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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

Feb 21, 2024 9:10 pm

Penn State storms back late, stuns No. 12 Illinois

Illinois, Penn State

Capped by Zach Hicks’ three free throws with 4.2 seconds left, host Penn State scored the final eight points in the last 35 seconds to pull off a 90-89 Big Ten upset of No. 12 Illinois on Wednesday night.

Nick Kern Jr. scored 18 of his career-high 22 points in the second half to pace five players in double figures for Penn State (13-14, 7-9 Big Ten), which played its first game at Rec Hall since Dec. 12, 2015.

Hicks and Qudus Wahab contributed 13 points apiece while Ace Baldwin notched 10 points and 12 assists in the Nittany Lions’ first Big Ten game at their 95-year-old campus gymnasium since January 1996.

Terrence Shannon Jr.’s career-high 35 points and his 11 rebounds went for naught for Illinois (19-7, 10-5), which led by as much as 14 points in the second half and owned an 87-77 lead after Shannon’s 3-point play with 2:30 to go.

Marcus Domask (15 points, six assists) hit two free throws with 1:17 left to stake Illinois to an 89-82 lead, but Penn State started its comeback with Jameel Brown’s 3-pointer with 35 seconds to go. Brown forced a steal on Illinois’ ensuing inbounds pass and Puff Johnson turned it into a layup to cut the deficit to two.

Coleman Hawkins missed two free throws with 18 seconds, then fouled Hicks on a long 3-point attempt that rolled off with 4.2 seconds to go. Hicks calmly hit all three free throws to give Penn State its only lead of the half. Illinois’ Justin Harmon drove into the lane to try to win it, but his floater rolled off the rim.

Penn State got off to a hot start. After missing their first shot, the Nittany Lions drilled their next seven attempts — including four by Wahab — to seize a 16-7 lead in the first five minutes.

Illinois answered with a 7-0 run, but Penn State made a 7-0 run of its own as the Nittany Lions maintained the lead for most of the first half thanks to Baldwin’s 10 points and seven assists.

The Nittany Lions owned a 34-28 margin when Baldwin’s inbounds pass set up Rayquawndis Mitchell for an easy layup with 5:39 to go, but Illinois seized control with 20 points over the last 5:19 of the first half. When Shannon sliced through two Nittany Lions for a fast-break layup with 4:17 to go, Illinois claimed a 35-34 edge.

Shannon scored 16 in the first half, then stayed hot after intermission. When he swiped a Penn State handoff in the frontcourt and broke away for a ferocious left-handed jam with 16 minutes to play, Illinois owned a 61-47 advantage.

Kern kept the hosts in the game by scoring 13 straight Nittany Lions points over a 3-minute, 11-second stretch to pull Penn State within 70-60 with 12:30 to go.

–Field Level Media

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