Illinois vs Penn State Final Score: Lions Freeze Down the Stretch In 60-55 Loss

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

A 9-minute scoreless draught buried the Nittany Lions in the second half who have now dropped to 3-8 in last place in the Big Ten conference.

DJ Newbill finished yet another strong take to the rim, giving PSU a 52-49 lead. An entertaining back and forth game suddenly seemed to be turning in Penn State's favor. But the game quickly slowed to a halt at that point and a 9-minute PSU scoring draught paved the way for the Illini to convert just enough plays down the stretch to snap their 8-game skid. It looked like Penn State might be able to salvage the game, but an open Kendrick Nunn three in the corner turned it into a 2-possession game that PSU wasn't able to overcome.

For Penn State, it was another lousy home defeat that can sit up on the shelf with the likes of Bucknell, Princeton, Indiana and Minnesota. The Lions dropped to 12-12, 3-8 on the year, losing in a tie for Illinois for last place in the conference. Considering this was the Lions' best chance for a win the rest of the year, the unexpected 3-game winning streak is well in the rear-view.

Four Factors Analysis

Team Possessions PPP eFG% OReb% TO% FT Rate
Penn State 57 0.97 42.7% 30.6% 10.6% 20.0
Illinois - 1.06 45.9% 25.8% 10.6% 46.9

There were a total of 48 possessions in this game in the first 30 minutes. Only 9 possessions over the last 10 minutes. The plodding pace allowed Illinois to retake the lead and ultimately win the game. Penn State's halfcourt offense wasn't able to produce while not running off enough clock.

The biggest difference was the free throw disparity. It didn't help that PSU didn't convert the front ends of two one-and-ones, but PSU was in the bonus with 9:23 left and only drew 2 fouls, the second coming with less than a minute left.

Player of the Game

DJ Newbill dropped 19 points on 12 shots with 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Not bad for the redshirt junior who was looking to bounce back from his ejection in Champaign. He made some nice plays down the stretch to keep them in it, but Illini double-teams took him out of the game and PSU's supporting cast couldn't take advantage.

Random Observations

  • Donovon Jack - The scrawny sophomore had 8 points and 6 rebounds in just fourteen minutes. That's a rate of 23 points and 17 rebounds per 40 minutes. But once again he was saddled in foul trouble, fouling out for the xth time this year and PSU's interior play suffered.
  • More Geno, Please - Not enough playing time for the true freshmen. It doesn't make sense
  • Perimeter Woes - Another 5-18 performance beyond the arc pushes Penn State's team 3P% in conference play to a measly 28.3%. It hasn't been good from 20'9"+ out.
  • No Show for Dickerson - 7-footer struggled in his limited minutes. Only 10 minutes played consisting of 2 fouls and numerous missed rebounds.

Looking Ahead

A trip to Bloomington, Indiana won't be kind to the Nittany Lions if they aren't able to regain their shooting. Penn State will have to fight to stay out of the basement from here on  out.

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