Rapid Reaction: Illinois 64, PSU 59

Illinois picked up it's 20 win of the season Thursday, defeating Penn State 64-59.

CHAMPAIGN - D.J. Richardson scored 18 points and Brandon Paul added 16 as Illinois defeated Penn State 64-59 on Thursday night.

The Fighting Illini (20-8, 7-7) have won five consecutive games while the Nittany Lions (8-18, 0-14) are still seeking their first conference victory.

It was over when: Richardson hit five of his final six free throws, all with less than 30 seconds left to play. Penn State kept fighting, hitting two 3s to keep the score close. Richardson's singles kept it a two-possession game, but the Nittany Lions hung around until the final buzzer.

Player of the game: Richardson. The senior finished with a team-high 18 points and added three rebounds and three assists. He was 8 of 9 from the free-throw line, converting from the stripe down the stretch when the Nittany Lions wouldn't go away. Still, it was the first half that Richardson shined brightest. With the Illini struggling to score, he hit four of the eight Illini baskets. His 11 first half points carried the team through a lean time when only Sam McLaurin had more than five points.

Milestone: With his first basket of game, a three-pointer late in the first half, Paul became the 10th player in school history to score 1,500 career points.

"I had no idea. I guess it's cool," Paul said.

Did you see that?: Nnanna Egwu's breakaway dunk. In the second half the 6-11, 235-pound Egwu created a steal near half court, scooped the ball up and took off for the hoop. Seemingly all arms and legs, Egwu managed to stay under control for a couple dribbles and flushed the transition dunk. The sophomore finished with seven points and two rebounds.

Stat of the game: Fouls. A total of 52 fouls were called on Thursday -- 31 on Penn State and 21 against Illinois. The game itself dragged on, especially late in the second half as the referees became increasingly prone to using their whistles. Two Nittany Lions, Ross Travis and Kevin Montminy, fouled out and four others finished with four fouls. All the fouls led to…

Stat of the game 2: Free throw shooting. The Illini hit 23 of 36 free throws, including 14 makes in the second half. Meanwhile, Penn State shot 9 of 16, creating quite a disparity in points from the line.

The takeaway: No, this win wasn't pretty. But a win is a win and a loss to this Penn State team would have been catastrophic considering what the Illini have done the past two weeks. Give Penn State some credit -- Coach Patrick Chambers and his assistants coached his team hard during this game. The Nittany Lions, as evidenced against Michigan, Iowa and now Illinois, haven't given up despite the record. In saying that, Illinois is a much better team than Penn State, was playing at home and still had to grind one out. Coach John Groce, ever positive in his comments to the media, was encouraged by his team's defensive performance and the toughness involved in winning such a struggle of a game. For whatever reasons, Penn State gives the Illini trouble -- nine of the last 11 meetings have been decided by five points or less. None of that matters moving forward. What does matter is that the team learns from mistakes made, improves over the next few days and prepares to play a much better opponent in Michigan on it's home court Sunday.


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