CHAMPAIGN — Call it a successful homecoming for Lexi Wallen.
The Champaign native, St. Thomas More graduate and fifth-year senior on the Illinois State women’s basketball team delivered for the Redbirds, leading Illinois State past Illinois 74-58 on Saturday afternoon in front of 1,520 fans at State Farm Center.
Wallen scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to hand the Illini (3-1) their first loss of the season. The 6-foot forward was efficient shooting the ball, going 10 of 14 from the field and making all six of her free throw attempts for the Redbirds (2-1).
“She deserves it,” Illinois State coach Kristen Gillespie said. “She is our hardest worker and has put so much time into this game since she decided to come back for her fifth year. She probably had 40 people here to support her, and to do what she did in her hometown is really special.”
Illinois trailed 28-22 at halftime and fell behind 53-35 to start the fourth quarter. Petra Holesinska led the Illini with 16 points, while Kennedi Myles joined her in double figures with 11 points. The Redbirds outrebounded the Illini 40-17 and controlled the interior.
“We did not, at any point, underestimate these guys,” Illinois coach Nancy Fahey said. “To me, the biggest thing was the inside play. I thought that was the difference-maker, their rebounding and ability to dominate the inside.”
Quade, Cooney shine. Needing a win to get back above .500 on the season, Jacquline Quade and Megan Cooney delivered for the Illinois volleyball team on Saturday night.
The two stalwarts both contributed 14 kills, lifting the 25th-ranked Illini past Rutgers 25-11, 25-15, 25-20 in front of 2,632 fans at Huff Hall.
The win on Saturday night by Illinois (13-12, 8-8 Big Ten) was the first of five straight matches to end the season during the next two weeks against unranked foes. All chances to improve their record and NCAA tournament resume.
Diana Brown (38 assists) and Morgan O’Brien (17 digs) also chipped in before Illinois hits the road for two matches next weekend, first on Friday at Maryland and then on Sunday at Ohio State.
“Emotionally and physically, we were a little bit drained, as most teams are near the end of the Big Ten season,” Illinois coach Chris Tamas said. “I told the team (Saturday) morning, ‘I believe in you until someone says we can’t play anymore.’ As long as we got the opportunity to play, I believe in our ability to make a run and do some damage.”