Lady Lions rally past Illinois, 82-76

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The No. 15/14 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 (Elmont, N.Y.) posted her second career double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while freshman Peyton Whitted (Suwanee, Ga.) nearly had the first double-double of her career with a personal-bests 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 (Narberth, Pa.) 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 (Wilmington, Del.) 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 three-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 (Milton, Ga.) 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 three-pointer at the 15:41 mark. Whitted and Edwards then sandwiched old-fashioned three-point plays around an Ivory Crawford score. Candice Agee (Victorville, Calif.), 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 would once again spark a Lady Lion run with a three-pointer. After an Illinois score, Talia East (Philadelphia, Pa.) 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 three-pointer of the game to give the Lady 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.

GAME NOTES: Ariel Edwards recorded her second career double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Her first double-double came as a sophomore in a win over Iowa (1/22/12) ... With a perfect 10-for-10 performance from the free throw line, Maggie Lucas became just the eighth player in Lady Lion history to attempt 500 free throws in her career, moving into seventh place on the all-time list with 503 attempts from the charity stripe, passing Maren Walseth (501; 1998-01) ... By going 4-of-11 from beyond the arc, Lucas moved into second place on the Big Ten career three-point field goals attempt list with 768 passing Wisconsin's Jolene Anderson (764; 2005-08) ... Edwards set a career high in scoring for a Big Ten game with 20 points, besting her previous mark of 17 against Iowa (1/22/12) ... The senior matched her personal best for rebounds in Big Ten action with 11 boards ... With three assists in the victory, Edwards surpassed the 100 assist milestone and now has 102 in her career ... Peyton Whitted hauled in a career-high 10 rebounds, besting her previous best mark of six against Iowa (1/5/14). The freshman also set a personal best in scoring with nine points, improving upon her previous high of eight which came against Iowa (1/5/14) ... The win gives Penn State a 2-0 start to Big Ten play for the second-straight season and just the second time in the last nine years ... The Lady Lions have now won seven-straight meetings against the Illini ... Penn State won for just the second time this season after trailing at the halftime break, with the first occurrence coming in the first round win over Oregon State in the Junkanoo Jam (11/30/13) ... Tori Waldner's streak of 12-straight games with at least one block came to an end against the Illini.

The Lady Lions open the home portion of their Big Ten slate Sunday against Purdue at 3 p.m. on ESPN. The game is Military Appreciation Day and military members that show their ID will receive four (4) free tickets and the opportunity to buy additional tickets for $5. Sunday is also the Dara Taylor mini-bobblehead giveaway while supplies last, it's the third in a series of six giveaways. Additionally, YMCA members that show their card will receive a $5 ticket offer. The Lady Lions will continue their homestand against Ohio State on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Lady Lion Basketball single-game and season tickets are available by calling 1-800-NITTANY. Single-game tickets are $15 and $12 for adults and seniors and $9 and $7 for youth (12 and younger). Season tickets are $99 for adults and $50 for youth (12 and under), this includes a Nittany Lion Kids Club Membership for 2013-14. New this year, the Lady Lions have introduced a Family Season Ticket package. For $200, fans will get two adult tickets and two youth tickets for the 2013-14 campaign. The PNC Flex Books are available again this year for $99. The Flex Book gives fans 12 vouchers, 10 that can be redeemed in any combination for Nittany Lion and Lady Lion Basketball tickets throughout the year and two extra vouchers for the Nittany Lions' Coaches Vs. Cancer game and the Lady Lions' Pink Zone game.

The 2014 Pink Zone at Penn State will take place on Sunday, Feb. 16 as the Lady Lions take on Wisconsin in the Bryce Jordan Center at 1 p.m. Last year, the Lady Lions donated a record $260,000 to breast cancer causes. This year's fundraising efforts will benefit the Mount Nittany Medical Center, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and Lewistown Hospital. For more information on the Pink Zone at Penn State, visit the official Pink Zone website at www.pennsylvaniapinkzone.org.

The Lady Lions are on Twitter. Follow sports information contact Kris Petersen (@ladylionsid) and the Lady Lions and coaches (@pennstatewbb) to get the inside scoop. The Lady Lions are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pennstateladylions.  

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Last Updated January 13, 2014