Penn State hands No. 6 Illinois first home loss in over two years
Champaign, IL (Sports Network) – Travis Parker’s putback with six ticks left
put Penn State in front, then Rich McBride’s supposed game-winning trey at
the buzzer was waved off after further review as the Nittany Lions handed
sixth-ranked Illinois a stunning 66-65 defeat at Assembly Hall.
In the process, Illinois’ 33-game home winning streak was snapped. The streak
had tied Gonzaga’s for the longest current mark in major college basketball.
Illinois last home defeat came on January 10, 2004 versus Purdue.
Travis Parker led all scorers with 21 points, including a follow-up of Mike
Walker’s three-point heave in the final seconds. Geary Claxton also proved
large down the stretch with 20 points and six rebounds, as the Nittany Lions
(11-9, 3-6 Big Ten) snapped a four-game skid.
After running through a gauntlet of ranked conference foes, the Nittany Lions
finally put one in the win column and in the process snapped a six-game losing
streak to Illinois.
Rich McBride led Illinois (20-3, 6-3) with 17 points and appeared to have
drained the game-winning three-pointer as time expired. A sea of orange
stormed the floor, but only got to mid-court as officials wanted to review the
play. After almost two minutes, in which both coaches just stood at half
court, the three-pointer was waved off giving Penn State the victory.
James Augustine had 13 points and six rebounds while battling foul trouble in
the closing minutes and Dee Brown had 11 on just 3-of-12 shooting from the
floor as the guard only attempted one shot from inside the arc.
If moments define a program, than Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis’ vast
rebuilding project found its snapshot of success on Saturday night. The Penn
State alum’s three-year tenure that began with a mass exodus of players
reached it’s defining moment with a team embrace after what may be one of the
biggest victories in the program’s history.
Trailing 55-44 midway through the second half, the Nittany Lions went on a
15-4 run to tie the contest. The Illini had one empty trip after another,
unable to penetrate the zone while Claxton and Walker provided the scoring
punch for Penn State. Claxton had seven points and Walker drained two treys
during the stretch, with the lefty’s second three squaring the game at 59-59
with 4:10 to play.
After Brown drained a long three, Walker came off a screen and buried another
long-distance jumper with 3:18 remaining. McBride then drained a three with
2:55 left to again give Illinois the three-point edge, but the Illini didn’t
Parker’s jumper with 1:41 left cut the deficit to one, and after Brown missed
two threes on the same possession, DeChellis called timeout to set up Parker’s
Penn State couldn’t buy a bucket early in the first half and didn’t identify
Illinois’ most prolific long-distance shooter. McBride made them pay with
three early treys and Illinois jumped to a 13-0 lead.
The zone defense that had kept the Nittany Lions in close losses at Michigan
State and versus Michigan got torched by the Illini early. They scored inside
with Augustine, used interior passing to get Shaun Pruitt free and continued
to extend the defense with a three-point barrage, hitting a total of six
threes in the first half.
Illinois took a 39-25 lead into the break.
Illinois leads the all-time series 18-7…Penn State improved to 2-5 on the
road. Its only other road win of the season came at Northwestern, 65-61, on
January 11…Walker had nine points and freshman Jamelle Cornley added
10…Pruitt scored 10 points in the loss.