Illini guard Kendrick Nunn scored 19 points, and Illinois held
Penn State to three points in the last 9:44 of a 60-55 win in the
Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday.
Illinois snapped an eight-game losing streak, winning for the first
time since defeating the Nittany Lions 75-55 in Champaign on Jan. 4.
"I'm really proud of our guys for the way that they fought tonight
and throughout, to be honest with you," Illinois coach John Groce
said. "I'll be honest with you, I was just as proud of them last
The Nittany Lions went nearly nine minutes without a point until
guard D.J. Newbill connected on a free throw with 51 seconds left to
draw Penn State within 54-53.
Nunn hit a 3-pointer from the right corner with 22 seconds left, and
Newbill answered with a layup to make it 57-55 with 14.7 seconds
Illini guard Tracy Abrams connected on two free throws, and Penn
State guard Tim Frazier missed a 3-point try with five seconds left.
Penn State led 52-49 prior to its late drought.
Illinois (14-10, 3-8 Big Ten) got 11 points from guard Malcolm Hill
and nine points from guard Rayvonte Rice, the team's leading scorer
who was held without a point in the first half.
"When he touched the ball, it felt like the whole arena was guarding
him," Groce said of Rice, who finished 2-for-8 from the field. "But
he handled it very maturely."
Illinois shot a modest 38.8 percent from the field and 31.8 percent
from 3-point range. The Fighting Illini took care of the ball,
committing only six turnovers, and overcame struggles at the
free-throw line, where it went 4-for-11 in the second half.
However, Illinois' defense, particularly during the stretch run,
clinched the victory.
"When we needed our defense the most, we were able to affect them at
a certain level," Groce said.
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The Nittany Lions, who shot 38.2 percent overall and 27.8 percent
from 3-point range, got 19 points from Newbill and 11 from Frazier.
Penn State (12-12, 3-8) missed eight shots from the field between
Newbill's jumper with 9:44 left and his drive with 16 seconds to
"We needed to continue to keep attacking," Frazier said. "If we
can't score, we need to be able to defend and get rebounds."
There were nine lead changes in the first nine minutes of the second
half, which began with a 31-31 tie. The first half had a similar
The Fighting Illini, who got eight first-half points from Nunn, used
a 10-2 run to take a 31-22 lead on Nunn's 3-pointer with 3:25 left
before the Nittany Lions scored the final nine points of the half on
a 3-pointer by Newbill and six points from Frazier.
Newbill, who was ejected from the first matchup of the season
against Illinois, made four of six shots from the field prior to
halftime, and he finished seven of 12. Forward Donovon Jack had
eight first-half points.
Penn State committed just six turnovers in the game as well, and
Illinois had just one point off turnovers, but some poor shot
selection by the Nittany Lions and an Illini defense that contested
nearly every shot made it a moot point.
"I thought we took a couple ill-advised 3s late in the game, when
I'd like us to take it in inside or drive it," Penn State coach
Patrick Chambers said. "Their defense was terrific on Tim and D.J.
toward the end. ... They made the winning plays.
"That was a desperate team we played. That was a flat-out battle."
NOTES: Illinois won for just the second time in its past six visits
to State College. ... Penn State senior G Tim Frazier broke Freddie
Barnes' school career record for assists when he posted his 601st in
the second half. ... Penn State junior F Ross Travis returned to the
starting lineup Sunday after coming off the bench in each of the
previous four games. Travis started the Nittany Lions' first 19
games before being replaced by freshman G Graham Woodward.
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