Illinois Game Grades
Penn State picked up a big 83-76 road win against Illinois on Saturday afternoon, as head coach Pat Chambers had his squad playing its best basketball of the season. Here are some observations from the action:
Lamar Stevens turned in another dominant offensive outing, scoring half of Penn State’s first 30 points.
Stevens was scoring in a variety of ways in the opening 20 minutes. He made an early 3-pointer, finished through contact, hit one of his patented mid-range jumpers and got to the free throw line.
The conference’s second-leading scorer had a quiet second half by his standards, but he was still able to finish above his season average with 25 points.
The junior forward has now scored 18 points or more in nine straight games and continues to solidify himself as a worthy First Team All-Big Ten candidate.
Mike Watkins also finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, good for his sixth double-double of the season, and Josh Reaves added 14 points on efficient 5-of-7 shooting.
Coming into Saturday’s game, the Illinois backcourt duo of Trent Frazier and Ayo Dosunmu averaged over 28 points combined per game. It was going to be one of the toughest tests of the season for the young Penn State backcourt, but even despite foul trouble for Jamari Wheeler and Josh Reaves, they held their ground.
Dosunmu was in foul trouble himself and was held scoreless in just 10 first-half minutes. Meanwhile, Frazier struggled from the floor, scoring just four points on 2-of-9 from the field in the first half.
Dosunmu responded with a strong second half, finishing with 18 points and leading his team’s comeback from the 15-point deficit. Frazier, however, didn’t find the same success. He finished just 4-of-15 from the field for 11 points.
While Dosunmu and Frazier still combined to top their season average, Penn State’s backcourt forced them into an inefficient 29 points.
Watkins also came off the bench for Penn State in place of John Harrar, who picked up two early fouls. He showed flashes of the dominant rim protector he can be when healthy, finishing with five blocks.
Just six games ago, Penn State was 0-10 in the Big Ten and looking up at every other team in the conference. But all season long, Chambers kept preaching to his team that they were close to breaking through. That breakthrough has come. The Nittany Lions are now 4-2 in their last six games after their 83-76 road victory over Illinois on Saturday afternoon.
Chambers’ team led by as many as 15 in the second half, but that big lead was quickly erased by a 10-0 Illinois run, giving Penn State a slim, 63-58 lead with 6:33 to play.
The Nittany Lions, however, were able to keep the Illini at arm’s length, despite several runs, and held on to ensure the team’s first win streak of the Big Ten season.
Will Desautelle is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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Junior / Broadcast Journalism and Political Science