After a miserable loss to Michigan State in which the team only scored 16 second-half points, the Nittany Lions looked to rebound on the road against an Illini team that only lost two games in the non-conference season.
Unfortunately, Penn State’s offensive troubles continued Saturday, as the Nittany Lions gave their worst scoring performance of the season, falling 75-55 to Illinois. The loss dropped the team to 0-2 in the Big Ten, and was their fifth loss in the last eight. John Johnson led the team with 18 points.
Illinois jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead in the first, which gave the Illini a lead that they would never relinquish, partly due to a miserable shooting performance from Penn State. The Nittany Lions were 8-for-28 (28.6 percent) from the field during the first half, and 2-for-9 (22.2 percent) from three.
Despite these struggles, Penn State was able to go into the half on a 9-0 run, trailing Illinois 28-26 due to the performance of Tim Frazier, John Johnson, and D.J. Newbill. The trio combined to score 19 of the team’s 26 points, and scored all nine points during the team’s run at the end of the half.
The second half started exactly the same way as the first. Poor shooting hindered the Nittany Lions as the Illini raced out of the gates on a 9-0 run. The run was enough to keep Penn State at bay for the rest of the game, and the Lions were unable to get within seven points for the rest of the contest.
The entire game was chippy, and multiple times, a Penn State player would get tangled up with an Illinois player, forcing a ref to intervene. Things came to a head with 9 minutes left in the second half, as Newbill was ejected for swinging at the head of Illinois guard Kendrick Nunn after Nunn shoved him in the back, leading to a scuffle between the two teams.
Newbill was assessed a technical and tossed from the game, and the Lions couldn’t fight back, as Illinois went on a 23-12 run to end the game and provide the final 75-55 score.
Johnson was the high man for the Nittany Lions, scoring 18 points in 27 minutes of play. Frazier finished with 10 points and 6 rebounds, while Newbill added 7 points. Ross Travis had his worst game of the season, scoring no points on 0-for- 7 shooting from the field.
As a team, Penn State shot an abysmal 17-for-57 (29.8 percent) and 5-for-19 (26.3 percent) from the field. Penn State had 11 turnovers and 3 assists, and were pounded on the glass, 44-33.
Penn State will try to avoid an 0-3 conference start when Minnesota comes to State College on Wednesday, Jan. 8. The game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.