Illinois Defense Tames the Nittany Lions

Many Illini fans were wondering what team what should up at the Assembly Hall on Wednesday night. Would it be the team that stumbled through losses to Purdue and Northwestern or would it be the squad who fought back from a halftime deficit against Iowa? Click here to read how Bruce Weber's Illini fared against the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Kendall Gill, Kenny Battle or Nick Anderson weren't there, but if you watched the Illini play on Wednesday night, you might have thought the Flyin' Illini had reunited. An array of dazzling dunks on offense and a stifling effort on defense propelled Illinois to an 80-37 thrashing of Penn State in Champaign.

Roger Powell scored early and often for Illinois (12-4 overall, 3-2 Big Ten). Powell was the leading scorer for the Illini with 16 points on 6 of 7 shooting. Deron Williams added 12 points to the Illini tally.

While the Illini offense sparkled, the defense also shined. The Nittany Lions shot 21% from the field, an Assembly Hall record for offensive futility. The feisty play of the Illinois defense handcuffed Penn State all night long. The defense was kicked up a notch after the break as the Nittany Lions only connected on 5 of 37 attempts in the second twenty minutes.

James Augustine barely missed recording a double-double, with 9 points and 12 rebounds.

Williams and Dee Brown felt like sharing the wealth with their teammates. Williams led the team with 8 assists and Brown handed out 6 more. Brown also scored 9 points.

Penn State (8-7, 2-2) was led by Orange Krush target Aaron Johnson, who had 15 points. Lions' big man Jan Jagla only managed 5 points, despite being guarded by the much smaller Williams.

Due to the large lead, Coach Weber was able to get quality minutes for his entire team. Luther Head and Brian Randle each had 8 points, Jerrance Howard had a career-high 7 points, Nick Smith added 5 points and Richard McBride, Warren Carter and Jack Ingram all added 2 points.

The play of the game belonged to Randle, who brought the crowd and his teammates to their feet with a left-handed slam in the second half. Randle saw that he was about to be replaced by Aaron Spears and decided he was going to leave the game on his own terms. After the game, Brown was quick to tout the freshman's jam.

"If that dunk isn't #1 on ESPN tonight, that's crazy!"

While the fans and players were talking about the offensive output, Weber was quick to applaud the defensive effort by his team.

"We had no foul trouble for the first time in a long time. We played a full forty minutes with consistency."

The residents of Illini Nation can only hope that tonight's intensity can carry over to this Saturday's game against the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison. Badgers coach Bo Ryan has never lost a Big Ten game at the Kohl Center, but the Illini will be looking for revenge after losing a heartbreaker last year that gave the Big Ten regular season championship to Wisconsin.

"Some of the guys were complaining about a lack of minutes tonight, but I told them they would get plenty of minutes in Madison," Weber said.

Illini Inquirer Top Stories