Penn State Stuns Illinois Again with Last Second Upset

Story posted January 20, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio by Dan Smith

Tim Frazier made a game-winning runner with eight seconds remaining as Penn State (10-10, 2-4 Big Ten) upset 22nd-ranked Illinois (15-4, 4-2 Big Ten) 54-52 at the Bryce Jordan Center on Thursday night.

The win marked the first upset of a ranked opponent by the Nittany Lions under first year head coach Pat Chambers. It also continued a trend of recent success against higher-ranked Illini teams. Penn State has won four of its last five games against a ranked Illinois.

"[After Sunday's loss to Minnesota], I said if we play 40 minutes of Penn State basketball, things would end differently," said Frazier. "I guess we play Penn State basketball every time we play Illinois."

The junior guard finished with 12 points, the most important coming on his late game runner to break a 52-52 tie. The play to get Frazier to get to the basket did not come easy: Chambers had to call two timeouts in order to set his team up for a victory.

"He was supposed to back up and he cut it off," Chambers said of the first play for Frazier. "He didn't trust it. I said, 'Fine, let's simplify.' Let's get a good screen."

That screen was set by Jon Graham, and Frazier was able to convert with eight seconds left on the clock. Chambers noted that both plays were drawn up for Frazier to take the last shot.

"He has earned the right to make those and take those shots," said Chambers. "He's done a great job with leadership. He's been just incredible, his effort and his play, the whole season."

After an Illinois timeout with four seconds remaining, the Illini looked to Sam Maniscalco for the last shot. He drove the lane and put up a shot that was blocked into the corner by Penn State guard Jermaine Marshall as time expired.

The Nittany Lions were in position to win the game on the last play thanks to a consistent defensive effort throughout the night. Jon Graham and Matt Glover both finished with seven rebounds, while Jermaine Marshall had five boards, three blocks and two steals.

"Collectively, we played really good team defense," Chambers said. "Trust is an important word in this program. When guys start to trust each other and they take a chance or they step up, they know that guy is going to get his back."

Offensively, Penn State was limited without junior forward Billy Oliver, who missed the game with an illness. However, senior guard Cam Woodyard had 17 points while shooting 60 percent from the field.

Illinois, meanwhile, was led by its two of its stars. Brandon Paul had 20 points on four three-pointers, including the shot that tied the game at 52 with 39 seconds to go. Center Meyers Leonard scored 15 points, but fouled out of the game with 51 seconds left.

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber was quick to take issue with the officiating.

"I thought there should have been more fouls called," he said, referring to Penn State's defense of Meyers Leonard.

Weber specifically pointed to a flagrant foul called against Joe Bertrand in the first half. After drawing a whistle for a Tim Frazier reach foul, Bertrand appeared to throw Frazier to the ground. That call gave Frazier two free throws and Penn State possession of the ball. Frazier would hit the free throws and Marshall would knock down a three, creating a five point swing for the Nittany Lions.

"He told me he didn't do anything," Weber said of Bertrand. "There were big swings in that first half with that elbow foul, a five point play."

Ultimately, though, Weber could not deny that Penn State's defense made the biggest impact on the game.

"Their changing defenses really hurt us in the first half," Weber said.

Chambers emphasized the importance of the crowd in helping his team. While the official attendance was listed at 6945, a large student presence made the building seem a lot fuller.

"Even though it snowed, that bottom part of the bowl was filled," said Chambers. "It gets loud in here.  And what a great game for us to win to make them come back again. It's exciting. The future is bright."

The Nittany Lions have a tough road ahead, playing several ranked Big Ten foes. Not only that, but their schedule places four of their next five games on the road. Chambers recognized the difficulties of playing in the Big Ten.

"This conference is unbelievable," he said. "It is the best conference. It is a flat out battle every time you step on the floor. You can't take anything for granted."

Penn State travels to Bloomington this Sunday to take on the Indiana Hoosiers. They return to the Bryce Jordan Center on January 31st to face off against the Wisconsin Badgers at 8 p.m. That game will be broadcast live on ComRadio.

Dan Smith is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism and is ComRadio's Executive Editor. To contact him, email des5249@psu.edu.