Penn State Hoops Holds Off Illinois In 83-76 Victory
Penn State men’s basketball (11-16, 4-12 Big Ten) took on Illinois (10-17, 6-10 Big Ten) in Champaign on Saturday afternoon and came away with an 83-76 victory.
Lamar Stevens led all scorers with 25 points, and he shot 8-for-12 from the field during the Saturday matinee. Josh Reaves scored 14 points, and Mike Watkins finished with a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds.
How It Happened
Josh Reaves picked up his 300th career assist on the first basket of today’s game, which was a Mike Watkins lay-up. The teams traded baskets throughout the first four minutes of the game, but a Lamar Stevens slam capped off the Nittany Lions’ 5-for-7 start from the field and put them up 11-9 with 15:41 left in the first half.
Both teams continued to trade baskets, but then didn’t score for a minute and a half at one point. Stevens ended the drought by drawing a foul and finishing a tough lay-up. He drilled the ensuing free throw, but Illinois would tie the game at 17 at the under-12 media timeout.
Penn State took a five-point lead with 7:47 left in the half, and opened up a double-digit lead after a pair of Myreon Jones free throws. Rasir Bolton scooped home a lay-up to force an Illinois timeout and give Penn State a 34-22 cushion to work with.
The Illini went 4:06 without a basket, and Pat Chambers’ team took advantage to open up its biggest lead of the afternoon. A pair of free throws broke that drought, but the Nittany Lions responded with a Myreon Jones three-pointer.
Penn State entered halftime with a 39-32 lead while shooting 50 percent from the field. Illinois did get some momentum with a three-point basket just before the buzzer.
Baskets from John Harrar and Josh Reaves re-extended the Nittany Lion lead to 12 around two-and-a-half minutes into the second half. Illinois started to cut into its deficit with a quick five-point swing just before the first media timeout of the half, but Watkins quickly squashed any Illini momentum by flushing home an alley-oop pass from Jamari Wheeler.
A put-back slam by Josh Reaves was the perfect response to an Illinois alley-oop, but the Illini trimmed their deficit to six and forced a Penn State timeout with an Ayo Dosunmu three-pointer. Lamar Stevens scored in the post, and Myles Dread followed that up with a three to re-extend the Nittany Lion lead to double digits.
Illinois head coach Brad Underwood got a technical foul after a Lamar Stevens jump shot. Bolton drilled two free throws to extend Penn State’s lead to 13. Harrar was also T’d up with 10 minutes left in the second half, but an Illinois flagrant 1 foul on the same play led to both teams shooting free throws. He shot first and extended his team’s lead to 15 before a 10-0 run by the Illini.
Penn State’s offense was shut out for nearly three minutes. An excellent Jamari Wheeler lay-up stopped the bleeding, but the Illini responded with a basket on the next possession.
Reaves scored a crucial basket out of the under-4 media timeout to give Penn State a seven-point cushion, but Illinois responded with a basket of its own. The hosts trimmed their deficit to four with a three-pointer after a tough Lamar Stevens lay-up.
The Nittany Lions sank free throws late to kill off the game and earn their second consecutive victory.
- Lamar Stevens was a man on a mission in the first half, but cooled off a bit in the second half. Stevens, who scored a game-high 23 points on 8-for-12 shooting, was dominant on both sides of the ball throughout the game. He made a few tough lay-ups which energized Penn State.
- Defensive stopper Jamari Wheeler gave the Nittany Lions a nice offensive spark on Saturday. He finished the game with seven points and five assists on top of another strong defensive performance.
- Penn State’s free throw shooting was excellent on Saturday. The team finished 26-for-32 from the charity stripe; Stevens led the way there by sinking eight of his 10 free throws.
The Nittany Lions will return home for a Big Ten clash against Maryland. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
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“There’s no experience like it.”
Penn State holds a 15-5 all-time record against Northwestern and has won eight of its last 10 matchups.
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