Illinois Sinks Penn State in Final Seconds, Wins 60-58

D.J. Newbill met his match Saturday afternoon in Illinois.

The Fighting Illini’s (14-8, 4-5) sophomore guard Malcolm Hill tallied 27 points including a game-winning layup with 4.4 seconds remaining that sunk the Nittany Lions (14-8, 2-7), 60-58, crushing Penn State’s hopes of three consecutive Big Ten victories.

Tied with under a minute to go, Devin Foster was called for a moving screen. Hill drove left on the ensuing possession and finished in traffic for the go-ahead bucket. D.J. Newbill couldn’t convert on the other end, as the senior guard fell to the floor hoping for a foul.

19 turnovers and 20 personal fouls plagued Penn State, who, after beating Rutgers and Minnesota, entered Saturday’s contest on a small streak of confidence. Brandon Taylor missed his second game in a row with a knee injury.

How it Happened

The game’s first three possessions ended in turnovers, an early foreshadowing of events to come.

A sloppy start found Penn State trailing 14-11 at the under-12 minute media timeout. But a Shep Garner three-pointer coming out of the break evened the score at 14-14, the first tie since the opening tip.

Illinois’ Rayvonte Rice and Aaron Cosy were suspended prior to the game for unspecified violations of team rules, and the Fighting Illini looked at times just as scattered as the Nittany Lions.

Several minutes later, Julian Moore slammed home a put-back dunk over an Illinois defender. The 6-foot-10 center was then fouled on the ensuing possession, and hit both foul shots to even the score at 18-18 at the under-eight timeout.

The stretch was part of eight first half points by Moore, a career high. He led Penn State in first half scoring, followed by D.J. Newbill and Shep Garner, who each added seven. Moore finished with 10 points and four rebounds.

Penn State was in the bonus by the 9:10 mark in the first half, and a Devin Foster layup with 5:27 to play in the opening half gave the Nittany Lions its first lead, 20-19.

Newbill picked up his second foul with 6:20 remaining in the half, and sat for its remainder. Penn State struggled to protect the ball without him, en route to 12 first half turnovers. Despite outrebounding the Illini 19-11 in the half, Penn State allowed three offensive rebounds and three fouls on one particularly cringe-worthy possession.

Newbill played only 12 first half minutes. Ross Travis only saw three.

With Newbill on the bench, Illinois took a narrow 30-26 lead into the locker room. Malcolm Hill posted 13 first half points, and finished with 27.

But with Newbill back to begin the second half, the Lions started to heat up. Newbill netted two threes and a foul-line jumper in the first five minutes out of the break to bring Penn State within a point. Then, with 14:02 to play, Jordan Dickerson sealed off Nnanna Egwu, Illinois’ all-time leading shot blocker. Dickerson spun, jump-hooked, and converted an and-one. It was Dickerson’s first three points, and gave the Lions its first second half lead, 39-37.

Soon after, Julian Moore followed with his second two-handed put back dunk of the day. A Garner basket and the foul shortly after gave the Nittany Lions a 46-45 advantage into the under-12 timeout. Garner totaled 14 points, the second-most for Penn State.

Geno Thorpe hit 2-3 foul shots to give Penn State a three-point lead, its biggest up to that point. But two straight turnovers and a questionable call on Ross Travis shortly after put Illinois back ahead by four.

Newbill then canned a three, giving him 20 on the day. Yet Newbill failed to score again, and Penn State quickly faltered down the stretch.

Tied with under a minute to go, Devin Foster was called for a moving screen, shifting possession back to Illinois. Hill then milked the clock, drove, and hit a running layup with 4.4 seconds remaining to give Illinois its final lead, 60-58.

The Lions called timeout, and Newbill inbounded out of the break. He quickly gathered the ball, and drove the length of the court. At the rim as the buzzer expired, the country’s fifth-leading scorer could not hit the layup.

Falling to the ground, Newbill looked for a foul. He didn’t get it, and Illinois erupted in celebration.

Player of the Game

Newbill followed his worst Big Ten game of the season with a 20 point performance Saturday afternoon. His 6-14 field goals included a 3-6 clip from behind the arc.

After struggling against Minnesota, Newbill was back to his old self, hitting contested midrange jumpers off the dribble, and fooling defenders with his shiftiness.

Newbill’s eight points in the first five minutes of the second half — after sitting the previous six minutes due to foul trouble — ignited Penn State’s second half run.

Stat of the Game

Newbill’s only been with the program for three years, but he’s already the fifth all-time leading Penn State basketball scorer. He jumped two spots against Illinois.

Hello, Julian Moore

Moore’s 10 points came on 4/7 shooting, and included the aforementioned vicious put-back slams. Moore’s been seeing more playing time lately in exchange for Donovon Jack, and he’s become more aggressive and confident.

He’s hit two midrange jumpers that past two games, and converted both free throws Saturday. Jack didn’t score, so look for Moore to see more time.

What’s Next?

It gets no easier for Penn State basketball. The Lions travel to No. 16 Maryland for a Wednesday evening (8:30 p.m.) showdown with star freshman Melo Trimble and the Terrapins.

The game will be aired on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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