This game started out as a track meet, with both teams pushing the pace in the early going, exchanging baskets in the process. With the game tied at 19 halfway through the first half though, Penn State began to take over, thanks to some hot shooting of their own, as well as Illinois going stone cold from the floor by scoring only one field goal over a seven-minute span. PSU led by as many as 12 points in the half, before Illinois cut the lead down to seven with a three-pointer right before halftime. Lamar Stevens’ 15 points led the way in the half, but he had plenty of backup from Mike Watkins, Rasir Bolton, and Myreon Jones, Josh Reaves, and Jamari Wheeler all pitching in scoring-wise.
The second half saw Illinois open it with an alley-oop to cut PSU’s lead down to five and get the home crowd roaring again. PSU however, would surge back to a 12-point lead, forcing Illinois coach Brad Underwood to burn yet another timeout. The Illini would charge back, cutting down the lead to six, before Pat Chambers burned a timeout to try and get things under control. PSU would then get their lead back up as high as 15 points, thanks in part to Illinois head coach Brad Underwood picking up a technical foul at one point after kicking a scorer’s table in disgust over gripes with the officiating.
Illinois would not go away without a fight, of course. Despite managing to push the lead all the way down to as little as four points, somebody on PSU, whether it was Stevens, Reaves, Watkins, or Wheeler would come up with a clutch basket and hit their free throws down the stretch to keep the Illini and their home crowd that was ready to explode, at bay. When it was all said and done, Pat Chambers’ crew had its most impressive road win of the season and for the first time all season long, consecutive wins in Big Ten play.
Four Factors Analysis
FT Rate: 42.4%
PSU shot 49% from the floor compared to Illinois’ 39% and were also more successful from the charity stripe, hitting 26 of their 32 free throws (compared to Illinois’ 18 for 28). This allowed them to overcome committing 17 turnovers to Illinois’ 11.
Player(s) Of The Game
- The first half was one of the most complete halves of hoops I had seen PSU play all year. Not only did they shoot the ball well, but they did a great job of recognizing how aggressive Illinois was playing them away from the basket, and instead of trying to jack up three-pointers, they used their athleticism to drive to the hoop, which gave Illinois trouble all game long.
- Myles Dread = Badass. One sequence during the game showcased just how tough of a kid Myles truly is. While playing defense, he ended up banging knees with an Illinois player, limped it off a bit while remaining on the floor, and drained a three from the corner on PSU’s very next possession.
- If you watched the BTN broadcast, Illinois was honoring the 30th anniversary of the 1988-89 squad affectionately known as the “Flyin’ Illini” who went on to earn the school’s last Final Four berth. Many former players such as Kendall Gill and BTN’s Stephen Bardo were in the building, along with their old head coach, Lou Henson, who rocked his classic orange blazer. While such honors are nice to witness, putting a damper on the ceremony with a win on the road is even better.
- With today’s win, Penn State is officially out of dead last in the Big Ten standings, and will remain so if Northwestern loses at home to Wisconsin later tonight. Even more importantly, they are now only one game behind the 10th place team in the conference which happens to be Rutgers, who the Nittany Lions will rematch with on March 6th. So, I’m telling you there’s a chance that PSU can avoid playing in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament.
Penn State (11-16, 4-12) hosts No. 24 Maryland at the BJC this coming Wednesday (Feb. 27th) in a rematch from December. That game will tip-off at 6:30 PM ET on BTN.