The Illinois Fighting Illini defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions, 64-59, in Champaign on Thursday.
Just like last season, the game against Penn State was a close one. The Illini now have a three-game winning streak against the Nittany Lions at Assembly Hall and have won their last five games.
It was a pretty slow start for the Fighting Illini. They allowed Penn State to jump out to an 11-5 lead early in the first half, but regained the lead before going into halftime, 29-20.
The entire game was a little too close for comfort. Neither team held a lead larger than single-digits. Illinois led by nine at one point, but only led 62-56 with 0:09 seconds left in the game. Penn State’s Jermaine Marshall hit a huge three-pointer with 0:04 seconds left to pull the Nittany Lions with three, 62-59. However, D.J. Richardson made two free throws to put the game on ice.
Overall, Illinois did not shoot the ball very well on Thursday. They shot 39.5% from the field, but shot 29.2% from beyond the arc. Their saving grace was how they shot from the foul line.
Penn State committed a total of 31 fouls in the game which led to Illinois shooting a total of 36 foul shots. The went 23-of-36 (63.9%) from the charity stripe.
The Illinois offense was led by D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul.
Richardson led the team with 18 points in the game. He went 4-of-11 from the field and played 37 minutes. He also led the Fighting Illini in free throw attempts and makes. He went 8-of-9 from the charity stripe.
Paul added 16 points for Illinois in 33 minutes. He went 5-of-13 from the field and 3-of-7 from beyond the arc. However, his free throw percentage was less than stellar. He missed the most foul shots of any Illini play in the game as he made 3-of-8 free throws.
Coming into Thursday night’s game, head coach John Groce mentioned how skilled and talented D.J. Newbill, and Jermaine Marshall were for Penn State.
Both Newbill and Marshall scored in double-figures, but Marshall was the best player for the Nittany Lions on Thursday.
Marshall led all scorers and finished with 20 points in 36 minutes. He went 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. He was also able to grab four rebounds.
Newbill finished the game with a total of 12 points in 39 minutes. Newbill seemed to be struggling from the field as he made only 4-of-14 shots. He also turned the ball over quite a bit as he had seven turnovers in the game.
One thing Penn State did better than Illinois on Thursday night was rebounding. The Nittany Lions out-rebounded the Fighting Illini, 29-18. PSU’s leading rebounders in the game were Sasa Borovnjak and Ross Travis (both finished with six rebounds).
All of Penn State’s production on Thursday came from their starters and not at all from their bench. They did not record a single bench point and only took two shots. The Fighting Illini bench scored eleven points in the game.
Even though Illinois has now won five straight games, they did not play their best basketball on Thursday. They were out-rebounded as a team and allowed Penn State to shoot the ball too well. Illinois will play #7 Michigan in their next game. If they want to have any chance of winning that game, they will definitely need to play better than they did on Thursday.
The Fighting Illini are now 20-8 overall and 7-7 in the Big Ten.
Their next game will be against the #7 Michigan Wolverines on February 24th. The Wolverines beat the Illini, 74-60, in their first meeting this year. They are 22-4 overall and 9-4 in the Big Ten.
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