The Illinois Fighting Illini were able to snap their 8-game losing streak today as they got past the Penn State Nittany Lions, 60-55.
Head coach John Groce went with a different look to start the game by starting freshmen Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill instead of Joseph Bertrand and Jon Ekey.
The freshmen would not make Groce regret this decision as both players had the best games of their early Illinois career.
Nunn was able to score a career-high 19 points as he went 7-of-13 from the field and 4-of-9 from beyond the arc.
Hill also scored a career-high 11 points and showed some great offensive moves by driving to the basket as well as fading away too.
Two Illini that struggled in the win over Penn State were Rayvonte Rice and Tracy Abrams. Both players didn’t have a single point in the first half, and Abrams did not score until the very end of the game.
The two finished with a combine 11 points and went a combined 2-of-13 from the field.
Defensively, the Illini seemed to have some trouble guarding Penn State star D.J. Newbill. The PSU junior scored a team-high 19 points and hauled in six total rebounds. Newbill was able to get to the basket at will and even showed some athletic ability with a nice off-balance leaner in the second half.
Although Rice and Abrams struggled today against the Nittany Lions, Illini Nation saw positives in the five-point victory.
The Illinois freshman played extremely well, and that doesn’t just mean Nunn and Hill. Maverick Morgan showed some quality minutes, especially in the first half when Nnanna Egwu had to hit the bench after getting two early fouls. Morgan only scored four points in the game, but was able to haul in four rebounds.
Also, Jon Ekey seemed to play much better than he has been after coming off the bench against the Nittany Lions. He gave the Illini a boost from long range by hitting 2-of-3 three pointers and finished with nine points in the game. He also racked up three rebounds and two steals.
The Fighting Illini will look to continue their new winning streak on Wednesday as they travel to Lincoln, Nebraska for a match-up with the Cornhuskers. Nebraska is 4-3 in their last seven games and are coming off a win over Northwestern on Saturday.
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