CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (KMOV.com) -- In a key late season Big Ten Conference game against Penn State, the No. 18 University of Illinois failed to win a "must-win game."
The Nittany Lions defeated Illinois 38-33 in a low scoring defensive struggle Wednesday before 16,200 fans at the Assembly Hall. The 71 combined points set an Assembly Hall record for fewest total points, eclipsing the previous mark of 85. It was also the lowest scoring Division I men's basketball game since Monmouth's 41-21 win over Princeton in 2005.
Incredibly, the Fighting Illini (21-6, 9-5 Big Ten) did not attempt a free throw the entire game. From the field, Illinois did not do much better, shooting 15-50 (30%).
The game was scoreless until Mike Davis got on the board with a jumper after 4:03 minutes of play. After the first half, Penn State (19-8, 8-6) took the lead 17-15.
In the second half, the Illini took the lead with 14:00 left in the game when Demetri McCamey made it 21-20. After trailing 20-19, this sparked a 10-0 run and Illinois led 29-20. Just as quickly, Penn State went on a 12-2 run and a three-point play by Andrew Jones put the Nittany Lions in front 32-31.
On Illinois' ensuing possession, Mike Tisdale was called for goal tending trying to put back a Chester Frazier jumper. Penn State went up 34-31 with 2:12 remaining before Tisdale answered with a hook shot. Trailing 34-33, Illinois had one more chance but McCamey missed a jumper with 14.1 second left and the Nittany Lions were able to salt the game away by hitting free throws.
Penn State ended the game on a 18-4 run.
Illinois' leading scorers were Trent Meacham and Frazier each with seven points. Tisdale added 10 rebounds. Taylor Battle scored 11 for PSU.
The Illini travel to Columbus, Ohio on Feb. 22 to face Ohio State before ending the home portion of its season playing Minnesota on Feb. 26 and Michigan State on March 1 both at the Assembly Hall.
Adam Musto is a Journalism Student at the University of Illinois