Men’s Basketball Falls to Illinois in Final Seconds
Coming off consecutive conference wins over Rutgers and Minnesota, the Penn State men’s basketball team (14-8, 2-7 B1G) fell short Saturday afternoon against the Illinois Fighting Illini. Penn State lost 60-58 in a nail-biting finish that came down to the final four seconds of play.
Illinois’s Malcolm Hill, who finished with a game-high 27 points and four rebounds, showed early that he was going to be a force to be reckoned with for the Penn State defense. Early turnovers committed by the Nittany Lion offense allowed Illinois to jump out to an early 10-3 lead.
Despite the turnovers that would foreshadow events to come, and two early fouls from both D.J. Newbill (20 points) and Ross Travis, Penn State was able to make its offensive presence felt in the paint throughout the first half.
Shep Garner (14 points) tied the game up at 14 on a much-needed three-point shot with 11:10 left in the half. From that point forward, the game was a sloppy, back-and-forth battle. The Nittany Lions committed 12 turnovers in the first half, allowing Illinois’s Malcolm Hill to penetrate the defense and go into the half with 13 points.
Providing a spark off the Penn State bench, Julian Moore (10 points), who averages just 1.1 points per game, was able to step up in the frontcourt and put up a career-high eight points in the first half. Moore’s scoring in the frontcourt was much needed with the absence of Brandon Taylor for the second straight game.
Newbill knocked down a three early in the second half, allowing Penn State to take a 36-34 lead with 15:54 left to play. As a team that had relied so heavily on three-point perimeter shooting in its two previous games, the Nittany Lions only managed to shoot 25 percent from beyond the arc Saturday.
A pleasant surprise for the Nittany Lion frontcourt came from Jordan Dickerson (6 points), who was able to provide both an offensive and defensive presence in the paint.
Penn State managed to tie the game 58-58 with critical free throws in the final minute of play, but once again, a turnover by Devin Foster changed the outcome of what could have ended in a Nittany Lion victory. With four seconds to play, Malcolm Hill was able to put an exclamation point on what was a spectacular offensive day, by driving down the lane for an easy lay-up finish.
“I was just going to take what the defense gave me," Hill said, adding that he briefly considered laying the ball off to teammate Kendrick Nunn. "I didn't want to just throw up anything."
Penn State finished with 19 turnovers on the day. The loss to the Fighting Illini moves Penn State to 2-7 in the B1G conference.
“It’s brutal,” head coach Pat Chambers said. “It wears you down as a coach and it wears you down as a player.”
Next up for the Nittany Lions is a meeting at the XFINITY Center to take on the Maryland Terrapins, Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.
Photo Credit : (AP Photo/Robin Scholz)
Tia Pattillo is a freshman majoring in Broadcast journalism. To contact her, email email@example.com.