February 05, 2006

Penn State Rallies Past No. 6 Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Rich McBride thought he had saved Illinois' home-winning streak. He was just a split-second too late. McBride's shot came just after the buzzer and Penn State held off No. 6 Illinois 66-65 on Saturday night, ending the Illini's home winning streak at 33 games.

His shot went up as the horn sounded and officials spent several moments reviewing video replays to determine whether he got it off in time. All the while, the hometown crowd chanted "I-L-L-I-N-I," but when referee Gene Crawford waived off the basket, the arena fell into a stunned silence.

"I thought I released it and then the shot clock went off," McBride said. "Obviously, I was wrong."

Crawford said the initial ruling on the floor was a good shot, but the rules require the video review.

"We had to play it back a couple of times because the monitor flickered," he said. "It was finally determined that the ball was still in his hand when the red light went on."

The last time Illinois (20-3, 6-3) lost at Assembly Hall was 58-54 to Purdue on Jan. 10, 2004. This defeat kept the Illini from a first-place tie with Iowa in the Big Ten race, leaving the Hawkeyes alone at the top after beating Michigan 94-66 earlier in the day.

"I'm disappointed that the streak is over, but I'm more disappointed in the race," Weber said. "We gained one at Wisconsin and lost one here."

Travis Parker had given the Nittany Lions a 66-65 lead when he grabbed a missed 3-pointer, took a bounce and let the shot fly from the right of the free-throw circle.

The ball fell through the net with 8.5 seconds to go and gave Penn State its first lead of the night.

"I saw the ball come off and I think (Rich) McBride tried to box me out," Parker said. "I think I just tried to push him under a little bit, grab the rebound, score, and thats what I did."

Parker scored 21 points and Geary Claxton had 20 as the Nittany Lions (11-9, 3-6 Big Ten) fought back from a 16-point second-half deficit to snap their four-game losing streak. Mike Walker came off the bench and hit two critical 3-pointers down the stretch.

"They didn't quit. They kept battling," said Illinois coach Bruce Weber. "Every time we would change matchups, they would exploit our matchups."

And finally, the Illini started missing their shots over Penn State's zone defense.

"It made them shoot long-range shots, and they were hitting them in the beginning of the game and later on they were missing," Claxton said.

McBride scored 17 points for the Illini, who led 13-0 early and 39-25 at halftime. James Augustine's layup gave Illinois its biggest lead, 43-27, with 18:43 to go.

Illinois appeared ready to coast to a win after Augustine's basket. But rather than demoralize the Nittany Lions, the shot seemed to invigorate them.

"Sometimes as a coach, you get a gut feeling," said Nittany Lions coach Ed DeChellis. "I really never felt like we were out of things."

Parker and Ben Luber hit 3-pointers and Claxton scored twice from underneath to close the gap to 47-37 with 14:38 to go.

And then Augustine picked up his fourth foul for Illinois.

"They scored a 7-0 run when James gets his fourth foul," Weber said. "It changes the whole game."

Penn State outscored the Illini 22-18 the rest of the way.

Augustine had 13 points for Illinois, Dee Brown added 11 and Shaun Pruitt scored 10.

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