Nittany Lions Fall, 54-53, In Another Tight Clash At Illinois

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Jan. 12, 2010

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CHAMPAIGN, ILL., Jan. 12, 2010 - In a game typical of the series in recent years, the Nittany Lions' clash with Illinois Tuesday night in Champaign came down to the final seconds once again. This time, Talor Battle was not able to convert in the closing seconds and Illinois held on for 54-53 victory that sent Penn State to its first 0-4 start in the Big Ten since 2005. It marked the fourth one-point game in the last six meetings between the schools.

The Illini ended a string of three-straight Penn State victories in Champaign and extended the Nittany Lions losing streak to four games, their longest since 2007-08. Penn State fell to 8-8 on the year and 0-4 in the Big Ten while Illinois remained unbeaten (4-0) in the Big Ten and improved to 12-5 on the year.

After a Demetri McCamey 18-foot jumper put the Illini up one with 1:10 to play, the Nittany Lions had five chances to reclaim the lead but could not get the ball in the hole as Battle missed three, three-point attempts and had a driving lay-up blocked and Chris Babb's final flying, behind the head put-back attempt came up short as the clock expired. Illinois improved to 10-0 at home on the season and 87-16 under coach Bruce Weber.

McCamey led Illinois with 25 points, including 10 in a big second half run. Babb posted his first career double-double leading Penn State with a career-high equaling 15 points on four threes and a career-best 10 rebounds. No other Lions scored in double-figures, but Penn State got contributions up and down the bench as eight Lions scored. Leading scorer Talor Battle was held to nine points on 4-of-19 from the floor.

Penn State held Illinois to 38 percent shooting and won the rebounding battle, 40-31, but could hit only 34 percent itself from the floor and went 8-of-28 from three, including a combined 5-of-18 from Battle and Babb.

Penn State held a five-point lead at the half, but McCamey came out of the locker room blazing scoring 10 points in the first four minutes to spark a 7-0 Illini run for a 35-32 Illinois lead.

Battle tied the game with a three and a Babb three had the game knotted at 38 with 13 minutes to play.

David Jackson converted in the lane to put Penn State back on top and then Cammeron Woodyard hit the second of two big threes in the game to put Penn State up five, 43-38, with 10:10 to play. A spin move from Bill Edwards on the block extended the lead to seven and completed a 7-0 Lion run.

A Mike Tisdale dunk ended the run, but Jeff Brook fired in a three from the left wing and the Lions had their biggest lead of the game, 48-40, with 8:40 to play after a 16-5 run.

McCamey rattled in a three that bounced out, then in to bring the Illini back to life and another Tisdale dunk got Illinois back within three. Edwards answered with a short jumper and Penn State led 50-45.

Bill Cole's corner three brought the Assembly Hall crowd to its feet and cut the lead to one, 50-49. But, when Andrew Ott downed a lay-up, Penn State led 53-49 with 3:08 to play. McCamey hit another big three, one of five on the game, to draw the Illini within one. The Lions had two good looks at threes on the other end from Edwards and Babb, but both went astray. The Lions played solid defense through the Illini's next possession, but McCamey pump faked Edwards with two seconds left on the shot clock and then used the opening to drain the go-ahead jumper as the shot clock expired.

Battle missed a pair of go-ahead threes before Illinois got the ball back with 27 seconds to play. Penn State sent Tisdale to the line where he missed the first giving Penn State the ball and a chance to win with 17 seconds to play. Battle drove to the rim and had his shot blocked out of bounds by Tisdale. The Lions in-bounded with 3.5 seconds to play. The threw the ball in to the top of the key to Battle whose long three over a defender came up short of the rim. Babb flew through the lane and tried to tip it in over his head, but it went of the front of the rim as time expired.

The Nittany Lions held Illinois scoreless for the last 8:35 of the first half to take a 28-23 lead to the locker room. The Illini shot just 32 percent in the half, but Penn State wasn't much better at 35 percent and had to be thinking about several very good opportunities to expand the lead that went astray.

The team's played even through the first 10 minutes of action as Penn State took the floor with a new starting line-up that featured three guards in Babb, Battle and Tim Frazier and forwards David Jackson and Ott, making his first career start.

Penn State took its first lead, 16-14, on a baseline three from Woodyard, but D.J. Richardson answered immediately with a three for the Illini. Babb tied the game at 19-19 with a trey of his own at the 11-minute mark and a Brooks tip in put the Lions up 21-19. Tisdale tied the game for the Illini with a turn-around jumper and McCamey put them up 23-21 with 8:35 to play.

The Illini would not score again in the half. A baseline jumper from Edwards tied the game and then a three-point play in transition from Babb, who finished the half with a game-high nine points, put the Lions up 26-23. Penn State had several opportunities to expand the margin, but couldn't get baskets to fall. A Frazier steal and one-handed jam with 2:43 to play put Penn State up 28-23 and ended the scoring in the half. Penn State owned the glass 20-15 in the half and posted four steals.

Penn State will return to the road Saturday when it takes on Iowa (5-11; 0-4 Big Ten) in a 1:00 p.m. tip on the Big Ten Network. Penn State lost in double-overtime in its last trip to Iowa City and has not won at Iowa since 2001. Iowa leads the all-time series 21-11 and is 12-3 all-time in Iowa City.




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