Illini hit record low in loss to Penn State

Illini hit record low in loss to Penn State

By Jeremy Werner

Illinois broke records Wednesday night at the Assembly Hall, but they weren’t records the Illini want to own.

Penn State won its third consecutive game in Champaign with a score of 38-33 in a slow, sloppy, scoring-drought-heavy matchup. The 71 total points broke a record for fewest combined points at the Assembly Hall. The previous record was 85 points.

The Nittany Lions (19-8, 8-6 Big Ten) broke Illinois’ 10-game home win streak and held the Illini to their lowest point total ever at the Assembly Hall.


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Illini suffer new low

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“They found a way to win it,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. “It wasn’t the offensive display you expected at this time of the year.”

Illinois (21-6, 9-5 Big Ten) actually shot better from the field (30 percent) than Penn State (28.3 percent). But the Nittany Lions were able to find the bottom of the net when it mattered.

Penn State finished the game on an 18-4 run after trailing 29-20 with 10:21 remaining in the first half. Sophomore Talor Battle (11 points) made four free throws in the final 17 seconds to seal the victory for the Nittany Lions.

“I haven’t been involved in one like this, ever,” Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. “It’s unchartered waters. I kept looking at the score. I didn’t know what half we were in. At the end, I was like, ‘We probably set this back a few years.’ (Basketball inventor James) Naismith probably rolled over several times.”

Illinois had a shot to tie the game with 14 seconds remaining, but Penn State had four fouls to give to wind down the clock. Demetri McCamey forced up a rushed 3-pointer and Chester Frazier was whistled for a controversial flagrant foul going for the rebound.

“I don’t know if we’re looking ahead or too giddy, maybe a little overconfident coming home after the road wins, I’m not sure,” Weber said.

“We didn’t have the right mental approach.”

The Illini found an offensive rhythm briefly in the second half, rattling off a 10-0 run to take a 29-20 lead. But Illinois quickly reverted to its earlier offensive deficiencies, scoring only two points in the final 6:17.

“We had good looks,” Illinois senior Trent Meacham said. “We just didn’t knock them down. They played good defense, so I think it was a combination of both.”

Frazier and Meacham led Illinois in scoring with 7 points apiece. Mike Tisdale had 6 points and tied a career-high with 10 rebounds.

“I don’t know if we had a lot of emotion early and that’s why you maybe miss some shots that you normally make,” Weber said.

The Nittany Lions’ win keeps them in the Big Ten race and in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid. Meanwhile, the Illini will try to forget Wednesday’s rock-bottom performance before heading to Ohio State on Sunday.

“We gotta swallow it pretty quick,” Frazier said. “We got to go up against Ohio State. We can’t let this thing turn into two losses. We’re still in a decent position to do good things. We just got to take care of business.”