Hopefull we're getting better, third-year PSU coach Ed DeChellis said. We needed a confidence-builder, and hopefully this was one. Hopefully, this will give our kids the shot in the arm we need.
Penn State had been blown out in two of its three previous road games against ranked teams in the conference, and this one appeared to be headed in that direction when PSU fell behind 13-0 early. But Parker snapped out of a slump to score a season-high 21 points and Geary Claxton pumped in 20 to keep the Lions in it the rest of the way.
This was the first time in school history Penn State had played five straight ranked teams, and the Lions had lost the previous four. PSU showed it had no intention of rolling over six minutes into the second half, when Ben Luber hit Claxton with an alley-oop pass for a reverse jam that brought a gasp from the Assembly Hall call.
Two minutes later, Illini veteran big man James Augustine fouled Lion rookie Jamelle Cornley in the paint. The two squared off, and TV cameras caught Cornley barking profanities in Augustine's face. Cornley went on to make a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 52-44.
Penn State kept chipping away from there, and finally tied it (59-59) when Walker made a 3-pointer with 4:10 left. Illini All-American Dee Brown countered with his own triple before Claxton missed a shot and Parker tipped it out to Walker for another three to tie it 62-62.
Then McBride hit a trey to make it 65-62 and Parker countered with a short jumper and it was 65-64. The Illini missed three shots before Walker grabbed the rebound and Penn State called timeout with 23 seconds left.
Walker had an open look from the arc but was long. Parker took in the long rebound and flicked in a 6-footer with six seconds left. Penn State had a foul to give, and used it with just under four seconds left.
McBride inbounded the ball, and by the time it got back to him time was about to expire. He rushed a three and made it, and the officials initially counted the bucket. But replay clearly showed he was late.
And Penn State grabbed a rare league road win, improving to 11-9 overall and 3-5 in the conference. Illinois fell to 20-3 and 6-3.
We'll take it, DeChellis said. We've been on the other side of this a bunch. I'm really proud of them, they kept hanging in there.
This is Penn State's first win over a ranked opponent since toppling No. 5 North Carolina in the 2001 NCAA tournament. It is the program's first road win over a ranked opponent since beating Kentucky in Lexington earlier that season.
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