|Follow PSU Men's Basketball:||Follow @PennStateMBB|
Jan. 12, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; Jan. 11, 2011 - Andrew Jones grabbed Talor Battle's last second lay-up attempt in traffic and slammed it home to give Penn State (10-6; 3-2 Big Ten) a thrilling 57-55 victory over No. 16 ranked Illinois (13-4; 3-1 Big Ten) Tuesday in a joyous Bryce Jordan Center. In the midst of a program record run of five-straight ranked opponents, Penn State used the opportunity to do something that hadn't been done in 56 years as the Nittany Lions defeated ranked teams in back-to-back games for just the second time in program history and the first since 1954.
The 1954 team, led by Jesse Arnelle, downed No. 14 LSU and No. 6 Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament on the way to the program's lone Final Four appearance. The current edition of the Nittany Lions, led by Battle who is quickly chasing down Arnelle's all-time scoring mark of 2,138 points, used a Jordan Center record 14-of-14 effort at the free throw line and a 33-28 rebound advantage to win a hard fought game in which it held Illinois 22 points below its season scoring average of 77 points per game.
"That is what you need to do in the Big Ten," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. "If you make shots, you look pretty good and it's a little easier. We have to rebound at both ends. Other teams in our league have some good players that can make shots. We have to challenge shots and make them score over us. We challenged shots well tonight in our man-to-man and zone defenses."
Battle, the Big Ten's leading scorer, posted a game-high 26 points on 8-of-15 from the floor, including a pair of incredibly long threes, to improve his career scoring mark to 1,860 points. Jones added 12 points and eight rebounds as he continued his strong play in the last two games. Jeff Brooks added a team high 10 rebounds and seven points and Tim Frazier had eight boards, four assists and two big steals as he defended Illini leading scorer Demetri McCamey most of the night. Penn State handed Illinois its first Big Ten loss of the season.
"The team has started to gel nicely and guys are playing well individually," DeChellis said. "Drew Jones is playing well. I haven't done anything different, just trying to get him to play hard and shoot a little better. He's playing with confidence now, and it's amazing how well that can work."
Mike Tisdale led the Illini with 16 points and 14 rebounds and McCamey added 10 points and five assists for an Illinois team that was held 22 points below its season scoring average of 77 points a game. Penn State kept the Illini to just four offensive boards and three second chance points while also grabbing nine steals in a strong defensive effort. The Illini hit 10-of-11 from the foul line as the teams combined to shoot 24-of-25 at the charity stripe.
After Penn State missed two chances to extend a 55-53 lead, McCamey fed Bill Cole for a lay-up with 20 seconds left to tie the game at 55. Penn State put the ball in Battle's hands and he drove the lane drawing a hoard of Illini. His high arching lay-up attempt bounced off the rim and Jones came flying in from the weak side to slam it home with just one second left on the clock.
Illinois called a timeout, but McCamey's full-court inbounds pass was brought down by Jones and a large turnout of Penn State students stormed the floor for the second-straight game. The Nittany Lions knocked of No. 18 Michigan State, 66-62, on Saturday.
Penn State came out sharp behind an enthusiastic student crowd as the Lions jumped to an 11-2 lead after an early 9-0 run and never trailed in the first half. Battle hit a three and Jones scored six points in the run getting a dunk after a nice feed from Brooks and a put-back that forced an Illinois timeout with 16:40 to play.
A Tisdale three snapped a five-minute scoreless drought for Illinois, which got within five, 13-8, after a Cole three. David Jackson, who had seven points and six boards, answered with a three of his own and Penn State led 16-8.
Illinois sliced the lead to three after five straight points from McCamey, the last on a three with 8:35 to play.
Penn State then used another 9-0 run to build its largest lead of the half, 25-13, with 5:58 to play. Battle had four points in the run hitting a pair of free throws and getting a steal and break-away dunk. A three from Brooks capped the spurt that put the Lions up 12.
Penn State couldn't buy a basket the rest of the way as it finished the half hitting just 30 percent from the floor. Illinois capitalized with a 12-0 run to tie the game. Tisdale got four points in the run as did Mike Davis whose basket tied the game at 25.
Battle led Penn State with nine points in the half while Tisdale paced Illinois with nine of his own and 10 first half rebounds.
Illinois claimed its first lead of the game, 28-27, after a Brandon Paul three and extended it with a pair of Tisdale free throws early in the second half. Penn State responded with an 8-0 run sparked by a Billy Oliver three. Battle got another steal and a lay-up and then buried one of his four threes on the night to put Penn State up 35-30 with 15:23 to play.
Illinois got a three from McCamey and one from Tisdale to retake a 40-39 lead with 12:41 left.
With the Lions teetering and Illinois looking to seize control of the game, Battle hit a 40-foot three from the center Lion logo as the shot clock expired to put Penn State up 42-40. The Jordan Center roared and Penn State trailed just once the rest of the way.
A three from Cole tied the game at 48 with 6:32 to play, but Penn State pushed out to a four-point advantage, 55-51, when Battle hit a 28-footer in 6-9 Mike Davis' face with 4:34 to play.
The Illini scored the next four points as the Lions failed to score on their next four possessions. A lay-up from McCamey cut the lead to two and set up the final 20 seconds of action as the team's saw the eighth game in the last 11 in the series decided by five points or less and the fifth that came down to a shot in the closing seconds.
For all the latest information, notes, pictures and related links on Penn State basketball follow Assistant Athletic Communications Director Brian Siegrist on Twitter (@PSUSTRETCH) and check GoPSUsports.com. The Nittany Lions are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pennstatebasketball.