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Women's basketball Game 24 preview: Illinois at Penn State, 5 p.m. Thursday

Feb. 15—Lineups

Illinois (11-12, 5-8 Big Ten)StartersP Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Makira Cook Sr. 5-6 14.4 Cincinnati

G Genesis Bryant Sr. 5-6 14.1 Jonesboro, Ga.

G Adalia McKenzie Jr. 5-10 10.4 Brooklyn Park, Minn.

F Kendall Bostic Sr. 6-2 11.9 Kokomo, Ind.

C Camille Hobby Sr. 6-3 9.3 Jacksonville, Fla.

FYI:

* Bryant has gone a combined 13 of 48 (27.1 percent) from the floor in the last four games for the Illini against Michigan, Purdue, Northwestern and Maryland. The senior guard finished with 13 points in the 69-53 loss to the Terrapins this past Sunday in Champaign, albeit on 17 shooting attempts.

Off the benchP Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Gretchen Dolan Fr. 5-11 4.4 Buffalo, N.Y.

F Shay Bollin So. 6-3 2.2 Raynham, Mass.

F Brynn Shoup-Hill Jr. 6-3 3.3 Goshen, Ind.

Penn State (16-8, 7-6 Big Ten)Starters

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

G Shay Ciezki So. 5-7 14.0 Buffalo, N.Y.

G Leilani Kapinus R-Jr. 5-10 10.8 Madison, Wis.

G Makenna Marisa Sr. 5-11 14.4 McMurray, Pa.

G Ashley Owusu Gr. 6-0 18.9 Woodbridge, Va.

F Ali Brigham Sr. 6-4 9.3 Franklin, Mass.

FYI: The Nittany Lions have struggled without Tay Valladay

* in the lineup. The graduate transfer guard — who played at Marquette and Virginia before joining Penn State ahead of the 2023-24 season — was averaging 11.5 points before getting injured early in an 80-64 win at Minnesota on Jan. 31. The Nittany Lions have lost the three games since that victory against the Gophers with Valladay out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL and meniscus injury. The skid includes an 80-75 home loss to Michigan on Feb. 3, a 111-93 loss at Iowa last Thursday night and a 69-64 loss at Wisconsin on Sunday.

Off the bench

P Name Yr. Ht. PPG Hometown

F Chanaya Pinto Gr. 6-1 6.1 Maputo, Mozambique

G Jayla Oden Jr. 5-8 5.3 Baltimore, Md.

G Moriah Murray R-Fr. 5-8 4.8 Dunmore, Pa.

Details

Site:

* Bryce Jordan Center (15,261); State College, Pa.

Streaming:

* BTN Plus.

Radio: Mike Koon

* will have the call on WDWS 1400-AM & 93.9-FM.

Series:

* Penn State leads 39-17.

Last meeting:

* Illinois won 85-62 against Penn State on Feb. 19, 2023, in Champaign.

FYI: The Illini's 23-point win last winter at State Farm Center was only the second victory in the last 12 meetings with the Nittany Lions. Kendall Bostic had a monster game with 22 points and 18 rebounds, while Genesis Bryant added 21 points and Makira Cook chipped in with another 18 points. Makenna Marisa and Leilani Kapinus combined for nearly two-thirds of Penn State's offense with a total of 37 points

* .

Beat writer Joe Vozzelli's storylines

Cook looking for bounce-back game at Penn StateMakira Cook's place atop the opposing scouting report isn't going to change anytime soon. What Maryland did on Sunday afternoon to slow down the Illinois point guard was what has worked for other teams, with Terrapins coach Brenda Frese limiting driving lanes for Cook and the Illini guards by staying in a zone defense. Illinois couldn't get Maryland out of that zone, either, with Cook finishing 1 of 10 from the floor, and the Cincinnati native didn't make her first field goal until a three-pointer with four minutes, 36 seconds, left in the fourth quarter. The Illini were 3 of 13 from beyond the arc as a team in the 16-point home loss to the Terps. "That free-throw line and that paint, it was like a wall," Illinois coach Shauna Green said. "They had that thing secured. Anytime that we tried to get in there off initial action, they were doing a good job. And then, when (Genesis Bryant) is out (with foul trouble) against a zone team, it really hurts us."

Cleaning up transition defense from Maryland lossAmong the items that frustrated Green the most about Sunday's Maryland loss was how Illinois switched off after its own made buckets. That thwarted really any chance for the Illini to make a second-half comeback. Add that to the plus-14 rebounding edge the Terps had, and Illinois watched Maryland pull away in the fourth quarter. Shyanne Sellers took over for the Terps, leading to the Illini getting outscored 25-16 in the final 10 minutes. "Made baskets and we get beat back," Green said. "We would score but then they would come back on a counter and make a layup, and those are just deflating. It was when it was a tight game. That's where you have to turn and you have to sprint back. And it's effort and it's discipline to do that."

'We haven't checked out. We're ready to fight'With five games left in the regular season, Illinois is currently holding onto a No. 9 seed for next month's Big Ten tournament in Minneapolis. The Illini are a full game ahead of a three-way tie for 10th place among Minnesota, Wisconsin and Purdue following Wednesday night's results. The top four seeds land a double bye, while seeds the fifth through 10th seeds receive a single bye into the second round. Still, Illinois is motivated to close out the regular season with some momentum. "Now, it's really time to finish strong," Bryant said. ... "We have some big opportunities coming up, on the road, back at home. We're not giving up. We haven't checked out. We're ready to fight. We're ready to come back."

The News-Gazette's Pick

Penn State 77, Illinois 68The Nittany Lions need a win here. Like really bad. Especially with their NCAA tournament hopes on much less stable ground after three straight losses and the injury to veteran guard Tay Valladay. It's about time for Penn State to have a get-right game as one of the top offenses in the Big Ten in terms of scoring and efficiency. Thursday night should be just that for Carolyn Kieger's team. (N-G prediction record: 14-9)