STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Illinois women’s basketball reversed a recent trend of poor play in the first quarter.
The Illini established an early lead Saturday at Penn State and broke a string of three consecutive games in which they trailed by double digits entering the locker room at halftime.
But, all of Illinois’ good deeds were undone in the second half, as the Nittany Lions ran away with a 62-48 victory over the Illini at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa.
“Defensively, I thought our start was sound, we did everything we wanted to do,” Illinois coach Nancy Fahey said. “We had a chance to punch (the lead) even wider, but we didn’t do it. Our decisions with the ball really cost us in this game. For the most part, we stayed solid with our defensive game plan until the very end, but we needed to put some more points on the board.
The Illini (9-7, 1-4 Big Ten), who had 17 turnovers compared to nine assists, surged to a 17-10 lead after the first quarter.
With Illinois ahead 25-16 in the second quarter, Penn State (9-7, 2-3) closed the first half on a 10-0 run, staking the Nittany Lions to a 26-25 lead at the break.
While the Illini cut their deficit to as few as three points on three occasions during the second half, including with 9:03 to go in regulation on a layup from Alex Wittinger, the Nittany Lions finished with a flourish, outscoring Illinois 19-8 in the final nine minutes.
Wittinger led the Illini with 19 points on 9 of 10 shooting and contributed four steals. Arieal Scott added 10 points.
In men’s gymnastics.
Diab, Fletcher shine. Alex Diab won three event titles and freshman Michael Fletcher came away with the top all-around total to help Illinois blow past Illinois-Chicago, 404.550-352.800, in Saturday night’s season opener at Huff Hall.
Diab posted the top total on floor exercise (14.300), still rings (15.050) and vault (14.500), while Fletcher took the all-around crown (79.850).
Illini stumble. Mike Carr backed up his top-five ranking at 141 pounds, as the fifth-ranked Illinois wrestler defeated sixth-ranked Kanen Storr. The match put the 14th-ranked Illini ahead early in their dual at Michigan.
But, the Wolverines clapped back in a big way, taking Saturday’s Big Ten match 28-10.
Illinois also got wins from Travis Piotrowski (3-2 decision at 125) and Emery Parker (15-4 major decision at 184).
In men’s track and field.
Davis opens strong. Oakwood product Jon Davis started the indoor season off with a win claiming the 800-meter finals at Saturday’s Illini Open in 1 minute, 52.90 seconds. Other Illini winners included Billy Magnesen (1-mile run), Devin Quinn (60-meter dash) Bret Dannis (60-meter hurdles) and Jacob LaRocca (5.02 meters, pole vault).
In women’s track and field.
Nwoko takes two. Chisom Nwoko was a double-winner, taking the 200-meter dash (24.74 seconds) and pole vault (3.61 meters) at Saturday’s Illini Open. Other Illini winners included Alexis Jones (600 meter), Madison Marasco (800 meter) and Delaney Appino (3,000 meter) and Briana Driver (long jump).