensive stops it needed in the final minute with Holesinka stealing the ball away from Kamaria McDaniel, who led the Nittany Lions (7-17, 1-12) in points Sunday with 23. Later, Kennedi Myles pulled down a defensive rebound on a missed shot by Makenna Marisa with 0.8 seconds to go.
Myles produced 14 points and nine rebounds with Jeanae Terry adding 11 points and seven assists as the Illini ended a season-long six game losing streak.
Illini complete weekend sweep. Two days after head coach Jim Heffernan reached 100 career wins at Illinois, the 15th-ranked Illini capped the weekend with a 31-9 victory at Maryland on Sunday afternoon in College Park, Md.
Heffernan, now in 11th season in charge of Illinois, picked up his 100th win when the Illini beat Rutgers 29-6 on Friday night.
In the dual victory against the Terrapins — Illinois’ fifth straight of the season — the Illini won 8 of 10 bouts, with Centennial graduate Justin Cardani (125), Travis Piotrowski (133), Dylan Duncan (141), Mousa Jodeh (149), Eric Barone (157), David Riojas (174), Zac Braunagel (184) and Urbana graduate Luke Luffman (285) all claiming match wins.
Sickels dominant in circle. Sydney Sickels was a big reason for Illinois’ 4-0 start to the 2020 season.
The sophomore right-hander out of Indianola, Iowa, notched two wins and two saves at this past weekend’s NFCA Leadoff Classic in Clearwater, Fla.
That included a standout performance in the team’s tournament finale on Sunday with Sickels allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out seven in a complete-game shutout the Illini won 2-0 against 23rd-ranked Auburn.
Sickels was rewarded for such efforts being named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week by the league office on Monday.
In men’s golf
Illini rank third. Illinois was in third place as a team after Monday’s opening day of the Mobile Sports Authority Intercollegiate in Alabama.
After 36 holes, the Illini were at 14-under 562, nine strokes behind leader Texas State. Giovanni Tadiotto led Illinois at 5-under 139, tied for fifth individually.
In men’s gymnastics
Balanced effort lifts Illini. Six different Illinois gymnasts picked up event titles in Sunday’s 409.700- 374.650 dual-meet victory against Springfield College on Sunday afternoon at Huff Hall. Jordan Kovach (high bar), Ian Skirkey (pommel horse), Connor McCool (floor exercise), Danny Graham (still rings), Hamish Carter (vault, all-around) and Sebastian Quiana (parallel bars) all won events for the Illini.
In men’s tennis
Illini drop close match. Illinois overcame losing the doubles point with wins in singles by Alex Brown, Siphosothando Montsi and Zeke Clark.
But with the match tied at 3, Lucas Horve dropped a hard-fought match. The redshirt freshman won a second-set tiebreak to force a third set before falling 7-5, 6-7(3), 6-2.
Horve’s loss was the decisive blow in a 4-3 loss by the Illini (1-5) to No. 24 Central Florida on Sunday at Atkins Tennis Center.
In women’s tennis
UI falls in Chicago. Mia Rabinowitz’s 7-5, 6-0 win in singles was the only point Illinois put on the board in a 4-1 consolation-bracket loss against Michigan during Sunday’s final day of the 2020 ITA National Indoor Championships in Chicago.