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No. 9 Nittany Lions Fall in Big Ten Battle

Courtesy of GoPSU sports
Stevens leads Penn State with 13 points for 40th consecutive double-figure game

BOX SCORE: Illinois 62, No. 9 Penn State 56

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State men’s basketball team (20-6, 10-5) fell 62-56 to Illinois (17-9, 9-6) in a Big Ten Conference game on Tuesday, Feb. 18. Lamar Stevens and Izaiah Brockington finished in double figures, scoring 13 and 10 points, respectively. Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu led all scorers with 24 points going 9-15 from the field.

“I give Illinois credit, they played really well, they played really tough,” said Penn State men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers. “Their speed really disrupted us. They played small, they fronted Lamar Stevens in the post and played him on the backside. They did some really good things. So proud of my guys, we just won eight games in a row. Great lessons to be learned from this game that you have to show up every single night in the Big Ten. Nothing’s going to be handed to you so there’s going to be a lot of lessons learned from this and we’ll look at the film and we’ll get better.”

Leading by four, 30-26, at halftime, Illinois extended its lead to six out of the break and up to eight at the 14:39 mark. The Nittany Lions erased the deficit with a  9-0 run, capped by an Izaiah Brockington jumper that gave the Nittany Lions a 41-40 lead with 10:57 remaining.

The Illinois offense responded and snatched the lead back, making six of seven field goals and using the 12-4 run for a 54-45 score with 6:07 to play. Penn State battled back with three different Nittany Lions scoring baskets and free throws from Stevens and freshman forward Seth Lundy to pull within two, 58-56, with 71 seconds remaining

On the following possession, the Nittany Lion defense forced a long three-point attempt as the shot clock expired. The rebound was corralled by Illinois and Jamari Wheeler tied up the Illinois player to force a jump ball, but the alternating possession stayed with Illinois. Dosunmu drove the lane for the score to give the Illini a four-point lead at 60-56 and Illinois held on for the win.

The first half included all seven of the game’s ties as the Nittany Lions and Illini bounced back and forth with the lead. Lundy had a dunk for a brief 24-22 lead, but Dosunmu made back-to-back baskets to tie the game at 24 and then give the Illini a 26-24 lead.

Senior forward Mike Watkins knotted the game at 26 with 2:52 to play in the first half, but Illinois connected on two free throws and Illini forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili added a layup with 28 seconds for the halftime score.

The No. 9 Nittany Lions travel next to Indiana to face the Hoosiers on Sunday, Feb. 23. The noon ET game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

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