Basketball Game Grades: Illinois
Penn State jumped out to an early 20-point lead the first half from some major firepower on offense. But in the second half the offense faltered and Illinois climbed back into the game. The Nittany Lions were able to hang onto the victory behind some clutch shots in the second half from Tony Carr, desperately clinging to the four-point lead as the buzzer sounded.
The first half of this game may arguably have been Penn State’s best half offensively of the season so far. Peyton Banks led the way with 14 first half points and some great three-point shooting led the way for Penn State. Shep Garner had one of his best overall complete games on offense finishing with 18 points and shooting just under 50 percent from the field. But in the second half Penn State went away from Banks, who only scored three second half points. Moving the ball around the perimeter without any dribble penetration was not working and they often settled for poor shots. Josh Reaves specifically was not at his best on offense, turning the ball over a miserable five times. Multiple times late in the shot clock Tony Carr bailed out his teammates with a spectacular finish in the lane. Overall this was not a bad performance from the offense because they did shoot 50 percent from three and 49 percent from the field. But the lack of production and too many turnovers in the second half almost gave the game away.
It was a similar story for Penn State’s defense who played an outstanding first half, holding the Illini to only 25 points, most of which came from star player Malcolm Hill. On many possessions late in the first half, Josh Reaves and Peyton Banks did a great job denying the ball from Hill. This performance would clearly be hard to replicate in the second half although Hill actually scored less in the second half then the first. It was the other players that beat Penn State in the second. This was something coming into the game Pat Chambers would live with. The goal is to take the star player out of the game forcing supporting cast to make big shots. The defense did this for the most part the offense was just unable to score enough to pull away.
Chambers did a good job forcing other players on Illinois to beat the Nittany Lions, but Malcolm Hill still had a solid game. It was also pleasing to see Chambers get extremely agitated multiple times in the second half during Illinois’ big run and his team usually responded well. Penn State is still a young team and is mistake prone. I’m hoping someday soon this young group can put a full game together with all the players at their best. Lamar Stevens is clearly in a funk lately missing mid-range jumpers he normally knocks down. Stevens also was a reliable rebounder early in the season but only pulled down two boards against Illinois. If he can start scoring around 10 points a game to go along with Garner and Banks from three Penn State has a dangerous offense. Chambers has to find a way to get all the players clicking at once soon in Big Ten play if he wants to be playing late in March.
Brian McLaughlin is a freshman Majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email email@example.com.