D.J. Richardson scored 18 points and Brandon Paul added 16 to help Illinois hold off Penn State 64-59 in a sloppy battle Thursday night in Champaign.
The Fighting Illini (20-8, 7-7 Big Ten), who won their fifth straight game, never led by more than eight points in the second half as the last place Nittany Lions continued battle possession by possession. Penn State was able to reduce the Illini lead to 52-49 with 2:50 remaining after a Nick Colella three, but Paul quickly responded with a three-pointer of his own and the Illini were able to put an end to Penn State’s hopes for a comeback.
Penn State, (8-18, 0-14 Big Ten) who lost its eighteenth consecutive Big Ten game dating back to last year, was plagued by committing 16 turnovers and a season-high 31 personal fouls as they continue to search for their first Big Ten win of the season. Their constant fouling allowed Illinois to keep a mostly steady second half lead. Illinois attempted 36 free throws and converted 23 of them. In all, the two teams committed 52 total fouls and Penn State seemed to foul the Illini almost every possession in the second half.
The Nittany Lions were led offensively by Jermaine Marshall and Sasa Borovnjak, who scored 20 and 17 points, respectively. The 17-point performance for Borovnjak, a senior, tied a career-high that the Serbia-native put up in Sunday’s loss at Michigan. D.J. Newbill, Penn State’s leading scorer, was held to just 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting and 2-of-5 from the free throw line. Overall, Penn State actually shot the ball pretty well, knocking down 21 of 48 shots (43.8 percent).
For the Illini, it was the Richardson and Paul show. Richardson led the way early, scoring 11 first half points. Paul, who scored his 1,500th career point late in the first half, carried the load late with 13 second half points. Sophomores Nnanna Egwu and Myke Henry added seven points apiece for the Illini who shot 39.5 percent from the field for the game.
Penn State will again look to pick up their first Big Ten victory of the season when they host Michigan next Wednesday at the Bryce Jordan Center.