Nittany Lion Offense Takes Hiatus

Penn State has trouble scoring late in a loss to struggling Illinois at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Penn State guard Tim Frazier was kidding himself following his team's 60-55 loss to bumbling Illinois at the Jordan Center Sunday evening. Nittany Lion coach Pat Chambers had a more realistic take on things.

“Our staples are defending and rebounding, so if we can't score, we want to continue to defend and get rebounds,” Frazier said, suggesting the loss was not entirely on PSU's feeble offensive effort down the stretch. But any realistic view of the game's final 10 minutes suggests otherwise.

The Nittany Lions took a 52-49 lead with 9:44 left when D.J. Newbill hit a midrange jumper. They did not score again until Newbill made one of two free throws with 51 seconds left and did not get another field goal until … you guessed it … Newbill hit a layup with 16 seconds to go.

The loss was PSU's second straight after it put together a three-game winning streak and dropped the team's record to 12-12 overall and 3-8 in the Big Ten.

As far as conference defeats go, it was by far the most damaging for the Nittany Lions this year. The Illini had dropped eight in a row -- dating back to a 75-55 blowout of Penn State in Champaign Jan. 4. They improved to 14-10 and 3-8.

That business about PSU having to defend and rebound better?

In truth, Penn State actually defended well for most of the game, and held the Illini to just 11 points over the game's last 12:52. The Lions had more overall rebounds (34-33), more offensive rebounds (11-8) and more second-chance points (14-10), too.

“Defensively, we did a good job,” Chambers said.

But of the nearly nine-minute stretch without a single point, he added, “It's a long time not to score.”

Amazingly, when Newbill hit one of two freebies with 51 seconds left, the Lions were still very much in it (trailing 54-53). But missing the second of the two prevented them from tying, and proved critical when Illini rookie Kendrick Nunn made a 3-pointer with 22 seconds to play. Suddenly, it was a two possession game for PSU, which trailed 57-53.

Newbill scored on the layup six seconds later -- PSU's only field goal in nearly 10 minutes was uncontested -- and Illinois made three of four free throws the rest of the way to escape with the victory.

“It was a battle,” Chambers said. “It was flat out hand-to-hand combat. They made the necessary plays to win and we didn't.”


• Frazier passed Freddie Barnes for Penn State's all-time assist record when he hit forward Donovan Jack for a layup in the game's opening minute. But Frazier had only two assists in this game (and now has 602 in his career).

• The irony of the assist record falling in a game where Penn State had horrible ball movement was inescapable. The Lions had only three assists in the second half and none in the final 12 minutes-plus.

• Penn State has not had more than 11 assists in a game in the last 13 outings.

• Newbill led Penn State with 19 points.

• Frazier was the only other Lion in doubles with 11 (on 4-of-12 shooting).

• Jack had eight points in the first half and none in the second. He has hit one of his last 16 3-pointers.

• Nunn had a career-high 19 to lead the Illini. His previous career high was eight.

• Penn State is at Indiana Wednesday for a 7 p.m. tip. BTN will carry the game.

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