The fact that Illinois was so big size-wise, rebounding was something we had worked on the last three days in practice, Portland said.
Early on, it looked as though the Illini (10-4, 2-2) were poised to win their sixth straight game on the road as they led Penn State 9-4 and had the game tied at 16 in the first half. The Lady Lions then went on a 17-4 run to close out the half and take a 33-20 lead. Illinois shot just 29.6 percent from the floor in the first half and 31.5 percent for the game. The Illini posted season lows in field goal percentage and points scored. Illinois Angelina Williams, the Big Tens second leading scorer, scored 17 points, but hit just 7 of 19 field goals.
It looked like it was going to be a good situation, Illinois coach Theresa Grentz said about the way her team started the game. Then they went up six and we never came back.
The Illini often got open looks when the Lady Lions played zone, but they were unable to make jumpers when they had the opportunities. Portland said the team did not spend much time practicing zone this week, but she decided to make the switch from man to man once she saw Illinois struggle from outside.
Jen Harris led the Lady Lions with a career-high 26 points, while Tanisha Wright chipped in 16. Much of Harris point total came late in the second half when the Lady Lions had already put the game away. Meanwhile, Jess Strom played another supreme floor game, dishing out eight assists to go along with 13 points. She turned the ball over just once.
Penn States starting forwards Amanda Brown and Ashli Schwab came into the game averaging 6.4 and 6.3 rebounds respectively, but both players stepped up their game as they posted 10 boards apiece.
The second half offered a chance for Portland to play her bench as 11 players saw time. Jennifer Brenden and Amber Bland saw action in the first half when the game was still competitive. Bland dove for multiple loose balls when the Lady Lions made their first half run. She finished the game with six points, four assists, a pair of rebounds and a pair of steals in 14 minutes. Meanwhile, Brenden hit a pair of jumpers in the midst of Penn States run.