STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Illinois coach Matt Bollant is determined not to let a blowout loss to No. 7 Penn State affect the rest of the season.
That's good, because there were few highlights for the Illini after getting routed 95-62 on Wednesday night in Happy Valley.
Adrienne GodBold had 17 points for foul-plagued Illinois (15-10, 8-5), which fell behind by 21 by halftime after the Lady Lions shot 58 percent from the field in the first half.
"Have resiliency, don't let one game ... move into two," Bollant said when asked what the team would take away from the loss. "Keep believing and keep fighting. Don't let this game affect Saturday's game against Indiana."
Illinois, which was off to its best start in conference play since 1999-00, stumbled in a chance for a season-defining win on the road. They were tied for third in the Big Ten with Michigan and Purdue entering Wednesday night.
The Illini haven't won in Happy Valley since 1998.
Karisma Penn finished with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting and five rebounds, but spent chunks of the game on the bench with foul trouble. Ivory Crawford had 10 points before also fouling out with 9:17 left.
Maggie Lucas scored 22 points, backcourt mate Alex Bentley added 20 and Penn State (22-3, 12-1) overwhelmed Illinois in transition to move a step closer to a second straight Big Ten regular-season title. Penn State had a two-game lead on second-place Nebraska entering Wednesday, with three games left on the Lady Lions' schedule after the win over the Illini.
The Lady Lions didn't let up down the stretch and led by as much as 27 early in the second half. Even 19 second-half turnovers couldn't derail Penn State after shooting 61 percent for the night – the first time the team eclipsed that mark since 1996.
A 49-26 run over the final 15 minutes of the first half gave control to Penn State.
"Wow, were they good tonight," Bollant said. "They came out and punched us in the mouth and we really didn't respond."
A satisfied Penn State coach Coquese Washington took time to lean back on the scorer's table and sip from a bottle of water before her team jogged back to the locker room with a 54-33 halftime lead.
Her team attacked relentlessly from all over the court on both ends of the floor. Lucas and Bentley led the charge from the backcourt, while third guard Dara Taylor (nine points, five steals, six turnovers,) harassed opponents with her speed and quick baseline moves.
The balanced offense featured 13 points and seven rebounds from forward Mia Nickson and 11 points from guard/forward Ariel Edwards. The Lady Lions aggressively drove the basket while also getting 10 blocks, including four from Tori Waldner and three from freshman Candice Agee.
Bollant managed to get his team settled in the second half, but the Illini could get no closer than 19 with 7:42 left to play. The first half doomed Illinois' chances.
A two-minute stretch midway through that half exemplified Illinois' frustrating night. GodBold appeared to have a clear path to the basket before Agee swatted the ball away from behind. Lucas corralled the rebound and connected on a textbook cross-court pass in transition to Bentley for a layup with 9:45 left in the half.
About 30 seconds later, Agee missed a foul shot but Penn State got the rebound and whipped the ball around the floor to counter the Illini's overplaying defense. Left open on the wing, Lucas called the ball and hit a 3 before an Illinois player jumped in front of her for a 13-point lead.
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