Illini Trip Up Penn State Scorers

Penn State's Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill entered as one of the country's best backcourt duos. They left Illinois with a loss after subpar performances.

CHAMPAIGN - Entering as one of the best guard duos in the country, Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill were supposed to give Penn State a fighting chance against Illinois on Saturday.

Instead, top scorer Newbill hit the showers early after being ejected and the playmaking Frazier finished with more turnovers (two) than assists (one) as Illinois rolled to a 75-55 victory and a 2-0 Big Ten start.

"We knew it was going to take a great effort, and our guys really responded to that challenge well," Illini coach John Groce said.

Newbill (18.8 points per game) and Frazier (17.4) arrived at the State Farm Center as the second and seventh best scorers in the Big Ten and the highest-scoring backcourt in the country.

Neither were able to get it going against the Illini. Newbill shot just 2 of 8 and scored a season-worst seven points. Frazier was 3 for 11 with 10 points, his lone assist well below his Big Ten leading 7.2 average.

"We just tried to limit their touches and do what we could to stop them," Illinois junior Rayvonte Rice said.

Groce attributed his team's former opponents for preparing his players for the matchup.

From Missouri's Jordan Clarkson, to UIC's Kelsey Barlow and Yogi Ferrell of Indiana, the Illini have seen their share of talented backcourt players.

"We've played against some really, really good perimeters and our guys did a good job on those two guys (on Saturday)," Groce said.

The junior Newbill's day went from bad to worse in the second half. He was ejected for pushing freshman Kendrick Nunn in the back of the head.

Illinois had a nine-point lead when the scuffle broke out. That margin quickly jumped to double digits in the minutes following, as the Illini ended the game on a 23-12 run. Groce attributed junior Tracy Abrams, who guarded both Frazier and Newbill at times, for leading the team through the make or break moment.

"He really controlled that huddle there with his leadership and talking about poise and composure, finishing the game the right way, being mature, getting stops," Groce said. "He's just grown leaps and bounds as a leader."

The Illini weren't all that good offensively, either. They shot 36 percent from the field and hit only 7 of 23 tries on 3s.

Still, the defensive effort and performance didn't waver. What happened on offense had no bearing on the dominant defensive showing. That's the culture Groce is building. Illinois snagged Newbill and Frazier on Saturday and show no signs of letting up.

"You have defensive and rebounding responsibilities here, regardless of if your name is Jim or John," Groce said. "That's just how it is."

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