Penn State opens 2-0 in Big Ten with 68-64 win at Illinois
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP)—Jamelle Cornley and Geary Claxton had their second consecutive pair of double-doubles, and Penn State held off Illinois 68-64 on Sunday.
Cornley had 18 points and 12 rebounds and Claxton added 11 points and 11 boards. The two combined for 40 points and 22 rebounds in the Nittany Lions conference opening win last week against Northwestern.
The Nittany Lions, winners of just three Big Ten games last season, are 2-0 in conference and 10-4 overall. They’ve won two in a road on the road after losing every road game last season.
Freshman guard Demitri McCamey gave sinking Illinois (8-7, 0-2) a little glimpse of its future in the loss, leading the Illini with 18 points.
It was McCamey breathed late life into the Illini.
After Claxton hit a pair of free throws to put the Illini up 63-58 with 41 seconds left, McCamey hit a pair of 3-pointers that pulled Illinois within a point at 65-64 with 10 seconds left.
But he missed his last shot, and the Illini’s last chance, floating up a shot from inside the lane.
Penn State started only one player taller than 6-5 Sunday, but outmuscled Illinois on the boards, 49-24.
During one, decisive stretch, from late in the first half to the midway point of the second, the Illini went more than 11 minutes without a rebound.
Penn State watched Illinois pull away to a lead of 9 midway through the first half, 20-11. Seven early points from junior Calvin Brock, all on long-range jumpers, helped build that lead.
The Nittany Lions slowly reeled Illinois back in, closing to within a point twice late in the half before taking their first lead, 25-24, on a pair of Talor Battle free throws with 2:22 left. Battle had 9 for the game.
After falling behind by 9, Penn State outscored Illinois 38-23 over the next 25 minutes, giving the Nittany Lions 49-43 lead with 12 minutes left in the second half.