Edwards, Penn State rally past Illinois 82-76

From staff reports

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The Penn State Lady Lions (11-3, 2-0 Big Ten) rallied from a 12-point, first-half deficit with a strong second frame on the way to an 82-76 win at Illinois (7-8, 0-2) Thursday.

Senior Ariel Edwards posted her second career double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while freshman Peyton Whitted nearly had the first double-double of her career with a personal-bests of nine tallies and 10 boards.

Edwards was 7-for-12 from the field and 6-for-7 from the free throw line. She also dished out three assists on the game. Maggie Lucas also reached the 20-point mark with 24 tallies, including a 10-for-10 mark from the free throw line. This is the third time this season that Lucas has been perfect from the free throw line with 10 or more attempts.

Dara Taylor chipped in 17 points, going 6-for-11 from the field. She also added four assists and two steals. Whitted was 2-for-3 from the field and 5-for-5 from the free throw line on the way to her nine points, which bests her previous career high of eight points against Iowa on Sunday. She also snagged 10 rebounds for her first career double-digit rebounding effort.

The Illini were hot early, connecting on five of their first eight shots to establish a 12-2 lead with 15:18 left in the first. The teams exchanged scores over the next seven minutes to keep the lead at 10 until back-to-back 3-pointers from Taylor and Lucas sliced the Illinois lead to four (23-19) with seven minutes to play in the half.

Illinois responded with a 5-0 spurt to push its lead back to nine, but Penn State scored the game’s next four points via a 15-footer by Tori Waldner and two free throws from Taylor to make it a 28-23 game with four minutes remaining in the half.

Following a score by Jacqui Grant, the Lions clicked off an 8-2 run to end the first half and close the gap. Taylor started the run with a layup, followed by two free throws by Edwards. After a bucket by Mackenzie Piper, Whitted and Edwards each connected on two freebies to send the Lions into the locker room trailing by a single point, 32-31.

Edwards drove the lane for the layup on the opening possession of the second half to give Penn State its first lead of the game at 33-32. The Illini scored the game’s next three points to take a two-point advantage (35-33) with 18:24 left.

Penn State went on a 9-3 run to extend its lead thanks to another layup by Edwards, a three-point play by Taylor, a jumper by Lucas and a jumper by Taylor to cap the run to give the Lions a 42-38 lead with 16:34 left.

The Illini scored the next three points to get within one, but Lucas sparked a Penn State run with a 3-pointer at the 15:41 mark. Whitted and Edwards then sandwiched old-fashioned 3-point plays around an Ivory Crawford score. Candice Agee, Lucas and Edwards combined for six points to cap the 15-2 run to give the Lions a 57-43 lead with 11:12 to play.

The Illini would not go away quietly as they scored the next five points to make it a 57-48 game with 10:33 on the clock. Lucas once again sparked a Penn State run with a 3-pointer. After an Illinois score, Talia East converted on Penn State’s four- and-one of the game, followed by one free throw by Amber Moore. Edwards converted on a layup and Whitted made two free throws to cap the 10-3 run and give Penn State a 67-51 lead with 8:11 to play.

The squads swapped scores for the next two minutes until Agee scored three consecutive points and Lucas nailed her fourth 3-pointer of the game to give the Lions a 77-58 lead with 4:47 left. The Illini put together one last run to close within four (80-76) with 18 seconds left, but Lucas sealed the win with a pair of freebies with eight seconds left for the 82-76 win.