|Picture via ESPN.com|
Do a little reading on this game and you'll hear people say it was a really close game. I'm here to tell you it wasn't. If not for Mike Walker putting on a Pete Lisicky type performance (He's so dreeeeamy!), this game would have been a lot worse.
The Lions came out roaring and jumped out to a 13-2 lead in the first five minutes. What looked so great about it is every starter got into the action right off the bat. It started with a layup from Hassell, then three consecutive threes from Jackson, Claxton, and Walker. Then Cornley hit a short jumper. Illinois came out trying to nail threes over the zone and nothing was going down. Everything was firing on all cylinders.
Then it was like Penn State looked around and couldn't believe what was happening. They just went cold like they were in shock. It's a problem this team had all year. They didn't know how to play with a lead. Illinois settled into their offense and proceeded to pick apart the Nittany Lion zone. After the 13-2 lead, the Illini outscored Penn State 25-9 the rest of the half to take a five point lead into the locker room.
Illinois came out hot in the second half with two quick threes from Frazier and McBride. Penn State was visibly in shock as Illinois ran out a 16 point lead with 12 minutes to go. They were dominating inside and outside. It wasn't close and it looked like it was going to get worse. Penn State was having problems doing fundamental things. They dribbled off of their foot, made errant passes, and couldn't catch the good passes. It was ugly. The bus driver started warming up the bus back to State College. Then Mike Walker channeled the spirit of Pete Lisicky (ed. note: Pete Lisicky is alive and well playing in Europe.) and put on a clinic in three point shooting.
He couldn't miss. At one point he nailed it from behind the arc on three straight possessions. On one of them he was fouled and made the free throw to score a four point play to make it 10 consecutive points in a span of a minute and a half. And with each shot he made, the next shot was out a step further behind the arc. Almost all of them had a guy in his face. I really thought I was watching ol' Pistol Pete again. At one point Walker was 7-of-8 from behind the arc and finished the day 7-of-11 thanks to some desperation shots as the clock wore down. He finished with a career high 22 points with 19 of them coming in the second half.
But in the end Illinois was too much. Carter and Frazier were hitting three point shots of their own. And with time winding down they hit their foul shots. Amazingly Penn State found themselves down by just two points with a minute and a half to go. It was a valiant effort and it looks close on the final score, but Illinois really outplayed Penn State pretty badly yesterday. Only the hot shooting of Mike Walker made it as close as it was.
In Other Action
Michigan advanced over Minnesota 49-40 in the ugliest game ever played. Now the Wolverines get to play top seeded Ohio State today.
Michigan State survived a scare by Northwestern but advanced on a 62-57 tally. They will play Wisconsin today.