Penn State Falls Late in Close Battle With Illinois

Story posted February 22, 2013 in CommRadio, Sports by Tyler Zulli

After 40 minutes of play, the final score represented nothing short of what we have come to expect when Illinois (20-8, 7-7 Big Ten) and Penn State (8-18, 0-14 Big Ten) match up. In a series that has seen many of the most recent games decided by five points or fewer, it was only fitting that this most recent tilt between the two squads ended in just a five point victory.

The Nittany Lions started the game on a tear, jumping up 9-2 on the Illini. They were paced by three quick buckets from forward Sasa Borovnjak, who finished the game as the Nittany Lions' second leading scorer with 17 points, including 11 in the second half.  D.J. Newbill also added eight points of his own in the first half, as things were looking promising early on for the Nittany Lions.

All in all, the Nittany Lions were led by Jermaine Marshall, who scored over one third of his teams points with 20, including draining four baskets from beyond the arc.

The Fighting Illini were paced by senior guard D.J. Richardson who scored 18 points and senior guard Brandon Paul who added 16 points. Illinois took charge late in the first half and went into halftime with a 29-20 lead.

Although the Nittany Lions outscored the Illini in the second half, the deficit faced at halftime was just too much to overcome.

Every time the Nittany Lions looked poised to take control of the game and swing momentum back into their favor, Paul and Richardson were right there to reign the Illini back in, and knock down clutch baskets to pull away once more. Paul scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half.

To go along with the victory, Paul etched his name in Illini history by becoming only the tenth player in school history to record 1500 points in his career.

The game, especially when it mattered most, came down to one word: turnovers. The Nittany Lions were somewhat sloppy with the basketball, and it cost them in the end. The Lions turned the ball over 15 times, compared to just 10 by the Illini.

Foul troubled plagued both squads early and often in this game, as the two teams racked up a combined 52 fouls. Both teams faced the double bonus in both halves, and by the end, the Nittany Lions had players forced out of the game, including Ross Travis.

Penn State was able to cut the lead to deficits of 2 and 3 in the second half, but every time were turned away by stingy Illini defense and timely scoring by the senior guard pair of Illinois.

 With this victory, Illinois has won 5 straight conference games to climb right back into the Big Ten and tournament hunt. The win marks Illinois’ 20th victory of the season, and brings them back to .500 in the Big Ten with a 7-7 record.

After yet another heartbreaking setback, Pat Chambers and the Nittany Lions are still in search of their first Big Ten victory, falling to 0-14 in the Big Ten Conference. They haven’t registered a victory in 14 games, dating back to Dec. 29.

However, the team as a whole has seemingly made brilliant strides recently, taking Iowa down to the wire before falling by two, and battling the entire game against No. 4 Michigan.

Penn State returns home to the Bryce Jordan Center on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Coverage begins on ComRadio at 6 p.m. with the ComRadio Penn State Basketball Pregame Show.

Tyler Zulli is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, e-mail