Lions Win Defensive Struggle

Penn State only scores 38, but it is enough in an upset road victory against No. 18 Illinois. It was the lowest scoring D-I game since 2005

It must be something about the number 38.

At Beaver Stadium last September, the Penn State football team used a second-half spurt to beat Illinois, 38-24. That contest was considered a shootout.

At Assembly Hall in Champaign Wednesday, the Nittany Lion basketball team was held to a season-low 38 points. But it proved to be enough as Ed DeChellis' bunch limited No. 18 Illinois to 33 points in an old-fashioned taffy-pull.

“I've never been in a game like this,” DeChellis said on the Big Ten Network. “It was low-scoring the whole way. … We're happy to get out of here with a win.”

The Lions improved to 19-8 overall and 8-6 in the Big Ten with a whacky win that was pivotal as they attempt to build their NCAA Tournament resume. The Illini, who had not lost at home in the league this year, fell to 21-6 and 9-5.

How whacky was this game? The point total was the lowest ever for a game in Assembly Hall and the lowest in an NCAA Division I game since 2005. PSU guard Talor Battle was the only player to reach double figures, sealing the deal by scoring State's last six points (and the last four of the game) to finish with 11.

The two teams combined to miss 68 shots and 27 3-pointers. The Illini did not attempt a free throw in the game. It marked the Lions' lowest point total in a win since a 42-41 overtime affair against Tennessee Dec. 7, 1996.

Both clubs had the same numbers of field goals as turnovers (13 and 13 for PSU, 15 and 15 for the Illini).

Penn State led 17-15 at the break thanks to a horrid shooting performance by the Illini (7 of 29). But the Lions were even worse through the first 10 minutes of the second half, going 1 of 15 from the floor while falling behind 29-20.

Then Battle helped swing momentum back in PSU's favor with a driving layup straight through the Illinois defense with 9:20 remaining. From there, the Lions methodically took control on both ends, using a slow 9-0 run and going up 32-31 on a Stanley Pringle layup with 4:13 to go.

From there, Battle took over offensively and the Lion defense clamped down for good. Battle hit a jumper with 2:23 left to make it 34-31, and Illinois center Mike Tisdale countered with a short hook a few seconds later.

The score was 34-33, and stayed that way until the final 20 seconds. With the shot clock winding down, PSU used a screen to get Illinois defensive specialist Chester Frazier off of Battle. It worked, as forward Mike Davis switched out.

Battle blew by him and missed a layup but was fouled. He made both free-throw tries with 17 seconds left for a 36-33 lead. At the time, the Lions had only committed two fouls in the half. So they used several fouls to disrupt the Illini offense.

It worked. Demetri McCamey forced a 3-pointer with five seconds left that was no good. Battle rebounded, and was literally wrestled to the ground by Frazier. The intentional foul gave PSU two free throws (which Battle made) and the ball, and the game was effectively over.


• This is the Nittany Lions' third straight road win over the Illini.

• Penn State is off until Tuesday, when it travels to Ohio State (ESPN, 7 p.m.).

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