During the game, freshman guard Talor Battle scored the final nine points for the Nittany Lions, including the game-winning free throws with seven seconds remaining. Afterward, the average age of the non-coaches representing PSU in the press conference was exactly 12.7 years.
Talor made a big play and then made big free throws, Lion coach Ed DeChellis said while bouncing newborn granddaughter Sophia on his lap. It was a really special play for him. I'm glad for him. He wanted the ball and he had the ball.
Battle did a good job down the stretch, Illini coach Bruce Weber said.
Here is how things unfolded: Illinois guard Demetri McCamey broke out of an evening-long shooting slump to make 3-pointer with 19 seconds to go, giving his side a 51-50 lead.
Penn State called timeout with 15 seconds left and DeChellis designed a play where junior forward Jamelle Cornley was supposed to come off a screen and receive the ball in the paint. But when the ball was inbounded to Battle, he was guarded by slow-footed Trent Meacham.
Earlier in the huddle, DeChellis told Battle to look for Cornley, but if it's not open, attack the hoop.
Battle later said Cornley was not open. But that was just as well. He blew past Meacham into the lane. Trying to recover, Meacham fouled him on the shot.
Battle stepped to the free throw line and made both to give Penn State a 52-51 lead with seven seconds to go. Despite missing two important foul shots in a come-from-ahead loss to Minnesota Jan. 12, Battle said there were no nerves this time.
Battle makes the clutch shot.
I had 100 percent confidence I was going to make them, he explained. I just stepped up there with confidence and they fell.
He did a great job and made a great play, DeChellis added. I think he wanted to redeem himself.
Weber called timeout to design a final play. But the Illini were out of sorts from the time the ball was inbounded. They had to tightrope it up the right sideline before 6-foot-10 center Shaun Pruitt found himself with the ball on the wing. He made a clumsy move toward the basket and his rushed shot was an air ball that went harmlessly out of bounds.
I don't know if Shaun may have panicked, Weber said. He should have called a timeout.
PSU inbounded and chewed up the final .7 seconds for the win to improve to 12-12 overall and 4-8 in the Big Ten. Illinois, which came into this one off a road thumping of Minnesota, fell to 11-15 and 3-10.
Freshman forward D.J. Jackson also made several important plays for the Lions. He went 5 of 6 from the line and came up with a key steal and assist (to Battle) as the Lions went up 50-46 with 2:37 remaining.
I saw Talor running and I just tried to get it to him, Jackson said. He made a great play on the run-out.
Indeed, Battle was most definitely the player of the game. He led the Lions in points (14), field goals (four), 3-pointers (two), rebounds (six) and assists (four).
He's playing with a lot of confidence, DeChellis said.
Penn State used a zone defense for most of the game to throttle the Illini offense. Weber's team did not make a field goal in the final 4:08 of the opening half and the first 9:07 of the second half.
With all of those missed shots, though, Illinois crushed the Lions on the offensive glass through the game's first 32 minutes, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds and turning them into 15-second-chance points. But PSU did not allow an offensive rebound in the final 7:49.
This is the first time PSU has swept a season series from Illinois.
Penn State is at Michigan State Wednesday (7 p.m., Big Ten Network).
• Audio Files (Note that these are NOT videos. But they will run in our video player). Ed DeChellis (and granddaughter): . Bruce Weber: .