Penn State's looooooooong wait for an openning-day Big Ten Tournament bye is finally over. But it took a looooooooong game for it to happen.
The Nittany Lions (16-15, 7-11) beat Illinois in double overtime at the Jordan Center Sunday afternoon, 86-79. With the win, Pat Chambers' squad assured itself of a first-round bye in thie week's B1G tourney in Indianapolis. It is the first time since the tournament started (in 1998) that PSU is avoiding playing on the opening day.
"I'm so proud of this group… so proud,” Chambers said. "They knew what was on the line. … They never wavered. They had lazer focus."
The top 10 teams in the conference receive byes. Sunday's win, coupled with Northwestern's win over Nebraska, slotted the Nittany Lions in 10th place. They will face No. 7 seed Ohio State Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.
Shep Garner was key for PSU with 22 points, including a drive to the basket that sent the game to the first OT. Brandon Taylor had 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Josh Reaves added 13. This marks the most B1G wins Penn State has had in Chambers' five seasons at the helm.
Taylor, a senior, said things like earning a first-round tournament bye and winning the most conference games under Chambers are signs of progress for the program.
"It shows the hard work that we've put in,” he explained.
Illinois fell to 13-18 and 5-13 with the loss despite getting 39 points from Malcolm Hill,
Stay tune for more from the BJC.