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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Fall 75-55 To Illinois

by on January 05, 2014 12:38 PM

Penn State basketball has played together since August. And as the weeks and months have gone on there has been a buzz and excitement about the team unlike any other time under head coach Patrick Chambers. There is plenty of talent and depth on the roster, and the return of guard Tim Frazier has only boosted the collective confidence of the team.

But so far the excitement and energy of the past few months has only shown its face once in the opening 80 minutes of Big Ten play. A 47-point opening half against Michigan State, the first half of Penn State's conference schedule. 

From there, poor shooting and mental mistakes have tripped up a Nittany Lion team quite capable of playing at a much higher level. While 47-point halves may not be the norm, Penn State's depth and talent is not a fabricated asset for this edition of Penn State basketball.

So as the second half wore on during a slug-fest between Penn State and Illinois, a questionably innocent bump into Penn State's DJ Newbill was one bad break too many. Newbill shoved Illinois' guard Kendrick Nunn in the back of the head. An action that would lead to Newbill's ejection from the game.

Prior to the ejection, Penn State overcame a poor start, to trail Illinois by only 2 points at halftime despite starting out down 9-0 to the Illini and shooting 28-percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes. The 28-26 deficit was a gift and a chance to restart the game in the final 20 minutes.

The second half was not much better for Penn State though and the Illini would push out a double-digit lead. The Nittany Lions kept them game within arms reach but never came close to tying the contest again.

Following the ejection, Illinois poured it on as Penn State played out the final minutes 8-minutes with a seemingly subconscious awareness that the game was out of reach, even while down by 7 at the time of the ejection. A 23-12 run sealed the deal for a surging Illini team.

Penn State was led by John Johnson who scored 18 points off the bench and was the only consistent threat from long range for the Nittany Lions. 

Things haven't gone Penn State's way in the early going, but the team is too talented to let a bumpy start affect them. The Lions will face Minnesota back at the Bryce Jordan Center where home games will always be important. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m on January 9.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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