EditorsNote: revises last fraft
Penn State continued a quietly good season Sunday night by using a big run that bridged both halves to gain separation from Illinois en route to a 74-52 Big Ten win at State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill.
Five players reached double figures for the Nittany Lions, who improved to 18-9 overall and 8-6 in the conference. Shep Garner led the way with 16 points, while Tony Carr scored 15. Lamar Stevens added 11 points, and Josh Reaves and Mike Watkins each tallied 10.
Leron Black scored a game-high 18 points for the Fighting Illini (12-14, 2-11), who managed just 16 second-half points. Kipper Nichols and Te‘Jon Lucas came off the bench to notch 12 and 10, respectively.
A 26-9 burst enabled Penn State to turn a four-point deficit late in the first half into a commanding lead. Garner’s 3-pointer with 13:07 remaining upped the margin to 49-36. The advantage never dipped into single figures for the game’s remainder.
The Nittany Lions still have a chance to earn an at-large NCAA Tournament berth. Their next three games are against Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan, and the only one of those on the road is Purdue.
Illinois got off to a fast start, as it has done in several conference games, and established a 16-10 lead at the 14:48 mark of the first half when Lucas canned a jumper. Penn State rallied and grabbed a 24-23 edge when Julian Moore converted a three-point play with 7:51 left.
An 11-4 run by the Fighting Illini, capped by a Lucas jumper, restored a 34-28 advantage with 2:37 remaining. A Lucas layup at the 1:16 mark made it 36-32, but the Nittany Lions started their game-breaking spurt with five points in the final 3.7 seconds of the half.
After Garner made a 3-pointer with six seconds left, Illinois called its use-it-or-lose-it timeout to set up a final play, but Mark Alstork committed a turnover on the inbounds pass. Carr converted that into a short jumper as time expired, giving Penn State a 37-36 halftime edge.
--Field Level Media