UNIVERSITY PARK - The Penn State men's basketball team (12-12, 3-8) came up just short in a 60-55 loss to Big Ten foe Illinois (14-10, 3-8) Sunday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center. Despite the outcome, Tim Frazier broke a PSU program record, as he became the Nittany Lions' all-time assists leader with 602 career assists.
Frazier and D.J. Newbill both produced double-digit scoring performances for the Nittany Lions, led by Newbill, who totaled 19 points to go along with three helpers. Frazier followed closely behind with 11 points, while also collecting one steal. Donovon Jack and Brandon Taylor added eight points each, while Ross Travis led Penn State on the board, grabbing a team-high eight rebounds.
The Nittany Lions stormed out to a 7-1 advantage for an early lead. The Illini responded with a pair of buckets to jump within two, 7-5. Regrouping, Penn State answered back with a 9-2 stretch, featuring back-to-back layups from Newbill to go up by as many as nine, 16-7. Illinois quickly erased the deficit, scoring eight unanswered points to arrive within one, 16-15.
Jack cut off the streak with a layup, 18-17, but the Illini followed with a jumper and a pair of free throws to secure their first lead of the contest, 21-18, with 8:02 remaining in the opening half.
Looking to spark some momentum, Travis netted a bucket from the paint, but Illinois responded with a 10-2 stretch, capped off with a three-ball from Kendrick Nunn to extend the Illini advantage to nine, 31-22, forcing the Nittany Lions to call a timeout.
Penn State came out of the break firing, as Newbill drained a three-pointer to open a 9-0 run, capped off by six straight points from Frazier, that tied the frame, 31-31, heading into the intermission.
Frazier continued his scoring streak into the second half, putting up five consecutive points to keep the frame knotted at 36-all. The Illini broke open the tie with a jumper to go up by two, 38-26, but Taylor drained a three-pointer to lift the Nittany Lions ahead by one, 39-38.
Keeping it close, the two teams tied the score two more times before Illinois used back-to-back three-pointers from Tracy Abrams and Nunn to move ahead by four, 49-45. Penn State responded with a 7-0 run to take control of a three-point advantage, 52-49.
With 6:30 remaining in the second half, Illinois cut off the streak with a bucket to trim the Nittany Lions lead back to one, 52-51. Pulling ahead, the Illini followed with a layup and a free throw, pushing Illinois ahead by two, 54-52.
Trailing by two with less than one minute to play, Newbill converted on just one shot from the charity stripe to set the score at 54-53. The Fighting Illini closed out the game on a 6-2 stretch to secure a 60-55 win against the Nittany Lions.
Penn State returns to action Wednesday, Feb. 12th, traveling to Indiana to take on Indiana in a midweek conference matchup. Tip time is set for 7 p.m. in Assembly Hall.
--Penn State Athletic Communications